By Larry Alton

As a business owner, you’re responsible for your employees. Instead of seeing them as paid labor, you need to look at them as teammates, working together for the common good of the company. And while you can’t control everything, there are certain aspects of the work environment that you can improve. For instance, with some simple tweaks, suggestions, and rules, you can make your office a healthier place. Not only does this make people happier, but also ensures your company is as productive as possible.

When you remove sleeping from the equation, the average American worker spends more time in the office than they do anywhere else – including their own home. While that’s both sobering and interesting, it points to a very real need for business owners to pay attention to the quality and health of the workplace. By ensuring your office is a clean and safe place to work, your employees will be happier and more productive. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

1. Encourage Healthy Eating

A healthy diet actually prevents sickness and reduces symptoms of chronic pain. While you can’t force an employee to drop the double cheeseburger and replace it with an apple, you can provide them with healthy choices. Instead of bringing in a box of donuts on Friday mornings, why not switch it up? Nobody’s going to complain – after all, you’re providing free food.

2. Swap Coffee for Tea

On that same note, you should consider giving employees other options besides coffee in the break room. While nobody in their right mind would advocate for eliminating coffee in the office, it makes sense to provide alternatives. For example, green tea is considered by many to be the healthiest drink in the world. It’s full of antioxidants, improves cognitive function, and is antibacterial in nature. A little more tea and a little less coffee certainly couldn’t hurt.

3. Have Strict Hand Washing Policies

It’s a strange but true reality – most adults don’t know how to properly wash their hands. In fact, many people don’t even wash their hands after visiting the restroom. In a small office with lots of people, this is a sure-fire way to spread germs. Have a frank conversation with employees about the need– especially during flu season – and ensure everyone follows the CDCs guidelines for proper hand washing.

4. Don’t Penalize for Sick Days

Every employee should feel comfortable enough to take the day off when they feel sick. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans feel like taking a sick day makes them appear “lazy” or “weak.” As a business owner, it’s your job to make sure your employees know that you want them to use their sick days when they’re feeling under the weather. This prevents the spread of germs and ensures a healthier workplace for everyone.

5. Encourage Proper Ergonomics

There’s nothing healthy about sitting at a desk for eight hours each day, five days a week. It’s bad on our spines, vision, joints, and cardiovascular systems. Make sure your employees understand proper workspace ergonomics and supply them with the right equipment and resources, in order to make their offices comfortable and conducive to productivity. In the long run, this will result in fewer missed days and less chronic pain.

You could come up with dozens of other ways to encourage a healthier workplace, but these are a handful of the most effective. Gradually incorporate them into your office and let employees know that you care about their health, happiness….and productivity.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.