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Can healthy, happy employees translate directly into benefits for a company’s bottom line? It turns out they can, and not only is the correlation clear, it’s getting clearer all the time as new research sheds light on the subject.

“Well” employees can mean a host of different things: Wellness means fewer colds and flus, so fewer days of absenteeism. But it also means employees who are in better shape, have more energy, are less likely to contract illnesses in the future, and are less susceptible to the bumps and stumbles that can sideline a worker for a few days or a month.

Wellness means less of the risks that come with poor sleep (bad judgement, accidents) and poor nutrition (deficiencies, obesity, diabetes). It means fewer mood swings, more resilience in the face of stress, and lower levels of depression. It means stronger relationships with others, greater levels of trust and communication, and a general workplace atmosphere of teamwork and accountability instead of hostility and tension.

How can “wellness” do all these things? Researchers are still working on teasing out the exact links between health and happiness, but the big picture is undeniable: When you feel better, you accomplish more. Your boat rises, and the boats of those around you rise as well. So, what small steps can managers take to boost wellness in the workplace? Try these.

Respect illness.

When workers are sick (for any reason) send them home. If they have a cold, they’re less likely to spread germs when they’re elsewhere. At the same time, if they need a “mental health day,” then they need one. Insisting on a doctor’s note won’t fix whatever ails an employee, but a day off can help. Consider shifting “sick” and “vacation” days to a single category of paid time off.

Teach proper behavior in group spaces.

Hold training sessions on proper sneezing (into the arm, not the hand) and proper hand-washing technique (sing the “happy birthday” song as you lather up). Sanitizer use, the office fridge and handshaking techniques — plus more — can be covered in a simple training that may save countless lost work hours.

Respect the impact of stress.

If you think you’ll get more productivity out of employees by forcing them to spend more hours in the workplace, think again. Long hours don’t translate into profits. Instead, they tend to translate into burnout, absenteeism, quarreling, mistakes and turnover.

Respect the impact of mistakes.

Sick employees make mistakes. Tired employees make mistakes. Burned out, injured, cranky and poorly nourished employees make mistakes. Anything that must be redone, undone, repaired or sent back to the drawing board can be measured in lost time and money.

Employee health is a personal responsibility, but it’s a company responsibility also. Divide the burden by sharing it. To learn more, contact the team at Extension.

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