How to Be Happier and Healthier at Work

Your place of work should be contributing to your health, not taking away from it.If you're like most people, your workplace isn't exactly a joyful haven of rest and relaxation. Indeed, most would agree that they have stressful jobs and workplaces that don't do enough to promote employee wellness.

However, progressive organizations around the world are beginning to understand the importance of employee wellbeing. They now know that improving workplace wellness isn't just a nice thing to do for employees-it helps the company bottom line in numerous ways, such as increased job satisfaction, productivity and morale, in addition to reducing turnover, absenteeism and presenteeism (coming to work sick)*.

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The American Psychological Association cites five components of a psychologically healthy workplace. I've laid them out below, along with practical ways to implement them. If your workplace doesn't have anything of this sort, don't despair; through the cooperation of employees throughout your organization, it may be possible to create helpful programs that make a notable impact on office morale and organizational health.

1. Employee Involvement
All too often, workers feel controlled and powerless at their jobs, resulting in apathy and a lack of commitment to their organization. The superior alternative for employers is to make employees feel more involved in decision making and autonomous while performing their jobs.

Make It Better: Help workers feel competent and at least partially in charge of their own work responsibilities. This can be done through self-managed work teams, employee taskforces or monthly suggestion meetings.

2. Work-Life Balance
Many American workers would agree that their work-life balance is tipping too far toward the office. If employees are forced to neglect responsibilities at home, the quality of their professional work will inevitably suffer.

Make It Better: Employers have ample opportunities to reach out to overburdened employees. Common ways to do so are through flextime, childcare, eldercare and financial management assistance.

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3. Employee Growth and Development
Nobody wants to be in a dead-end job. An employer who encourages worker growth and development will make sure that each worker gains new knowledge, skills and abilities. This is a wise investment that ensures the growth and retention of top-notch employees.

Make It Better: Workers should know that they have upward mobility within their organizations. Employers can ensure this through continuing education courses, tuition reimbursement and leadership development programs.

4. Health and Safety
American healthcare is notorious for being almost entirely treatment-oriented, rather than focused on preventing illness in the first place. Employers can avoid making the same mistake by providing a healthy workplace environment and teaching employees the essentials of fitness, nutrition and stress management. In addition to the obvious perks for workers, promoting health and safety will benefit the employer as well; healthy employees are less likely to miss work and have lower insurance costs.

Make It Better: Workers ought to be able to rely on their employer to provide the information and resources necessary to engage in healthy lifestyle choices. Programs that promote weight loss, smoking cessation and stress management can be extremely helpful. Ideally, employers should also provide on-site or nearby access to a fitness facility.

MORE: 3 Ways to Be Happier at Work

5. Employee Recognition
Few things adversely affect employee morale like a lack of appreciation. By recognizing outstanding employee contributions, employers send the message that good work does not go unnoticed.

Make It Better: The obvious way to commend an employee is with a monetary bonus. However, more cost-effective methods can be used as well, such as awards and recognition ceremonies.

Progressive organizations know that psychologically healthy workplaces are mutually beneficial for employer and employee. In addition to treating employees with courtesy and respect, these organizations gain a notable advantage by improving the bottom line and cultivating top-tier talent. Indeed, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman once said, "This is not pie in the sky; this is about the bottom line. Building psychologically healthy workplaces isn't just the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do." Who can argue with that?

- by Matthew D. Della Porta, Ph.D.

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