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Whirling Chief
Nº 50

How to Create a Healthy Workplace?

It is interesting to see how our definition of a ‘healthy workplace’ has evolved over the years. Early on, we used to think of workplace health as physical safety. We wanted to ensure there were minimal accidents and that people were protected from any unseen injuries. We wanted to minimize damage and maximize reputation control.

Over time, we started thinking about physical environment as more than safety. We started paying attention to physical design elements such as lighting, sound, color, and art. Upon endorsement from regulatory bodies, we started considering ergonomics – comfortable work clothes, adjustable chairs, desks, etc. – while still focusing primarily on the physicality of the workplace.

Then came a time when we realized there is a personal element to ‘health’ in the workplace. Universities started studying health practices of individuals to learn how life practices led to dissatisfaction of employees in the workplace. This led to an opportunity for the beginning of wellness communities.

Yale University introduced a corporate behavioral change program called “4Ps to change,” focusing on possibilities, person, persuasion, and process, for example. One of the uses of this model regarded nutrition and wellness at work (see chart below). Remember all those fruit baskets showing up at your workplace kitchen, that’s where the idea came from… That was the time many for-profit and non-profit organizations started encouraging us to make healthier choices in life – from the food we eat, to the hours we sleep, to the interactions we have, and so on.

graphToday, there is more and more emphasis on psychological safety.

In her Harvard Business School study of 2002Amy C. Edmondson describes psychological safety as “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking,” which has been broadly accepted.

We define it as ‘people having a voice to productivity and value at all times.’ It means people can be who they are, ask questions, challenge assumptions, demand change within reason, and drive creativity and innovation without being retaliated against in return.

If you are a first time manager or unfamiliar with the concept of psychological safety, here is a good tool you can use via Google re:Work.

Needless to say, the wonderful consequences of having employees experience psychological safety in the work place include such benefits as: an increase in innovative thinking, an improvement in culture and organizational health, and a boost in employee engagement.

So, I guess we are here to say our collective definition of a ‘healthy workplace’ has continued to evolve. Perhaps the definition of ‘healthy workplace’ is a composition of three factors:

  1. Physical Environment
  2. Psychosocial Environment
  3. Health Practices/Individual Style

In our Healthy Workplace Guide, we explain more about these three factors and provide tips for managers and HR professionals. Please make sure to check it out.


  • 3 October 2016

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