By Lonnie Fritz, Senior Market Professional, Construction Industries, Caterpillar Inc.
Employee health on the job has been in the news a lot recently for obvious reasons, but shouldn’t it be something we focus on all the time? After all, healthy workers are productive workers — they’re less likely to call in sick and more likely to be alert, efficient and safe all shift long. Here are six healthy habits to encourage with your crew.
- Hydration. Construction work is physically demanding. The days are long, and the work can be hot much of the year. Your employees need to stay hydrated to stay healthy — and productive. Some studies show a 3-4% drop in hydration can lead to a 25-50% drop in productivity. Encourage workers to keep a refillable water bottle nearby at all times and provide a water cooler where they can fill up during their shift. Try not to keep coffee brewing all day and don’t offer soda as an option because caffeine accelerates dehydration.
- Healthy eating. Grabbing fast food or a gas station meal is convenient, but it’s not helping anyone’s productivity on the job — or their waistlines. Make “meal planning” a topic of one of your employee meetings or safety talks and offer tips on how to pack a healthy lunch that will keep workers full and give them energy to get through the shift. (You’ll find plenty of examples just for construction workers online.) If you keep snacks around the jobsite, ditch the candy bars and chips and replace them with nuts and easy-to-eat fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas and carrot sticks.
- Exercise. Equipment operators in particular spend a lot of the day sitting and performing repetitive tasks. A regular exercise routine — whether that’s walking, running, swimming, biking, weight training or some combination of activities — helps keep the muscles in shape and prevent injuries. It’s a great stress reliever, too. Think about offering your employees a discounted gym membership or other incentives to keep moving.
- Rest. Getting enough sleep is key to staying alert and productive on the job. You can’t control your workers’ sleep habits, but you can give them space — and encouragement — to re-energize during their shift. Construction’s a demanding job, and breaks do make a difference, especially when shifts are long and the days are hot. Set aside a cool, quiet place where employees can rest their eyes and their minds for a few minutes at a time.
- Basic hygiene. Anyone who didn’t know the importance of hand-washing before certainly does now, but it’s not always easy on a construction job. Consider investing in mobile hand-washing stations that you can place in key areas around the worksite. Always make hand sanitizer available. And of course, urge employees to stay home if they don’t feel well. It’s important to build a culture where workers don’t feel like they’ll be penalized for calling in sick.
- Wearables. Information is power, so consider providing wearable devices that help employees monitor important health information. These devices can track activity levels, heart and respiratory rates, and even sleep quality. Implementing wearable technology benefits you as the employer, but also provides value to employees — both on and off the job.
Ultimately, every person’s health is his or her own responsibility, but as an employer you can influence positive behavior and create an organization where healthy habits are recognized and rewarded. It’s a win-win, after all — healthy workers contribute to a healthy bottom line.