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  • Feature Story

Improving employee health in the workplace

Stressed businesswoman sitting in office rubbing her head

October 9, 2018

Many companies have initiated programs to improve and maintain good health for employees. Common practices include: offering gym memberships at discounted rates, providing healthy snacks in the kitchen or break room and even offering better health insurance rates for employees who are in good health when they sign up.

However, a healthy workplace environment goes much further than healthy snacks. Other workplace factors can affect employee health. Here are a few potential risks that can affect an employee’s overall well-being and some suggested solutions.


Americans spend an average of 12 hours a day sitting down. When added to the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, only four potential hours a day are left for standing and movement. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can eventually lead to poor posture and back pain, decreased focus, and even muscle atrophy. In the workplace, the most common culprit of sitting incorrectly is slouching at a desk or when remote employees work from their couches or beds.

To improve posture and promote less “bad” sitting at work, employers can offer standing desks or remote workers can choose to stand at a countertop while completing their daily assignments. Keep in mind, standing on its own might not be sufficient. A standing desk mat, or anti-fatigue mat, can reduce pain felt on your lower body caused by prolonged standing on a hard floor or surface.

Poor air quality

Breathing is something that many people take for granted, but unless we are shown a black cloud of smoke or are regularly reminded about air pollution, most people do not give thought to the quality of the air they are breathing. If you are concerned about the quality of your workplace’s air, you can speak with your building’s maintenance workers or property managers about the air filtration systems, or ask what materials were used in the building’s construction.

If your building is from the 1970s or before, you may be at risk for asbestos exposure from various sources, including the structure’s insulation. Airborne asbestos fibers can be inhaled and will manifest in an individual’s organs, leading to incurable mesothelioma cancer.

Another risk created by poor air quality is mold. Mold spores may become airborne due to improper ventilation or outdated heating systems, increasing the likelihood of inhalation, which can harm your respiratory system.


A negative connotation often associated with a 40-hour work week is exhaustion. People in all fields of work tend to neglect their sleep during the weekdays with the result of relying on vices to get through sleep-deprived days.

Some people turn to excessive amounts of caffeine to combat heavy eyelids while others turn to cigarettes to relieve stress from their responsibilities. A few even gorge themselves with food to cope with the emotional strain that can come from a high-stress job. While all of these are unhealthy coping mechanisms, more and more employers are trying to eliminate job stress by allowing employees to work flexible hours, increasing allotted vacation time and transitioning to a more casual dress code.

While perfect health and optimized productivity may be closer to a dream than a norm in many workplaces, there are a variety of ways that employers and staff members can work to improve overall health. How does your workplace encourage healthy lifestyles?

Healthy Lung Month runs every October as a time to raise awareness around the importance of healthy breathing and proper lung function. Familiarize yourself with the common air quality concerns in your place of work and your home; and take this month to consult your doctor about any potential risks to your lung health.