Workplace violence is a real and increasing threat to the total workforce. According to reports by the OSHA (US Occupational Safety and Health Administration), more than two million workers are victims of workplace incidents of violence annually, and these numbers keep on growing every year.
Another alarming fact is that homicide ranks as one of the top causes of workplace deaths. Apart from these dangers to human health, workplace violence also leads to a significant loss of productivity and damage to property.
Measures Taken to Curb Workplace Violence
As a result of these disturbing trends, companies have set up several policies that curb workplace violence. This is includes controlling the usage of inappropriate language in the workplace, bullying and other anti-social practices.
While these measures have had small impacts of reducing workplace violence, the numbers prove that these aren’t effective. One area which most businesses miss out is – focusing on the health and wellness of their workforce.
Using the above-said measures to curb workplace violence works only superficially. Companies just address the outlying symptoms instead of tackling the root cause.
To effectively reduce workplace violence, you have to get to the primary underlying issues.
Physical and Mental Health Issues – The Primary Cause for Workplace Violence
Today, most employees work in a high-pressure environment. Mounting challenges in the job, intense competition in the market all mean that workplaces are highly stressful environments. Not to mention the insane work hours, more and more employees get burned out within a short span.
All this impacts the physical and mental health issues of employees triggering violent outbreaks. Stress, depression, anxiety and other emotional problems faced by the employee in his/her personal life are further fuelled by the strains of the workplace.
According to studies, it has been found that work-place stress makes people prone to short tempers. On the other hand, other employees resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms like heavy drinking, smoking or even drug abuse to deal with the stress.
Sexual Harassment leads to Depression, Anxiety and Impacts Mental Health
When we speak about the wellness and health of employees at the workplace, special emphasis must be laid on sexual harassment of women at the workplace and its impact on their mental health, confidence and overall well-being.
If 2017 taught us something, then it’s that sexual harassment is common place in all workplaces. The #MeToo campaign is a testimony to this. Very often, women aren’t able to call out the harasser due to the sensitive nature of the issue. Even if they do so, it doesn’t automatically undo the damage done to their mental health.
It’s the duty and responsibility of the management to recognize signs of stress that could lead to hostility towards co-workers, violent outbursts, and even suicides and homicides.
Two Components of Employee Wellness
There are two main components of employee wellness.
- One – Management or other employees noticing and identifying employees who are dealing with physical and mental stress. This is followed by the manager or team lead, providing the right care or path of treatment to the employee to prevent him/her from indulging in a workplace violence crime.
- Two – Establishing a holistic wellness programme for all employees, to prevent employees from getting stressed or burned out in the first place.
With that said, there are drawbacks to both these components. The first one involves another person a manager or a co-worker noticing that an employee is stressed out and intervening to provide the person with help.
While this may sound good in theory, in reality it’s far from ideal. This is because today’s workplaces are so hectic that employees don’t have the time nor resources to find out what’s happening with their co-workers. By taking this approach, it becomes hugely difficult to spot issues before they snowball into a major problem.
Coming to the second approach, most organisations today provide some sort of wellness programs for their employees. Be it a health screening camp or an annual team retreat, every company has some type of wellness program or another.
Sadly, this isn’t sufficient. At most times, these programs exist for namesake and don’t try to address the underlying issue.
The long-term benefits from these programs are null. While both employees and employers are enthusiastic about these programs initially, their enthusiasm runs down after a few weeks, leaving them feeling discourage, frustrated and scratching their heads, wondering what went wrong.
Tips to Get the Best from Employee Wellness Programs
For employee wellness programs to have long-lasting effects and a higher rate of success, it must have an ongoing, educational and personalized component.
- Include an Educational Component to your Wellness Programs
One of the biggest flaws of most wellness programs is that they don’t focus on the long-term benefits. Instead, they are concentrated on quick, short-term results that do little.
Your wellness program must have an educational component that works on changing the behaviour and attitude of employees. Start by teaching employees relevant health information, how their body works, the impact of stress, food and lifestyle on their overall health. Only when employees understand the basics, can they take the right steps to stay healthy.
- Lead by Example
Very often, employees turn to unhealthy and junk foods when they are stressed. Instead, companies can take proactive steps by offering healthy foods in their office canteens. Instead of including fried foods like masala vads, bajjis, and other sweets and snacks in your canteen, serve healthy foods like salads, sprouts, sundals, fresh fruit juices and more.
Instead, of restricting music at the workplace, include the right kind of motivating music. Employers can encourage employees to move throughout the day by teaching them stretching and other exercises.
- Implement an Enhanced Wellness Program
By implementing an enhanced wellness program, you can provide employees with the tools they need to make the right healthy changes in their daily lives. Provide ongoing support to employees, motivate them to stay on track and offer personalised programs instead of a one-size fits all approach.
- Reduce Noise and Stress at the Workplace
Reducing noise pollution plays a huge role in improving employee wellness, by reducing stress at the workplace. Create quiet corners in the workplace, where employees can go for short breaks when they are feeling overwhelmed. An alternative is to add a white-noise machine to help employees drown out distracting background noises.
- Provide Female Employees with a Secure and Safe Channel to Report Sexual Harassment
The best way to improve the mental health of your female employees is to make them feel secured. Whether be it an offensive comment, or unwanted advances, they must be able to report it confidently to management without fearing repercussions. And, ensure that you provide them with ways to make complaints anonymously if needed.
Workplace wellness is all about creating a happy and healthy workforce. Remember that a happy workforce not only boosts productivity, but also helps in reducing workplace violence significantly. Coming to the big question, “Will workplace wellness require a large investment?” Of course, yes! But, it’s certainly worth it.
For a comprehensive wellness program, tailored to your workplace and customised to your employee requirements, get in touch with us at @