The average working American spends a large part of his or her waking hours at work every week. While health and fitness choices are typically thought of as personal decisions, employers can go a long way in promoting more health-conscious habits among employees—health and fitness need not be entirely relegated to an employee’s time outside of work.
Healthy employees are an essential part of a thriving work environment. In fact, there is a direct link between health and productivity. Data collected as part of Gallup’s 2012 Healthways Well-Being Index estimated the cost of absenteeism due to overweight, obesity, and related conditions, as well as other chronic conditions, at $153 billion per year across the U.S. workforce1.
Employers can help reduce absenteeism and increase employee productivity and well-being by taking an active role in the health of their employees. Here are some ideas that can be incorporated into an employee wellness program:
· Set up a healthy lunch program - - Designate one or more employees to pick up or call in orders to a local restaurant or café serving healthy options. More and more restaurants today offer nutritional information for their menu items to help consumers make more informed decisions.
· Encourage employees to take 10-minute fitness breaks - - Climbing stairs, walking around the building or complex, or doing a series of stretching exercises two to three times a day can help energize employees and improve their fitness.
· Create optimal conditions for work-life balance - - This is perhaps one of the less obvious but important ways an employer can help employees stay healthy. When employees have adequate time outside of work to spend time with family, do the things they enjoy, and get sufficient sleep, it is typically reflected in their performance and happiness at work.
· Ask your vending machine operator to add healthier options - - While vending machines are typically thought of as junk food dispensers, healthier options than potato chips and candy bars exist. Work with your vending machine operator to stock healthier options, such as packaged fresh apple slices and mixed nuts.
· Provide gym memberships as part of your company’s benefits package - - A membership to a local gym or in-house company gym is an attractive part of a benefits package. Incentivizing those who use the membership further encourages employees to improve their fitness.
· Incentivize employees for reaching their weight-loss goals - - The results of a Mayo Clinic study released in 2013 showed that employees who were incentivized to lose weight were more successful in doing so2.
These are just some of the many ways employers can help their employees be healthier and happier at work. There are plenty of reasons for employers to institute healthy workplace programs—healthy employees improve a company’s bottom line through reduced health insurance costs and absenteeism, and improved worker productivity.