Common Office Health Problems and What HR Can Do to Help

For office workers, the danger isn’t lifting heavy objects or working hard in the sun all day, it’s conditions like carpal tunnel and computer vision syndrome. While workers are far less likely to throw a back out or herniate a disk at their desks, they’re still vulnerable to a wide array of health issues and injury risks.

We know that sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen all day can take its toll, but what can Human Resources do about it? Let’s look at how HR and the management team can take better care of their workers in the office.

Workplace wellness and what HR can do about it

Educate and Raise Awareness

Ideally, employees know their medical histories. They know how susceptible they are to repetitive stress injuries, complications from lack of exercise, and all the dangers of a sedentary work life. They know they should get more exercise but maybe they have a hard time fitting it into their daily schedules. Knowing all these things about themselves allows them to make better decisions when it comes time to re-up their employee health benefits plans.

But not all employees are well-informed of the risks associated with sitting behind a desk for 40 hours a week. They need guidance. Sometimes the best thing HR can do is hold conferences and meetings highlighting common office workplace injuries and ways to mitigate health problems on their own. Another way to easily dispense health warnings and solutions to employees working in different places or departments is to put together an office health training video to explain succinctly how to avoid sore tendons and eyes, as well as more serious health problems caused by limited time to exercise and other risks. HR can also use video to fold this information into health insurance coverage, going over how employees’ specific benefits plans address them.  

Support an Active Workplace

Heading off future serious workplace health issues can be easy if the HR department fosters a corporate culture focused on health and exercise. The happy medium for a workplace health initiative is somewhere between handing out gym memberships and mandatory daily 5k’s. HR needs to respond to the people in the office. Not everyone can go for a jog on their lunch break. Not everyone loves being told constantly that they’re unhealthy (actually no one does). Instituting a culture focused on health and well-being isn’t a quick fix for anything, and it will take a significant amount of nuance and human touch that should be expected from a great HR department.

Lunchtime exercise: workplace wellbeing initiative: 5k run

Slowly but surely, the HR department can start rolling out new health suggestions and initiatives. Sometimes it doesn’t take an official initiative or directive from management or HR to improve health. Sometimes forming a walking group at lunchtime can work wonders. The key is making everyone feel included and making all workers active participants in their own office health.

Workplace Health Systems

There are many workplace health initiatives and systems out there designed to include everyone in the office. It’s up to HR to choose an initiative that works for their office and reach out to employees to help bring them along. One way to think about wellness programs is a public versus private approach. Some people respond to competition. Setting a health goal like losing weight or running certain distances can be a great way to not only motivate people, but also have some fun along the way. Health competitions can not only bring the office together all in good fun and good health, they can motivate all employees to start healthier habits. A private approach could be encouraging (or requiring) employees to set personal fitness goals and track them. Personal goal trackers are already in use in many offices and can make tracking fitness goals fun and easy.

No two offices are the same, just like no two people are the same, so the key to avoiding short- and long-term office injury and unhealthiness is to individualize your office health systems to encourage everyone to participate on their terms. If you can do that, you’ll reap the benefits of a well-informed, well-covered, happy, and healthy workplace.

Author Bio: Ben Renner is a writer, editor, and website manager living and working in Denver, Colorado. He manages the Employee Communications Council (ECC), a blog site dedicated to providing cutting-edge information and news about the Human Resources industry. Follow the ECC on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Yours in health,