This week’s “Ask the Mompreneur“ features an interview with Dr. Marshall Silverman, a board-certified internist with Charlotte, N.C., medical practice Signature Healthcare.
QUESTION: As cold and flu season gets under way, many business owners are thinking about wellness and their bottom line. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs for keeping themselves and their employees healthy and productive?
ANSWER: We’ve all encountered days (usually in late February) when walking through your office is like walking through a ghost ship. Half your crew has called in sick and everywhere you look, there’s lost productivity and profits.
Don’t let that happen to you this year. Take preventative action now to ensure your business stays ship shape. Whether your team is two employees or 102 employees, you have the ability to create a wellness culture in your workplace. There’s an APP for that: attitude, prevention and pliancy.
-Attitude: How would your employees describe their office environment? Studies have consistently shown that a “high stress“ work environment is one in which the worker has high performance expectations but little autonomy. What type of work-home balance are your employees enjoying? When that balance is disrupted or when stress levels are on the rise, your employees are not just less productive; they are more prone to accidents and illness.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, two of the major causes of workplace accidents are inattentiveness and fatigue. Whether someone twists an ankle in the stairwell or puts a staple in his thumb, workplace accidents can slow down your entire business. What’s more, our bodies’ immune systems are less able to fight infection when we are physically or emotionally stressed out.
By fostering a work environment that gives your employees flexibility, autonomy and support, and by providing a fair balance between their work life and home life, you are creating an office attitude that is well-adjusted and healthy.
-Prevention: Promoting a culture of wellness can be as easy as leading by example. Consider your ability to influence nutrition, exercise, safety and sanitation.
Make sure your employees have time for lunch and that they eat. If you offer snacks in the office, do your best to make healthy options available. And it should come as no surprise that those who sit all day at work suffer higher rates of morbidity and mortality than those who have non-sedentary jobs. But did you know that several recent studies have shown that those who sit at work all day and exercise for 45-60 minutes at least four days a week fared no better than their non-exercising counterparts? That means we need to encourage more frequent activity throughout the day. Get yourself and your staff up and moving around for five minutes every hour. Better yet, look into standing-desk or treadmill-desk options. Instead of meeting over lunch, take your story walking.
And don’t forget workplace safety. More people miss work because of injuries than illness. Providing a safe work environment includes everything from adequate lighting to clutter-free hallways.
During cold and flu season, disinfect commonly shared surfaces. Hand sanitizers have their proponents, but they are no substitute for old-fashioned hand washing. When someone in the office is sick with a bug, keep them home. And this brings us to the final piece of this wellness puzzle.
-Pliancy: So your receptionist went home yesterday with a sore throat and a barking cough. Being proactive and health-conscious, you instructed him to stay home today as well. Even though we are most infectious before symptoms appear, it is sound advice to stay home until there are no signs of fever for 24 hours.
But now, you are down one receptionist - or one pastry chef, or one CFO. Maintaining a productive office means cross-training your employees so they can take over when a colleague is out sick. Make sure office protocols are centralized such that anyone who is filling in has access to the information needed to get the job done. Alternatively, if your business model allows, enable your “quarantined“ employees to work from home.
As the captain of your ship, it’s up to you to ensure the wellness of your crew. Have you battened down the hatches? Don’t wait for injury or illness to strike. Start preparing today.
Jennie Wong is an executive coach, author of the e-book “Ask the Mompreneur“ and the founder of the social shopping website CartCentric.com. Email her at TheJennieWonggmail.com.