Minor health problems cost the economy millions of dollars a year due to absenteeism and impaired productivity when employees are at work. Being alert to developing problems can help employers reduce the toll they take. It can also help them to create a supportive workplace environment where employees are more committed because they feel valued as people.

health issues in the workplace

Image credit: Bhernandez

Common physical ailments

The most common physical ailments that affect people in the workplace include the following:

  • Sprains, strains and backache – making sure employees have suitable seating can do a lot to reduce the risk of back problems. Flexible task assignment and help with getting around can enable many employees to stay productive despite leg or shoulder problems.
  • The common cold – if a single employee is badly affected, it’s best to ask them to go home in order to reduce the risk of more work hours being lost if others get infected. Good hygiene will reduce the risk of this.
  • Cuts and bruises – good safety standards and a ready first aid kit make these less likely to happen, or get serious, in the workplace.
  • Breaks and fractures – flexible task assignment and help with access to the premises make it easier for employees to keep working despite these problems, but it’s well worth being able to offer a home-based working option.
  • Influenza – providing an annual employee vaccination program can prevent flu from getting a grip in the workplace.

Common mental health problems

The most common mental health problems that affect people in the workplace include the following:

  • Stress – when employees start to struggle with ordinary tasks, this needs to be taken seriously. A supportive approach – even if it means time off – can mean less overall loss of productivity.
  • Anxiety – this is often a result of workplace bullying or fear of a perfectionist boss. Creating a calm workplace environment and avoiding unnecessary criticism helps anxious people to cope.
  • Depression – if employees become less productive and seem to have trouble motivating themselves – even if they don’t seem sad all the time – they may need to talk to a doctor about depression.

Drink and drug issues

Another common cause of problems in the workplace is drink and drug abuse. This can not only reduce productivity and cause absenteeism – especially on Monday mornings – but it can potentially make other employees feel unsafe and, in the worst case scenario, it can lead to accidents that endanger staff and customers. Introducing a regular drug test such as the oral fluid lab test can discourage problem behavior. Identifying problems doesn’t have to mean sacking employees – it can also mean working with them to help them recover.

Helping workers stay healthy

There are three key things that can be done to help maintain a healthy workplace. The first is to maintain good health and safety standards – everything from signposting wet floors to making sure shelves are sensibly stacked so that things can’t fall off them, and ensuring employees have adequate training and equipment for dangerous tasks. The second is keeping the workplace clean and encouraging washing of hands. The third is making sure employees feel confident about reporting problems. Supportive workplaces are healthier places and more productive as a result.

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