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As an employer, when you think about the health and safety of your team, you might think about the more blatant examples of risk. You might think about the dangers of slipping and falling. Or the issues of fire and electrics risks within the workplace. And these are all dangers you should definitely be considering. But you should also be thinking about the dangers that might lurk under the surface. The hidden dangers that could be making people sick without you realizing.
Stress is considered a major health problem in modern society. Not just momentary periods of difficulty that can get someone wound up, but long-term, debilitating stress that can lead to a plethora of problems, from insomnia to dangerous heart conditions. It should be no surprise that someone’s work often has a key role to play in the level of stress they’re under. If your team is miserable, you need to take steps now to ensure it doesn’t become a real health issue. Address problems like over-working and poor communication that might lead to stress. Encourage employees to talk about their difficulties, allow for time off, and perhaps even consider flexible working options that allow your team to keep an even keel.
You have physical stress to worry about as much as mental stress. A lot of people spend their days at a desk, which can bring up a lot of issues on its own. Any job that involves staying in one place can be a risk of back problems and repetitive strain injury. Those who spend their time sitting need a real ergonomic workstation to support them. Those who spend their time standing need things like standing mats to reduce the force put on their back. But, as we will look into, more consideration needs to go into just how long they can spend in that one position.
Anywhere you have people congregating, you have a risk of poor hygiene leading to plenty of workplace outbreaks. Yet many of these problems can be solved just by taking a little time out of the day to ensure cleanliness. For one, if your team can’t deal with the mess and clutter that builds in their working day. But a lot more care should go into personal hygiene in general. Make it a rule to wash hands in the bathroom and make sure your facilities are pleasant and easy to use. Supply each desk with a bottle of hand sanitizer so that it requires very little effort from employees to remember to take care of their hands before and after using their keyboards.
One of the most dangerous risks in all businesses is the risk of inactivity. As we said, no-one should be spending too long in any one position. Make sure employees have permission to take a five-minute break to walk around every hour. In fact, you can ensure that their computers have software that will actually remind them to do so. It might be a good idea to organize an office-wide fitness break, such as walking to another area for their lunch break. You can’t force them, but you can use your influence to persuade your team to be more active.
It’s not good enough to address these problems reactively. You have to start taking care of them before they have a serious impact on the business.