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Going Green

According to a recent medical study, simply being exposed to pictures of plants and nature is enough to improve your mood. The study concluded that having windows that open to green space is more likely to improve your feelings of well-being over a scene which simply looks onto a brick wall.

Not every office space can have windows and moving to an office with a nice view, while preferable to many employees, is likely not practical. You can still take advantage of the conclusions of the study, however, by adding more plants and foliage to the office or even simply by having pictures and murals of nature hung around the office.

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Ontario Employment Standards Review

In recent blog posts I’ve been extolling the benefits of working less, providing wellness incentives, and paid sick leave banks in an effort to improve employee health which can lead to higher employee happiness and overall productivity. HR can and should be the driver of this inside your organization by crafting policy providing benefits and incentives to employees.

In a recent sneak peek of the Ontario government’s review of the Ontario Employment Standards Act, it seems that government doesn’t think that this is happening enough in private industry and is looking to craft into provincial law these very benefits.

According to some of the recommendations of the review, the Ontario government is thinking of making it mandatory for companies to provide some paid sick leave, a minimum of 3 weeks of paid vacation, and lowering the threshold for overtime pay to kick in. This may seem like it would put a higher burden on companies in terms of benefits they are required to pay, however, the hope is that ultimately the changes pay out in dividens to the company in terms of higher productivity from happier workers.

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Should HR promote wellness?

There have been numerous examples in the last few years of companies encouraging and rewarding employees for making healthy choices. Your company could negotiate group discounts with local fitness centres for reduced gym membership fees or provide gift cards and vouchers for healthier eating options. Why not help employees with the cost of smoking cessation programs and aids. Healthy employees are less likely to take time off and are more productive. Helping and incentivizing employees to be healthy can also improve employee happiness.

Are we working too much?

According to a recent study, when women work more than 34 hours per week and men work more than 47 hours a week, they were more likely to show signs of mental illness and symptoms of nervousness and depression. The reason for the gender gap seems to stem from the fact that women are also far more likely to spend time doing domestic chores and caretaking at home.
A case study of nurses that worked only 6 hours per day instead of the North American standard of 8 hours per day concluded that those employees working only 6 hours per day reported feeling happier and was less prone to taking time off for illness.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, working less may actually increase productivity and employee engagement.

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