Mindfulness, leafy greens and downward dog. Not exactly common associations with many of our workplaces. But just as the face of UK manufacturing is changing, so too is our understanding of the importance of workplace culture in minimising stress and sick days and boosting productivity and employee happiness.
EEF’s HR Consultancy team has worked with HR teams and manufacturers to address absence management (a symptom of stress management problems). Here are a few ideas that they’ve found can create a healthy more engaged workforce.
Green and lean
Most people have experienced the urge to pick up the crisps when they’re stressed. But did you know certain foods can actually decrease stress? Think leafy greens, turkey breast, fermented food, blueberries and salmon, to name a few.
Many manufacturers have workplace canteens. Perhaps a nutritional audit of the lunch menu should be on the agenda. Of course, many canteen managers and suppliers will say unhealthy options are preferred by their clientele, but there are ways to ‘nudge’ employees towards the smarter choice. For example, subsidising healthy options, prominently displaying ideal food at eye level and providing easy-to-see calorie information (and % daily value) info next to each choice.
Even those without canteens may have vending machines. Think about what these vending machines are fuelling your employees with – mood stabilising nutrients or sugar rushes and crashes?
Many manufacturing facilities are located outside the town centre, leading employees to hit up local fast food spot or service stations for a snack break. To counteract this need, some companies provide complementary fresh produce on front desks and in break rooms – a small cost for a positive change in behaviour.
While office environments are increasingly renovated and designed for maximised employee access to natural daylight at their desks, manufacturing jobs are typically conducted in spaces with minimal access to natural light. And yet, studies have shown that sunshine and trees are natural de-stressers.
Encourage employees to take breaks outside by creating an attractive, welcoming outdoor space with seating and tables. Add in some vegetation and trees and you’ve got an outdoor stress-free zone.
While office workers are often reminded of the importance of not sitting at their desk for long periods of time, manufacturing employees (while sometimes more physically active while on the job) also need reminders of the importance of stretching and changing up their physical routine. For example, there are quick and easy yoga-inspired stretches that managers can encourage their employees to try.
Lunch time exercise classes or company sports teams encourage physical activity which has proven to reduce stress.
And, of course, some meditation and mindfulness sessions never hurt anyone. But stress in the workplace certainly can.
For more concrete ideas from EEF’s experts on managing stress and reducing absenteeism get in touch with our HRC team.
Also, EEF is running a series of stress management courses in November.