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The Importance of a Healthy Work Environment

We’ve all been there at some point and have likely worked for a company with a less than ideal environment where we didn’t feel valued, respected, supported, or heard. Employees are a company’s most important resource, and nothing kills morale faster than a toxic workplace. To be clear, a healthy work environment does not mean “free from sickness,” but it does show that an employer cares about the physical and mental health well-being of the team and helps attract and retain talent.

We should first recognize how the workplace has greatly changed in the last 40+ years. Interactions used to be mostly face-to-face, office based, and Monday-Friday, 9-5. Education level was highly valued by employers, and salary and status by employees. Today there is a greater emphasis on experience and technical aptitude on the employer side of the equation, and while salary and status are certainly still important, employees now also highly value things such as flexibility, family friendly policies, and good corporate and social responsibility practices. Expectations on employee availability and communication have also evolved. Working with rapidly advancing technology, the expectation for employees to be readily available and often immediately responsive is a reality in many work cultures today.

What some employers fail to realize is a flexible and healthy work environment not only improves the employees’ quality of life at home, but also helps with their efficiency, productivity and job performance and result in fewer missed days at work. This is critically important for those working in the clinical laboratory when patient care is involved.

Research shows happy and engaged employees are less likely to make mistakes and are more likely to make significant contributions to overall productivity. In comparison to those with disengaged employees, healthcare institutions with engaged employees also experience fewer patient safety incidents such as falls, medical errors, and infection rates. Monitoring and proactively dealing with low morale in the clinical laboratory not only avoids considerable downstream costs associated with absenteeism, re-hiring, and training, but also contributes to a better and safer workplace.[1]

Whether employees are in the office or working from home, here are some examples of what employers can do to create and support a well-rounded and healthy working environment and keep staff happy and thriving:

  • Promote staff health and safety for both physical and mental health well being

    • Provide ergonomic solutions – chairs, keyboards, mouse, standing desk, etc.

    • Encourage breaks – encourage employees to step away from their computer for a walk or for some fresh air to give their eyes and brain a rest

    • Promote work-life balance by encouraging time off, allowing flexible hours, and remote working options

    • Provide and encourage the use of cameras for calls – feeling connected to your team is crucial

  • Build and maintain high morale and positive workplace culture

    • Promote, foster, and support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

    • Allow for personalized workspace – flowers/plants/pictures

    • Offer market-reasonable compensation plans

    • Provide opportunities to bond with co-workers outside of work and away from day-to-day stress

    • Encourage, make available, and support professional development

    • Foster a collaborative atmosphere

    • Provide a safe place for all - to laugh, joke, build camaraderie, ask questions, voice concerns - without fear of attack, criticism, or humiliation

    • Build trust through transparent and open communication at all levels

    • Establish and cultivate leaders who truly listen to and advocate for employees

    • Recognize every employee is a unique individual. Position staff where they excel so they remain engaged and provide maximum value by allowing employees to leverage and apply the best of their talents.

  • Lead by example

    • Employers/managers/policies can be as supportive and flexible as humanly possible, but if they don’t practice what they preach employees will never truly feel it’s acceptable to not work during vacation, put their family first, etc.

As employees we have responsibility here as well and there are things we can do to help:

  • Be your own advocate – if something isn’t working or you need something else to be successful, whether that’s a travel monitor or training or more one-on-one time with your manager, SPEAK UP. Most leaders want to do right by their employees, but they aren’t mind readers!

  • Stop checking your phone and email at all hours. It takes time, practice, and self-discipline to disconnect but just remember that in a true emergency, someone WILL track you down!

  • Don’t be afraid to raise issues, but bring solutions to the table – most leaders are receptive to constructive feedback and appreciate thoughtful suggestions

  • Lead by example

At the end of the day, we all share in the responsibility of finding a balance that maximizes productivity without sacrificing anyone’s mental or physical health. As an employee, take action if you’re not getting what you need. And if your company doesn’t promote a culture where you can safely speak up, grow and thrive – then make a change and find one that does!

For more ideas on how to create a healthy work environment, check out this link from Liquid Learning.

[1] Tabitha Barker, MLT, and Jaime Noguez, PhD, “The High Cost of Low Morale in the Clinical Laboratory: How Workplace Environment Impacts Patient Safety,” Clinical Laboratory News, JAN.1.2015:

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