Promote Great Employee Experiences With These Seven Wellness Tips
In today’s tight labor market, financial institutions are waging a war for both front and back of house staff. Creating great customer experiences starts with motivated and passionate employees both in the branch and supporting operations from headquarters and call centers. Yet organizations are finding it difficult to staff these positions with the right people and to retain and motivate current employees.
It’s time to put employee experiences in the spotlight, and one great way to do this is investing in wellness. We’ve put together a set of both immediate and long-term action items in seven categories: air, light, water, comfort, fitness, nourishment, and mind.
The air we breathe outside is not as fresh as we’d like to think it is, particularly in areas where we live and work. Pollution from cars, industry, and recent forest fires contaminate the outdoor air, which makes its way into buildings.
This isn’t just a long term health issue. Like smoking, the effects of air pollution can be observed in day-to-day life. It can trigger asthma symptoms, headaches, and a study recently published in the journal PNAS showed that poor air quality can impede cognitive performance. This makes people feel sluggish or unhappy.
Circulation is a big deal as well. Stale air has a massive impact on our mental state and wellbeing, and the threshold for negative effects is surprisingly low. Check out the video “This is Your Brain on Stale Air” on Tom Scott’s YouTube Channel. (And subscribe, his video are great!)
Immediate solutions: Upgrade and regularly replace air filters to reduce outdoor pollution and harmful indoor particles. Ensure that filters are rated to remove PM 2.5 particles.
Long-term solutions: Make air quality a priority in your next renovation or new branch project. Select a high-end HVAC system and choose building materials and practices that minimize indoor contamination and offgassing.
For most of human evolution we’ve been outside throughout the day, and many of our biological processes are influenced by the daylight cycle. Work inside under artificial lighting and staring at computer screens disrupts our circadian rhythm, and it’s consistently linked to poor employee experiences. This disruption can cause sleep issues, as well as metabolic issues that can lead to obesity and diabetes. Artificial lighting can also cause eye strain, exhaustion, and irritability.
Immediate solutions: Automatically adjust monitor brightness and color temperature in sync with outdoor lighting via apps like f.lux. Adjust monitor positions to reduce both indoor and outdoor glare. Install light bulbs designed to reduce eyestrain.
Long-term solutions: When undertaking a remodel or building a new facility, take circadian rhythm into account during the design process. Design the layout to maximize exposure to natural outdoor light while reducing glare, and invest in a smart lighting system. Many lighting systems available now are able to adjust the indoor lighting to match outdoor light to promote natural circadian rhythms.
Water is often taken for granted, but it’s an important aspect of a healthy workplace. If local tap water is contaminated, or even if it tastes bad, employees may not drink enough to stay hydrated and healthy. And worse, contaminants such as volatile organic compounds or lead can have a severe effect on their health.
Short term solutions: Provide filtered water in kitchens and break rooms. Consider water filter systems that provide hot, cold, and carbonated water all-in-one. Branded water bottles are also a popular swag item and make it easy to stay hydrated.
Long-term solutions: Invest in a filtration system that treats all water coming into the facility. Also consider establishing a procedure for testing and monitoring water quality.
Comfort has one of the biggest impacts on an employee’s experience in the workplace. We’ve all seen the articles that proclaim that “sitting is the new smoking.” So many aspects of a workplace from the chair you sit in to the temperature of the air and even ambient noise levels can have an impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Uncomfortable employees can develop back problems, and the stress of noise and temperature levels can lead to stress and mental health issues.
Immediate solutions: Invest in ergonomic chairs and encourage employees to move around as much as possible. Encourage employees to take calls away from the desk, and provide sit-to-stand desks to give employees breaks from their chair. Ask employees if they feel the temperature is comfortable.
Long-term solutions: Make acoustic and temperature control a priority in the design of your next facility. Choose sound absorbing materials and place them strategically to eliminate noise pollution. Invest in a smarter HVAC system. Design for employee mobility and working from different locations throughout the day.
Fitness ties into comfort. With modern work comes sedentary lifestyles, especially for office workers. This presents numerous health issues from back and joint problems to obesity and heart disease.
Immediate solution: Invest in programs that get employees active, such as gym memberships and fitness activities. Promote in-person collaboration over email so that employees move around the building.
Long-term solution: Design your facility around movement and activity. In a multi-story office the elevators are typically at the forefront while staircases are dark and gloomy. Consider making staircases a central design element, the main way that employees move around the building. A gym can make it easy for employees to fit workouts into their schedule.
Meal prep is tough, and work lunches and snacks tend to be unhealthy processed foods. When food is brought in for meetings, it’s often pizza, pastries, and donuts. These are not great elements of a healthy lifestyle. If your organization provides food and drinks, ensure that healthy options are available. Better food prep areas that allow staff to chop veggies for a salad or microwave multiple employees to heat up home-cooked meals at a time can also promote healthy eating. In many offices this is a critically under-looked part of the employee experience.
Immediate solutions: When providing food for staff, choose fruits, vegetables, and fresh, healthy snacks and meals. If drinks are provided, ensure diet and sparking water options are available.
Long-term solutions: Provide an office kitchen that gives more options for preparing healthy and home-brought food. This includes ample refrigerator space, multiple microwaves (if queues tend to build up), and a variety of kitchen tools like knives and cutting boards.
Mental health is every bit as important as physical health, and they each have the potential to impact the other. Bland workplaces can be depressing, as can working policies that shift the work-life balance too far towards work. This is one area where very minor changes can have a major impact to the employee experience and their overall wellbeing.
Immediate solutions: Create more flexible policies around work-life balance, especially around working hours and business travel. If a trip requires two days of travel for a one day meeting, consider teleconferencing instead. And be mindful of the work employees do from home, particularly responding to emails and completing non-urgent tasks in the evening. Adding plants to the office can also improve employee’s moods by inspiring their natural sense of biophilia, or connection with nature.
Long-term solutions: Consider both the aesthetic and functional design of your facilities and the impact they have on your employees and staff. Is this a bright and cheerful place to work and visit? Are there places to work together and socialize, as well as quiet places to escape for low-stress focused work?
The WELL Building Standard
Our suggestions here just scratch the surface of designing for wellness and great employee experiences. The IWBI’s WELL Building Standard takes occupant wellness into consideration throughout every aspect of a building’s design, construction, and occupancy. It fundamentally shifting the primary focus of a project to the wellbeing of those who occupy the facility.
Many organizations, including HAPO Community Credit Union in Vancouver, WA, are recognizing the idea that they fundamentally exist to serve their communities and the people that live in them. This is what led HAPO to build the world’s first WELL Certified credit union branch.
These investments don’t go unnoticed by potential customers and employees. And the broader impact is that a happier, healthier workforce and community means a more prosperous economy. That’s not just a platitude, the World Health Institute backs this up with numbers.
Ready to kick off your next project or just want to know more about how to promote wellness in your organization? Start a conversation via the form below!