Why LinkedIn hides sweets from its staff... and other tips for looking after workers

Employee well-being isn’t just for big companies – small firms can do it too.

By Sharon McCooey Head, LinkedIn Ireland

TODAY IS IRELAND’S annual ‘National Workplace Well-Being Day’ and it is encouraging to see that so many companies are prioritising their employees’ well-being.

While many small businesses might think that an employee wellness strategy is something that only large companies can pursue, there’s plenty of simple things that can be incorporated into your office or behaviour that can be encouraged in staff to help them lead a healthier lifestyle and be more productive in the workplace as a result.

It wasn’t so very long ago that LinkedIn in Ireland was a small business – there were just three of us here seven years ago compared to 1,200 today – so I wanted to share some ways that we think about wellness that could apply to workplaces of any size.

Thoughts

Workplace well-being isn’t simply about providing facilities. We place a strong emphasis on providing staff with flexibility and encouraging them to take a break in order to focus on their thoughts.

To achieve this, we encourage employees to take time out of their day to take part in mindfulness and meditation exercises.

I’d encourage every employer to make sure their staff recognises the benefit of stepping away from their screen for a few moments to recharge. There are plenty of free mindfulness apps to help people relax and hone their focus.

Nutrition

At LinkedIn, we’ve placed a heavy emphasis on encouraging people to make better nutritional choices.

For example, if someone wanted to pick up a sugary snack, they’ll find them hidden away from temptation in draws and cupboards, while the healthier options are more accessible.

In a smaller workplace this might mean encouraging an alternative to the steady stream of biscuits and chocolate that seem to end up on peoples desks.

Give your team the option of a healthy snack in the office, or encourage them to bring in those options – you might be surprised at the level of interest that your colleagues display in making better choices.

Movement

Although we have a gym and fitness studio on site, the design of our EMEA headquarters naturally lends itself for people to move.

For example, our office is designed to encourage people to naturally ‘bump into’ each other with an intricate staircase that criss-crosses across floors.

Similarly, we have 300 bicycle parking spaces to encourage staff to cycle to work. No matter the size of your office, there are plenty of ways to encourage movement to and from or in the workplace.

Think outside the box and look at ways of facilitating more movement, whether it’s promoting the bike-to-work scheme or encouraging people to have walking meetings, as is popular at our California offices – and when the Dublin weather allows…


Rest

Sleep is extremely important for your mental health and performance in the workplace. We recognised one way we could boost our employee wellness was by educating employees on the importance of sleep and to providing tips on how to get a good night’s rest.

In fact, it was of such interest that a group of our staff took it upon themselves to organise a ‘sleep fair’ last year, where a number of sleep consultants were brought to give advice.

There are plenty of online resources available for other companies to educate their staff or you could look to bring a sleep consultant into your office and get some professional input.

At the same time, making sure managers lead by example – don’t expect people to read emails late in the evening when they should be winding down.

Hydration

In much the same way that we encourage our people to make healthier choices when it comes to food, we take the same approach to drinks. Like every office, we give the option of free water.

People are always going to be tempted to pick up a fizzy drink, but there’s simple ways to make something like plain water more attractive without having to break the bank

For example, we have a water flavoured with strawberries or cucumber to offer a tastier option.

Again, the water is in plain sight, while the sugary drinks are hidden away. It’s simple tricks like this that any employer can easily incorporate into their wellness strategy.

Breathing

It seems so simple but encouraging your staff to focus on their breathing can help them manage a variety of scenarios in their work lives. Ever notice how before the likes of Usain Bolt are focused on their breathing before a big race?

By taking regular deep breathes in and out, these athletes are regulating their heartbeat to soothe any anxiety.

All of us have suffered from nerves before a big meeting or presentation at some point during our career, so why not help your team to tackle anxiety in the office by educating them about something as simple as breathing exercises?

The benefits of workplace wellbeing are there for all to see. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle helps to retain and attract talent, as well as making sure people’s batteries are fully charged so they can stay productive throughout the day.

It might seem like something that only a big corporation can take on, but simple suggestions like those above can make it more accessible to smaller businesses.

Sharon McCooey is head of LinkedIn Ireland.

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