Healthy Workplaces

Workplaces impact health and well-being.  It benefits both employers and employees if workplaces are safe and support health.  A healthy workplace is more than just safe it considers health practices, the physical work environment and the psychosocial environment.  Natural light, ergonomics, green space, noise, food choices, exercise, commuting, fairness and flexibility are all important to employees.  Employers providing healthier options at the workplace have witnessed many benefits such as reduced insurance costs and absenteeism.  Employers that care about creating a healthy workplace have witnessed increased employee job satisfaction, morale and productivity.  There is increasing evidence that the same workplace factors that improve health.

photo of indoor building design encouraging using the stairs

Why strive for a healthy workplace?

Workers that feel valued, safe and healthy are more likely to be more productive and committed to their work.  Healthy workplaces can reduce insurance costs and absenteeism.  Healthy workplaces can increase worker productivity, satisfaction and retention.

Workplaces can promote the health and safety of people.  Workers can spend up to half of their day in the workplace.  Healthy workplaces support healthy behavior patterns.  A healthy workplace is committed to supporting healthy eating, improving physical activity, and providing a safe and nurturing learning environment. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “while employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace, they also have abundant opportunities to promote individual health and foster a healthy work environment.”  The workplace can influence healthier social norms.  Healthy workplaces support healthy eating and regular physical activity which can prevent obesity and chronic diseases.  Furthermore, workplaces can improve their employees’ knowledge of healthier lifestyle choices and be place for preventative health screenings.

What are our Active Building Guidelines?

In 2017, the Nashville Civic Design Center in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health created Active Building Guidelines (PDF 18MB or PDF Mobile  8MB) for health departments.  These guidelines present a series of physical and mental health- promoting design recommendations for the 120+ county and regional health department buildings across Tennessee.  Believed to be the first guidance document of its kind for health departments in the nation, it was written to help decision makers re-imagine the role that buildings can play in supporting public health.  The Active Building Guidelinespull from a vast collection of design recommendations, toolkits, precedents and best practices from across the country.  From those, a menu of over 70 health-promoting design recommendations are presented such as: natural lighting, workout facilities, energy efficient appliances and walking tracks for use by employees and the public.  The guidelines also include case studies demonstrating implementation strategies.

The intention of Active Building Guidelines is to be a conversation-starter, guide and resource for mayors, government personnel, architects and planners when presented the opportunity to renovate or newly-construct health department buildings across the state.  Additionally, the Active Building Guidelines can be used in decision making for other public buildings, private businesses and healthcare facilities.

How are workplaces becoming healthier?

Healthier Tennessee Small Starts for Work promotes a simple, affordable way to make employees healthier.  Click the workplaces below to read their case study about how their striving to have a healthier Tennessee workplace for their employees.

Workplace Topics City County
BAE Systems Ordnance Systems, Inc. focus on prevention
medical-related savings
productivity gains
reduction in health risks
Kingsport Sullivan
Bank of Tennessee onsite fitness activities
community fitness events
health fairs
nutritional information
Kingsport Sullivan
Clarksville Parks and Recreation

diabetes prevention
high blood-pressure
inter department challenge

Clarksville Montgomery
Cormetech, Inc.

worksite wellness
get fit program
cooking classes
health fairs

Cleveland Bradley
Cumberland Marketing tobacco-free campus
sugar-free pledge
standing desks
make time to move
Kingsport Sullivan
First Citizens National Bank healthy employee incentive program
preventative care
wellness classes
various various
StandardAero health care benefit incentives
maintain-Don't Gain contest
lifestyle initiatives
diabetes prevention program
Maryville Blount

What about well-being?

According to the American Psychological Association, a healthy workplace fosters employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance and productivity.  Unhealthy workplaces cost United States employers hundreds of billions of dollars each year due to absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and direct medical, legal and insurance fees.

Psychologically, they group health workplaces into 5 categories:

  • Employee involvement
  • Work-life balance
  • Employee growth and development
  • Health and safety
  • Employee recognition

What is CDC’s Workplace Health Model?

CDC's Workplace Health Model diagram

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) promotes that a workplace health program should involve a coordinated, systematic and comprehensive approach.  CDC has assembled a Workplace Health Model that incorporates:

                1. Assessment
                2. Planning and Management
                3. Implementation
                4. Evaluation

Their coordinated approach to workplace health is designed to meet the health and safety needs of all employees.  CDC asserts wellness programs should have both policies and benefits for the individual employee and the organization.

CDC’s Worksite Health Score Card is a tool designed to help employers assess whether they have implemented science-based health promotion and protection interventions in their worksites to prevent heart disease, stroke and related health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

Government partners

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Healthy Workplace Model

Workplace Health Promotion

Workplace Health Strategies

Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development (TOSHA)
Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety 
Healthy Workplaces
Health & Wellness

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work 
Healthy Workplaces for All Ages

Additional Resources

Healthier Tennessee 
Small Starts for Work

Berkeley University of California

Center for Active Design

The Community Guide
Obesity: Worksite Programs

American Lung Association (ALA)
Corporate Wellness

Helpful documents

Tennessee Department of Health
Active Building Guidelines
PDF 18MB   PDF Mobile  8MB

City of New York
Active Design Guidelines – Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design, 2010