Healthier employees are more productive employees. They report fewer sick days, are more efficient and report higher morale. We explain how to promote employee health in this guide.
How employees eat, physical exercise, emotional wellness and even the state and design of your office premises all contribute to how healthy your workforce will be.
Start with a sensitisation campaign
In order for employees to adopt healthy practices, they need to know why. Your team will likely know why it is important for them to eat a salad, but empower them with more information.
Invite a health care expert to teach them exactly why drinking a lot of soft drinks is not advisable for their health, why a balanced diet matters, why exercise is important and so much more.
As part of this sensitisation campaign, you can have health professionals check for health indicators like blood pressure and blood sugar. Employees who are open to being tested will be taking the first steps towards improving their health.
You want employees to own the health initiative. It shouldn’t be something they do for the boss or just at work. Having more information will help them adopt healthy practices even at home.
In addition to offering specialist information, such a session will allow employees to ask questions. It will also show the seriousness with which the company is taking the move to promote employee health.
Provide a balanced menu
It will be hard to promote employee health if your lunch menu is dominated by fast foods. As diet is a big component of health, provide a menu that consistently has all the food groups.
Swap sugary breakfast cereals for oatmeal and whole grain cereal. Have whole grain bread and more fruits and vegetables. For snacking between meals, don’t remove all the candy, but provide alternatives like lower sugar crackers and nutty bars.
Because behaviour change is hard, willpower is rarely enough to move us from one step to the next for a sustained period of time. Use tactics such as putting healthier food options in closer reach. If you serve a buffet, help everyone eat better by having the vegetables first and not last on the line.
Make use of the psychology of eating
People make food choices for a variety of reasons; from cultural to economic and social. According to research, social norms can be used to encourage healthier eating. If you want to encourage people to eat healthier, they need to know that others are doing it too. Provide statistics and articles.
If you have an office bulletin, write about the experience of eating from the new menu and share with employees. Seeing their bosses making healthy food choices could also encourage some to embrace healthy eating.
Make a challenge of it
Promote employee health by creating fun challenges where the winners are rewarded. For instance, you can measure who will be the first to make 30,000 steps. Employees can record their steps on a board every morning to keep the fun going. They can also pair up and do it in teams.
Revamp your office if you can
An office space can have an impact on stress reduction, wellbeing and help to promote employee health. Ensure that you have quality air supply. Do this by having open windows, clean air filters and establishing a non-smoking policy in office spaces.
Windows are not just good for air supply, they let in natural light which reduces eye strain and can boost mood. Move desks around to remove obstructions to the windows.
Incorporate physical fitness
Create a physical fitness program that people in the office can take advantage of. This may be hiring a trainer to come in every day for 30 minutes at the end of the day, or leading people on a jogging or walking trail every weekend. In addition to the health benefits, team bonding will improve.
Reduce time spent sitting
You have probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. This is because of the dangers that come from sitting for extended periods of time. It increases chances of getting heart disease and puts strain on your back. Obesity and excess body fat around the waist are also more likely to happen.
To avoid these, encourage employees to walk around during the office day. By engaging the Pomodoro technique for instance, employees can work for 25 minutes and move around for 5.
Breaking work into chunks of productivity and rest serves another function. It allows employees to catch up with their colleagues and perhaps have a light moment. Relating positively with colleagues aids mental wellbeing.
Do not neglect mental health
Poor mental health can undermine all the methods on this list. It leads to low morale, inability to effectively handle stress, it comprises the immune system, weakens social bonds and will also result in a decline in physical health.
To promote mental health in the workplace, create a culture that values communication. Employees should be comfortable enough to speak up when they are feeling overwhelmed. Some organisations have included a mental health practitioner as part of the medical care package for employees.
However, even if your organisation isn’t big enough or in a good enough financial position to do this, you can still provide support. Champion a work/life balance, have a one on one check in with employees to find out about how they are faring and share resources to help in the improvement and de-stigmatisation of the topic.
Encourage but let it be their choice
To promote employee health, you need buy-in from the employees. You can encourage them to take up any of these initiatives but the choice will ultimately lie with them. In some cases, the encouragement can be in the form of policies. For instance, many companies across the globe have banned smoking in and around their office premises thus making it inconvenient for people to smoke while at work. This has led to reduced smoking in some employees.
Better health doesn’t happen overnight. It is something that needs to be done consistently and across the areas of feeding, exercise and mental health. Leaders should keep making adjustments to the methods they have employed to promote employee health. This will keep the program relevant and exciting.