Incentives and Benefits Of A Healthy Workplace

The health of a workplace falls along a spectrum, with one end being negative and the other positive. The negative end of that spectrum-an unhealthy, toxic workplace-and its effects were discussed. Thus it is only right to also discuss the positive end-the healthy workplace. This is the end that is desirable for a respectful international workplace, and businesses who want to achieve that environment want to get as close to that end of the spectrum as possible.

This article will look at the effects of a healthy workplace and the benefits that it can offer for a respectful international workplace. Topics will include the different areas in particular that tend to benefit from this desired state, who could possibly benefit from a healthy workplace, and how those benefits could play out for them and for the business as a whole.

On Performance And Productivity

When the workplace isn't toxic and unhealthy, it often produces an environment that aids staff in their work. Without psychological and physiological stressors present to drag them down, most employees tend to work far better in a healthy workplace. This typically produces an effect on their performance and productivity that is far more positive than that which would be produced in a high-stress environment, which too many think as necessary to get better results.1

So how is this possible? In many cases, the characteristics of an unhealthy workplace make it harder to focus and successfully complete tasks as they should be. There is usually a heavy focus on the bottom line when it comes to work-often with little care as to how workers meet their quota, so long as they do so and on time.2 This may cause a business to produce a lot in a short amount of time, but most of it will likely be poor quality or full of errors.

Some of that toxicity in an unhealthy workplace-especially if it is being generated within the workforce and/or by management-is also going to be a major distraction and impinge upon people's focus as they work. Think about times when you've been stressed out or in a stressful situation and then tried to complete your normal tasks. Were they harder to do? Did you make mistakes-including some that could have easily been avoided under normal circumstances? When you're in an environment that is hostile, a part of your mind is paying attention to what's going on around you and figuring out what you can do to keep yourself safe from the next blow-up. It makes sense then that productivity and performance would improve once the thing(s) impinging upon them are removed.

On Attendance and Absenteeism

A significant result of a healthy workplace is that the staff tends to actually be healthier, both physically and mentally, and are more likely to actually be at work. Unhealthy workplaces have a significant impact on people's health. This causes them to take time off due to illness and medical appointments, or simply be more restricted based on their health conditions. Health-related absenteeism impacts the business by reducing the workforce and production, and by raising healthcare costs. Business that encourage high-stress, cutthroat, and pressurized work environments have been known to spend almost 50% more on healthcare than those that are not, simply because they are producing high amounts of health-impacting stress amongst their workers.3

There's also a significant lack of loyalty in unhealthy work environments due to the amount of stress that they produce. Still contributes to absenteeism and attendance issues, as people may use their sick leave and vacation time as a means of a temporary escape when the stress becomes too much.4 It also means that people tend to jump ship much faster at businesses with unhealthy workplaces, producing higher turnover rates and producing regular staffing shortages. This, in turn, then produces more stress for those who remain, increasing the toxicity of the workplace, and allowing the problems it produces to continue and/or worsen without relief. A good healthy workplace is one that most employees will genuinely want to stay in, and are going to be less likely to skip out to get away from it unless they have to.

On Morale

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In general, positive places tend to make people feel positive and negative places generate a negative feeling. Healthy workplaces tend to be positive environments that generate a positive effect on staff members, whereas unhealthy or toxic workplaces have the opposite effect. When your circumstances are positive, you tend to feel positive about what's around you and what you're doing. This is known as morale, and it's actually very valuable to businesses and employee health.

Morale, by definition, is a mental state influenced by well-being and circumstances that further influences the actions of a person or group.5 High morale is a good thing, as it tends to develop when things are good. Staff members in healthy workplaces tend to have a high morale because they feel good about where they are, what they are doing, and what could happen in that environment. How things are handled and how they've been handled thus far is often used as evidence to suggest that things will continue to be good, and thus people feel good about that reassurance.

In business, high morale amongst the workforce is seen as a very good and desirable thing. Not only is it a sign and benefit of a healthy workplace, but it can also help maintain the health of the workplace and produces several of the same benefits, like productivity, attendance, and collaborative efforts.6 With that in mind, the morale of a workplace could be used as a barometer for that workplace's health. Should something begin to change in a negative manner, the morale is likely to drop. This could be of use to the upper levels of management, who might not be able to easily or closely monitor the workplace health of a particular department. Likewise, if a business is working on making improvements to its workplace health, the morale of the employees affected by those improvements can also serve as an indicator of their success or failure.

