IT Employment

10 workplace wellness tips for IT managers

Techies have a unique approach to life - and your employee wellness program needs to reflect that. These tips will get yours moving in the right direction.

Techies have a unique approach to life - and your employee wellness program needs to reflect that. These tips will get yours moving in the right direction!

1. Your main goal is creativity. Contrary to popular belief, cost savings are not the only goal for a workplace wellness program - and, if you're running a tech company or managing an IT team, it shouldn't be yours.

Instead, focus on creativity. Whether they do web design or software development, techies have to continually think outside the box - and when they do, your company is more profitable. A good wellness program energizes your team, which fosters their creativity. So, instead of focusing on cost savings, think of the money your wellness program will help you earn.

2. Think long-haul.

Your hiring pool is largely Gen Y and, soon enough, Millennials. These groups strongly value their personal life and, unlike previous generations, they expect their employer to do the same.

That means your wellness program serves an additional purpose of making you more appealing to potential recruits. The best candidates are not going to find a firm that doesn't address employee wellness as tempting. So, think of your wellness program as helping you improve both the health of your current team - and the future of your company.

3. Watch the ergonomics like a hawk. Repetitive motion syndrome, back ache, and eye strain are just some of the ways bad ergonomics can affect your team. And if your techies are in pain, they aren't going to be working at peak performance.

Don't wait until your team is out of commission before addressing ergonomics. Make healthy ergonomics a part of your company culture and bring in a specialist to periodically review the work stations of everyone on your team.

Since, changing to a more ergonomic setup isn't always enough to undo months or years of damage, make sure your specialist isn't just a furniture salesman. Get a physical therapist, instead. They are trained to see not only how the work station should be set up, but how to alleviate pain that's already been set in motion.

4. Think of physical activity as a reboot. Getting your team up and moving isn't a distraction from their work. In fact, it's one of the best ways to ensure they can keep working for years to come.

Given how sedentary a techie's job is, taking a break every hour or so - if only to stretch and walk around the office - can help the body shake off the strain of being in the same position for so long. And, when there's time for more than just a quick stretch (maybe over lunch?), a longer bout of physical activity can do a lot for heart health and keeping the weight down.

5. Provide healthy food.

Whether it's a full-on cafeteria or just a healthier selection of snacks in the break room, keep an eye on the food choices.

Techies are grazers - and they are often so in the zone they don't want to bother with a full meal, which leaves them prey to junk food from the vending machine or convenience store. With just a few healthy snacks on hand - crackers, cheese, fruit, nuts - your team can recharge without the empty calories. And, given your team likely has times when it's working around the clock, you'll make their life a whole lot easier.

6. Embrace your inner geek.

Techies are geeks - it's just a matter of finding out which kind yours are. Maybe they like Dungeons o& Dragons, maybe they like particle physics - either way, you need to incorporate that interest into your wellness program.

Get your team moving with Nerf zombie duels. Let your engineers figure out how many steps it would take to cross the Atlantic - and then use pedometers to see who gets there first! Geeking up your wellness initiatives makes them more fun - and that's what makes techies want to participate.

7. Keep things interesting.

Techies get bored fast with the same old, same old, so you want to keep things fresh. Even the most fascinating, geek-inspired activities will get tired if played too often. So, think up new games and new challenges. Invite speakers in to give talks on new topics. Try out the latest fitness apps as a team. The more you mix it up, the more they'll like it.

8. Watch the stress.

Techies have a lot to deal with, from deadlines and client demands, to the horrors of a system-wide crash.

Pay attention to the stress levels of your team and seek ways to alleviate it. Forcing a vacation day, having an impromptu ping pong competition, or bringing in a massage therapist are all ways to counteract the stresses that go with the job. Remember, not all techies show their stress - but if you think they're feeling it, they probably are.

9. Bump up the serendipity. One of the best side effects of a good wellness program is the way it enhances serendipitous interaction. That's when one member of your team gets to talking with another, someone they've not previously gotten to know very well. It's a great way to lead to new ways of working together.

Wellness initiatives like games and challenges do a lot to increase the chances of serendipitous interactions, but so do subtler interventions like a bowl of nuts in the break room or a daily comic posted on the wall. (Google is huge on promoting serendipitous interaction; they're probably on to something.)

10. Think beyond the office.

Obviously, not everything affecting the health of your team stems from the office. Everyone has times when personal life stresses seep over into work.

A good wellness program can reduce the impact of these times by making counselors available (often through your EAP), creating a venting area (maybe a punching bag?), and even allowing some impromptu personal days off.

Creating a wellness program for your tech team doesn't have to be expensive - and it can reap huge rewards for your company, in terms of energy, creativity, and loyalty.

BIO: Jennifer Michelle specializes in workplace wellness programs for techies. For more information on techie wellness - including her (free) guide to the Care & Feeding of Your Techie, please visit:  http://techiewellness.com

2 comments
justinkearney
justinkearney

Occupational Therapists are more likely to give you a better evaluation on ergonomics.

bobijub
bobijub

it always surprises me, that attention to ergonomics still has to be an advice. those whose main goal should be the profitability of their company, should naturally think of ergonomics as a way of inreasing the productivity of the staff. 'am afraid, that those advisors who mention ergonomics as a factor of wellness (which indirectly increases productivity) will arise much less interest, than those who describe ergonomics as a way of directly increasing productivity.