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Health at work

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Physical inactivity and poor diet are among the top causes of ill health. Employees who are in good health are less likely to time off work and are likely to be more productive. Working life can shape behaviours from; how active we are, and what we eat.

Today we look at what employers can do to help encourage a healthier environment for their employees…

Help Employees Eat Well

Too often unhealthy food is the quickest to grab on the go – it’s easy when busy to reach for the easiest option. Employers have a key role to play in ensuring employees have access to healthier food and drink options. Simple changes can be most effective such as ensuring vending machines are stocked with nutritious snacks and water instead of fizzy drinks, chocolates and sweets.

Including nutritional information in canteen/cafeteria selections allows those using the services to make smarter, healthier choices and setting out healthy snacks such as fruit and low-fat yoghurt rather than pastries or biscuits in meetings or company events.

The key to encouraging healthy eating in the workplace is to ensure that healthy options are the easiest, quickest and better options for all employees.

Promote Physical Activity Amongst Staff

In England, around a third of adults are damaging their health through a lack of physical activity, whereas in the USA only half of the American adults report meeting the physical activity guidelines. Being physically active has huge benefits – both for your business and your employees. Many barriers to physical activity can be addressed by worksite physical activity programs, here are some examples:

  • Support physical activity breaks during the workday

  • Discourage eating at desks

  • Encourage employees to use stairs by placing signs near elevators and stairwells highlighting the benefits

  • Encourage employees to take walks outside during their lunch hours

  • Promote walk-to-work or cycle schemes

  • Provide the facilities to encourage physical activity such as lockers, changing rooms and bike storage

  • Flexible working hours - such as the option of longer lunch breaks allowing time for a walk or run.

  • Walk and talk or standing meetings - rather than sitting in a meeting room

Employees who promote physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour in the workplace have seen the benefits, from the increase in morale and productivity to a significant return on investment as a result of a decrease in health expenditure [1]

Workplace wellness programs

Did you know that it can take between 21 to 66 days of daily repetition to develop a health or fitness habit? As working adults spend a third of their waking hours in work, workplaces are a key space for improving wellbeing.

All businesses can benefit from some form of a wellness initiative at work. Set up a workplace wellness program to assist employees in adopting healthy lifestyles. For example, employers can encourage wellness by sponsoring contests rewarding those who lose a certain amount of weight during a specific time period, tracking team progress, the winning team would be eligible to win a health-related prize at the month’s end. Showing that you care enough to provide a healthy working environment can activate a strong sense of loyalty among your staff. 70% of employers have improved their physical environments to encourage healthy behaviours [2].

Here are five things employees want in their employer wellness programs, according to research HealthFitness conducted between 2015 and 2016:

  • Flexibility

  • Convenience

  • Personalization

  • Mental health support

  • A supportive company culture

77% of employees think that employee wellness programs positively impact the company culture [3], showing there is a real want for wellness programs by employees. By helping

employees be their best selves this ultimately makes a business stronger.

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