On Employee Engagement and Teamwork

For many employers, employee engagement is extremely valuable and important towards the success of the business and the health of the workplace. Strong engagement is often a significant sign that the workplace is healthy and that things are going well amongst the business' workforce. Despite its positive nature, many employers and employees do not fully understand what employee engagement is. They mistake it as simple evidence of employee satisfaction and happiness, but it extends beyond that into the emotional commitment and loyalty of the employee towards their employer and the business.7 This means the employees will put their best foot forward and go above and beyond in their work without being asked to because they know they will have the support of their employer no matter what. They care about their work and the business-and the feeling is genuinely mutual. It's just one byproduct of things like trust, respect, communication, feedback, and fairness that are present in a truly healthy and respectful international workplace.8

Unhealthy workplaces often have employees who are disengaged from their work, which basically means that they feel no connection to their job, their employer, or the business at large.9 They don't care about what they are doing and they're also less likely to bring things to their employer's attention when something is wrong-with their peers, with themselves, with their work, etc.

Employee engagement and healthy workplaces also tend to have a further impact on teamwork and collaboration. Healthy workplaces tend to have few issues with teamwork, or are able to quickly and successfully resolve any issues that develop amongst peers. The trust that contributes to employee engagement also contributes to teamwork efforts in the workplace. Team and group work carries a lot of stigma because nearly everyone has had an experience in a group setting where things went horribly awry. There are often issues-whether they actually occur or are merely anticipated-regarding communication, trust, rivalry, and ego that come into play in a group setting that impedes the success of the group.10 Those issues are fostered in an unhealthy workplace, but not so much in a healthy one where there is an understanding that those things are not acceptable and problems will be addressed with seriousness by everyone.
On Business Finances

Regardless of the health of the workplace or the industry in which a business operates, there is going to be some importance placed on aspects of cost, spending, and profit. These are significant elements of a business' measurement of success and they are completely valid. While it's viewed as toxic and unhealthy to completely focus on the bottom line, that does not mean that it's healthy to do the opposite and completely ignore it in the course of working towards goals. That, quite frankly, achieves nothing and only maintains unhealthy and potentially dangerous practices.

That being said, it should be noted that businesses with healthy workplaces tend to have healthy financial elements and are balanced in how they address those elements. Profits and earnings tend to be higher with costs and spending being lower, simply because of the health of the workplace and how it influences other aspects of the business. The benefits discussed in this article do lead to financial benefits. For example, improved productivity usually means that more work is being done and that it's of a better quality than it would be in an unhealthy workplace. That translates to profit and less waste-related loss due to errors. With reduced attendance and absenteeism, the business isn't losing time and money due to a reduced workforce, or towards turnover costs, or towards health care costs for those employees who are out on sick leave. In just the actual health of employees, most healthy workplaces save millions simply by insuring that the health and well-being of their employees is a priority while they are at work.11

It should be noted that the financial benefits of a healthy workplace often present themselves over time, largely because any improvements made to the workplace for the sake of its health often need time to be fully implemented. Those improvements also need to be maintained, so some spending is required for the sake of upkeep. For many businesses seeking to create a respectful international workplace with a healthy working environment, it may be seen as a long-term investment that needs to be carefully balanced and watched to ensure that things are going well.

On Business or Corporate Responsibility

With unhealthy and toxic workplaces, there usually is a supreme lack of accountability and responsibility on the part of the business and its management. This leads to further issues within the workplace by shifting blame to others, a failure to address problems in a timely manner, and the creation of hostile responses for mistakes. It's not isolated to just management-individual accountability often isn't in the greatest shape in these environments-but it does have more of an impact on everyone when it comes from higher up in the business' hierarchy.

When the workplace is healthy and respectful, everyone tends to be a lot more willing to own up to their actions. Doing so helps ensure that things remain healthy and that the things that threaten the stability of the workplace will be handled. It's key that that level of accountability comes from those in power in the business and not just the general workers. With the business actively being responsible and accountable for its actions and those under its command, it shows that it genuinely cares for employees and their well-being.12 This goes back to aspects of engagement and morale, as well as the need to foster trust, loyalty, and honesty within a business. In a truly healthy and respectful international workplace, businesses understand that a negative work environment can have devastating consequences for the entire business and things need to be addressed to prevent those consequences from happening.13

Who Benefits More?

Some may question who truly benefits the most from a healthy workplace. Is it the employee? The business or the business' owner? The customers? In most cases, everyone benefits in their own way without anyone necessarily coming out on top. The relationship between healthy workers in a healthy workplace and the business where those two things are located is symbiotic. One cannot benefit if the other does not, so no one really ends up getting more out of the deal than the other.

However, the individual benefits that each side gets might suggest that there is a higher gain somewhere-e.g. the business gets more of the profits generated by a healthy workplace-but there's no clear way to determine if the value each side places in the benefits they receive is worth more than the other side. Each responds differently and, in most cases, it's evident that one side-the employees-tend to benefit faster than the business as a whole.14 Recognizing and measuring the benefits for the rest of the business and for the business as a whole requires closer analysis and time for it to be identified.