How we work is key to our health, since most of us spend more of our time working than doing anything else. Thankfully, many companies are adapting to that reality: Gone are the days of suits, ties, and a strict 9 to 5. Meanwhile, baby boomers are downshifting, and Millennials and Gen Z are entering the job market with a new mindset about wellness. This transformation has some experts heralding the following healthy trends in the workplace.
A majority of larger U.S. companies — by one report, up to 80 percent — now offer flexible work options, including more family-friendly schedules, as part of a better all-around emphasis on work–life balance. This is critical to employee satisfaction, according to the United Nations’ World Happiness Report 2017, and some business experts say there’s a new acceptance of a life outside work.
Flex schedules have, in fact, become a prime recruiting tool, according to a 2017 Gallup poll of 195,600 U.S. employees: “The benefits and perks that employees truly care about are those that offer them greater flexibility, autonomy, and the ability to lead a better life.”
Open offices, once hyped as the great hope for workplace collaboration, proved to be more of a distraction — as well as petri dishes for colds and flu. At the same time, telecommuting and remote working were seen as the ultimate in flexibility but they often diminished team cohesion.
Now some business insiders are reconsidering the value of human interaction and the resulting organic collaboration, and companies are creating new, multifaceted office spaces to better enable productivity — and boost morale. “Companies will continue to promote their workspaces and design them to facilitate [productive interactions] between employees,” reports Forbes.
For those who work remotely or participate in the growing gig economy, there are multiple new workplace options. Hybrid live–work spaces are on the rise via WeLive, WeWork, and others. The nascent Life Time Work is designed to promote healthy and flexible office spaces — even including access to Life Time health clubs in the monthly membership fees.
“Life Time Work is a completely new take, intentionally designed to reframe our approach to work,” explains president James O’Reilly. “We want to inspire novel thinking and better health, with the goal of seeing positive results professionally and personally.”
While some visionary companies offer perks such as yoga classes, massages, acupuncture, and chef-prepped meals, a 2017 Harvard Business Review survey found that most employees simply prefer better health insurance. As unemployment rates drop and competition for quality employees increases, Forbes states that employers will strive to prioritize their workers’ “financial and mental wellness.”
“We spend roughly a third of our adult lives working,” O’Reilly notes. “So, beyond the serious physical implications [of sitting a lot], our experience of work has long-term ramifications — not just at work, but also outside work as well.”
This originally appeared as “The Healthier Workplace” in the March 2019 print issue of Experience Life.