Your workplace is putting you in danger

June 8, 2014

Your employer is putting you in harm’s way.

In fact, you can’t smoke cigarettes fast enough to match the damage that today’s workplace is doing to you. And not just you, but everyone from the newest hire to your chief executive.

My co-creator for this article is Chloe Sosenko, a rising senior with a 3.5 GPA on a dual focus in psychology and entrepreneurship. She’s a walk-on defensive starter and captain of the University of Michigan women’s soccer team, which made it to the Elite 8 in last year’s Division I National Championships. Her head coach describes her as “very intelligent, disciplined, committed to success.”

You want to hire someone like Chloe.

But a year from now, when she’s ready to throw her enthusiastic efforts into business, unless you’re committed to change, she’s not going to accept your offer. Actually, most of her generation will be leaving your company in its present form over the next decade.

Why?

Because they know if they work in your [office], within 10 years, they’ll be overweight, pre-diabetic, worn down by repetitive tasks, with burned-out adrenals. They’ll function at declining rates, finding it difficult to break the habits they’ve formed in your office.

That may seem exaggerated, but it’s the state of work around the world. We can all do far better than this. And your motivation to try can be purely economic: A healthier workplace makes for higher sustained performance and lower medical costs.

Here are five ways to save your life — and your company:

Fight the sitting disease.

The average adult spends nearly eight hours each day sitting. What about you? The World Health Organization now warns that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of all causes of mortality, doubling the incidence of heart disease and diabetes. Yep, sitting disease may be deadlier than smoking. Your company can reverse this. Start by creating rewards for venturing [outside] with walking meetings and outdoor work on mobile devices. Then install standing and treadmill desks. Movement is health.

Quiet time.

In a multi-decade study spanning 15,000 participants, The University of Massachusetts Medical School indicates that meditation reduces the number of medical and psychological symptoms by more than 35 percent. Substantially more research has to be done on meditation, but the flurry of recent data suggests that “quiet time” reduces anxiety and depression, expands the ability to focus, and positively alters the structure of the brain. Offering daily meditation in your office, or dedicating time to individual practice, is the lowest-risk and least expensive of our suggestions.

Snacking to health.

Renowned and best-selling medical expert, Mark Hyman, advises people to “skip the vending machines.” It’s time for organizations to follow suit. No company is obligated to roll out convenient sugary snacks and drinks. Upgrade your vending machines to the healthiest alternative or abandon them. Fill the candy bowls with nuts and fruit. Replace the soda with flavored water. Bring in a nutritionist for a simple consult to implement a new strategy. You are not alone in facing this challenge. Even today’s most inspired employers — Google and Facebook — have too many employees eating high-sodium, high-sugar foods.

Strengthen your core.

For the past 25 years, employees have gone to work and gotten sicker. In the next quarter century, they’ll go to work to get healthy. In 2011, we hired our first full-time personal trainer at the Motley Fool. I wish we’d done so 15 years sooner. Today, Samantha Whiteside presides over yoga, high-intensity interval training workouts, Zumba and strength classes in spaces across our office. She coaches our colleagues around the world via Skype. The net result is a convenient solution for our employees that yields higher productivity, lower health insurance costs and greater levels of satisfaction.

“Every day is Saturday.”

That’s exactly what CEO Ricardo Semler tells his 3,000 colleagues at Semco. Employees and their teams are liberated to define their work schedules. Parents have time for their families. Night owls can sleep late. Yogis hit the studio midday. Semco’s rate of employee turnover is less than 1 percent per year. Does that lead to organizational chaos and lax underperformance? Nope. Semco sales, earnings, and company valuation have stunningly outperformed for decades.

These ideas may seem extreme, even ludicrous. But they’re already practiced somewhere, so they must be possible. Before you know it, they’ll be institutional imperatives. At some point, the data will lead to one conclusion. Your organization may face legal liability for not disclosing the risks of working there, then countering them.

Tom Gardner is chief executive and co-founder at the Motley Fool, an Alexandria company that provides a range of investment services. This commentary was adapted from a post he published on LinkedIn. The Motley Fool produces a weekly column for Capital Business.

Continue reading
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business

business

capitalbusiness

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters