Five Ways to Cultivate a Healthy Office Environment
The average person works anywhere from 40-60 hours during a normal work week, which can become exhaustive for anyone, including physicians. Even though many patients seek our help for answers to their health problems, we need to be sure we are taking our own advice to heart. Many of us may have Mondays when we dread our alarm clock going off. With the most common day for a heart attack being Monday morning between the hours of 4 a.m. – 10 a.m., we must wonder if there is a correlation to the stress of returning to begin a work week and heart problems. What affect does our lack of eagerness have on our office, our relationships with coworkers and our patient interactions and care?
The answer is, when we are not at our best, we affect all those around us. We must be fully engaged in order to give the best possible care to both our patients and colleagues. Overcome this problem by introducing fun things to look forward to that will liven up the office. These subtle changes can be very impactful for physicians who are suffering from burnout or complacency. Below is a list of five ways to bring some fun, joy and a sense of community into your workplace. Try these out in your office to cultivate a healthy inviting environment. 1. Lunch Potlucks There’s nothing like good food to bring a group of people together. Potlucks foster a sense of community and connection, creating a sense of teamwork among colleagues. Even if the work environment is stressful, a potluck can create the opportunity for people in the office to relax and release stress, at least for half an hour. Potlucks bring an element of contribution and creativity, as each individual brings their signature dish. This often creates a feeling of camaraderie within the work place, because everyone has done their part to provide food for the event. Recommendation: Schedule an office potluck once a quarter to keep community and morale at a high. 2. Team retreats Team retreats are great for creating a stronger community, having fun, improving teamwork and communication. Generally, team retreats are held annually or bi-annually and are conducted either by an outside company or by a company itself. Holding an event outside of the office is often more engaging because of the change of scenery, which allows employers and employees to learn more about each other. Retreats are also a great way to level the various hierarchies in the office for a period of time. Some of the most effective retreats employ the combination of workshops, lectures and games. Schedule one of these activities at your workplace to improve work relationships. 3. Game Pools A great way to spark friendly competition in your work place, is to create a game pool around a sporting event. Game pools do not have to be limited to just sports. Challenges can be created in order to make your office more productive, without increasing stress. When a game is created around a goal that your office desires to reach, it motivates the people involved and inspires team members to work together for a common purpose. Small prizes make great incentives such as: a day off of work, the winning team getting treated by the losing team, something fun like a dinner or tickets to a sporting event. Take caution that game days are created in a way that is fun and light. Staying away from monetary rewards is probably helpful, as we know that competitions for monetary gain can turn very serious thus defeating the purpose. That is not to say that there can be no monetary bonus, but perhaps creating the bonus in a way that fosters support rather than division can be more effective in keeping the game light. 4. Health Challenges Today, it is very common to see health challenges in the office. There are many who incorporate “The Biggest Loser” challenges into their workplace. There are even offices that create pools and rewards for teams who lose the most weight, or come back with the best health numbers (i.e. blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.). With the rising epidemic of obesity, health challenges are not only fun, but completely necessary. Research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that: 65% of Americans are overweight or obese; 5% of Americans get little or no exercise; 7 out of 10 Americans that die each year, die of a preventable chronic disease. Workplace wellness programs, like health pools and challenges, lower sick leave, healthcare costs and increase productivity. 5. Joke of the Day It has been shown in research that laughter truly has physical, as well as emotional, health benefits. Laughter literally reduces the release of stress chemicals like adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol in the body. Laughter also diffuses stressful moments and can distract individuals from an emotional stressor that may be occurring. Having an office “joke of the day” can be a great way to capitalize on some of the benefits that humor brings both physically and emotionally. Likewise, laughter creates a sense of togetherness between people. However, take caution that the jokes are appropriate and not degrading to gender, race or sexual orientation. This could not only have the opposite effect, but can also lead to violation of your company’s discrimination or sexual harassment policies. Remember, laughter is supposed to be healing, without being hurtful. In conclusion, there are many ways to create a fun and enjoyable work place. If we are to spend a great deal of our life in our offices, we should make the environment enjoyable. By bringing fun, competition and laughter into the workplace, you are not only increasing community and productivity, but may also be adding years to your life. Imagine the impact that your improved mood and engagement can have on your coworkers and especially the care you give your patients. Use these five recommendations to cultivate a more positive atmosphere at your office and watch what happens as a result! Use your favorite tactics that get the best feedback to employ regularly.