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Keeping your employees happy and healthy

Q: I try and encourage all my employees to take a lunch break. However with the business demands of the day and members of the team out on the road, this can be difficult. Without forcing my staff to take a break, what else can I do to help them break up the day and take a rest?

A: First of all, it is good to see that you take the welfare of your staff seriously. While you cannot force your staff, there may be ways to encourage them to take a break. If you are able, try not to impose a time on lunch breaks, as employees may well be working on the demands of the job and taking a fixed lunch break may not be convenient at that particular time.

If the employee is working on demands and deadlines then once they have completed the task in-hand, encourage them to take a walk, get some fresh air, phone a friend or just simply read a magazine and take a break.

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Full-time workers spend a great deal of their week at work so it is important for them to build time into the day to exercise and take a break. The consequences of not doing so can have a negative impact not just on physical health but also on the mental wellbeing of employees. Encourage your workers to take advantage of the local gym, or indeed set aside time in the workplace for keep fit sessions, this can be at a time more suited to your employees, after work being a good example.

Job-related stress is an alarming trend and one that employers need to be mindful in managing. Employees should take time to disconnect from work because it can help energise and boost their mind-set. Also taking time away from deadlines can help reignite new ideas and can help increase concentration and attention levels.

You do have a responsibility to ensure that your employees take enough rest and breaks, plus your management needs to be proactive in encouraging everyone to take time out. Another idea is to create a break-out room, somewhere where employees can retreat to. Make it an inviting environment, a place that employees will wish to visit: this way your staff will make it their own space and enjoy taking advantage of it. Ensure that it is a work-free zone, so keep clear of using it to hold business-related meetings.

Finally, lead by example and invite people to take a walk with you. It is a good way to communicate and get to know your staff. This way, if they see their employer taking time out then this should hopefully encourage a culture where it is all right to take a break - without workers feeling they are tied to their desk.

David Price is managing director of Health Assured