Signs of Healthy Workplace: How Does Yours Measure Up?

Even in tough economic times companies that continue to invest in employees reap rewards for employers and employees, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). The findings were released at the APA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards ceremony earlier this year.

Every year the APA recognizes five organizations - for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, government, military and educational institutions - for their comprehensive efforts to promote employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance. These five organizations reported an average turnover rate of just 11 percent in 2008 - significantly less than the national average of 39 percent as estimated by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, in the surveys completed by the award-winning organizations, turnover wasn't the only indicator of a healthy workplace:

  • Only 25 percent of employees reported experiencing chronic work stress compared to 39 percent nationally.
  • Eighty-five percent of employees reported being satisfied with their jobs, compared to only 61 percent nationally.
  • Eighty-seven percent of employees said they would recommend their organizations to others as a good place to work, compared to 44 percent nationally.
  • Only 5 percent said they intend to seek employment elsewhere within the next year, compared to 32 percent nationally.

So what are these workplaces doing to be so much healthier than the average workplace? "The five award winners have implemented a comprehensive set of programs and policies designed to optimize outcomes for both employee and employer," said David Ballard, the APA's assistant executive director for corporate relations and business strategy. "Their efforts demonstrate that any type of organization, large or small, has the power and the responsibility to create a psychologically healthy workplace."

Ballard also added that while there is no denying that the current economic downturn may necessitate some belt-tightening, employers should be careful not to secure financial returns at the expense of employee well-being or the organization's long-term success.

How Healthy Is Your Workplace?

For their Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards the APA considers areas such as employee involvement, health and safety, employee growth and development, work-life balance and employee recognition. The checklist below offers other criteria from the Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA) that you can use to diagnose your workplace:

  • Does your employer support healthy lifestyles?
  • Does the vision or mission statement of your company mention the importance of employees' health?
  • In your company's health and safety policy are employees encouraged to adopt a safe and healthy lifestyle both on and off the job?
  • Does your company have policies regarding flexibility of working hours?
  • Does your company provide any kind of financial assistance to help employees get more exercise?
  • Does your company's cafeteria provide healthy food choices?
  • Does your company encourage employees to take a real lunch break away from the desk?
  • Does your company cover the cost of smoking cessation drugs, both prescription and non-prescription?
  • Does your company provide defensive driving or collision avoidance and control training for employees who drive for work?
  • Does your company offer flu shots or other health screening tests on-site and free of charge to employees?
  • Does your company offer stress-management training for employees?

If you answered "yes" to five or fewer of these questions, the IAPA recommends that you discuss some of these issues with your employer or health and safety committee.

National Workplace Health Facts

  • 74 percent of employees say that work is a significant source of stress and one in five has missed work as a result of stress.
  • 55 percent of employees said they were less productive at work as a result of stress.
  • 52 percent of employees say their company does not do enough to promote employee health
  • In a survey of American employees, only 42 percent reported that their company offers healthy food options.
  • In 2006 the percentage of individuals covered by employer-based insurance decreased to 59.7 percent.
  • Companies that invest more than average in employee training outperform the market by 45 percent and have returns that are 86 percent higher than those companies that spend less than average.
  • In a 2007/2008 report, companies with the most effective health and productivity programs achieved 20 percent more revenue per employee, had 16.1 percent higher market value and delivered 57 percent higher shareholder returns.

Source: By the Numbers: A Psychologically Healthy Workplace Fact Sheet