Enhancing Employee Wellness: Integrating Physical Activity and Healthier Eating in the Workplace
Do your employees spend maximum time sitting and working at their desks? In what ways do you promote employee wellness? Have you considered the impact of employee wellness on your company?
Even though there are deadlines to meet and goals to achieve, it is vital to pay attention to employee wellness. Employees spend nearly a third of their lives at work. Neglecting employee health and wellness can snowball into difficult situations, larger challenges, and disastrous consequences.
This article will explore:
- Why you should promote employee wellness.
- What are some impactful strategies to boost physical activity in the workplace.
- How to encourage healthier eating habits among employees.
From standing desks to nutritious snack bars, it's time to redefine 'business as usual.'
🏆 Benefits of promoting employee wellness
- Since employees will practice healthy behaviors, they are more likely to be in good health. Healthy habits will lower health risks. You will be able to retain good talent for longer in this way.
- The employees will likely feel more valued, boosting their morale and increasing loyalty.
- Wellness initiatives will help lower work-related stress and positively impact productivity and performance.
- Better employee health will lead to reduced absenteeism.
- When the culture is more focused on employee wellness, the employees will feel more connected to the organization, resulting in enhanced employee engagement.
- Active employees have lower annual healthcare costs, according to Workplace Health Research Network research. Investment in employee fitness leads to increased savings and better ROI for the company.
🔬 Assessing current wellness initiatives
To develop effective strategies that promote employee wellness, you must first evaluate the current state.
Employee wellness assessment
Through data-driven methods and surveys, evaluate your people's physical, social, and environmental well-being.
For example, ask them to rate their stress levels over the past month or their satisfaction with work-life balance.
Organize focus group discussions or one-on-one sessions to gather deeper insights. A common concern might be prolonged screen time leading to eye strain or back issues.
Analyze the collected data and learn from it.
Improve on the factors that have the most impact on employee wellness.
Evaluating existing programs
Conduct an environmental assessment of the workplace. You also need to examine the opportunities for physical activity, access to healthy food options, health risks, and safety measures.
Is there enough natural light? (Light is linked to improved mood and productivity?)
Are there quiet spaces where employees can take breaks or zones for quick physical exercises?
What is the availability of healthy snacks in the pantry versus sugary or fried options?
Do employees have access to standing desks?
Evaluate all the current wellness offerings. If there's a weekly yoga session with consistently high participation, perhaps exploring other similar fitness initiatives is worth it.
You can build upon or improve the more successful wellness offerings.
Armed with this in-depth understanding, crafting a potent and personalized wellness action plan becomes a more informed and strategic exercise.
🏋️ Strategies for integrating physical activity in your workplace
Physical activity has a significant impact on the health, well-being, and quality of life of employees.
Since employees are a company's lifeblood, their activity levels and wellness will also affect your company.
The best employees sometimes get so caught up in work that they forget to move around or have a break during the work day. However, physical activity can actually boost productivity.
Boost physical activity among your employees with these strategies:.
Create a culture of health and wellness
No workplace fitness program can be a 'one size fits all' since employees' needs and fitness levels will differ. However, successful programs have specific key components. Unambiguous support from leadership and flexibility are two important factors. Tailor fitness and activity programs according to employee needs and preferences.
An organizational psychologist can advise on creating a culture that promotes health and wellness.
Invest in ergonomic workspaces
Sedentary hours are associated with an increased risk of diseases and mortality. Office employees typically have more sustained sedentary time. It accounts for 81.85% of work hours.
Breaks in sedentary time are few and far between. Prolonged sitting can lead to a host of medical issues.
Invest in standing desks and adjustable workstations and encourage employees to stand up regularly. Provide small equipment such as medical balls or resistance bands. Employees can use them to increase their activity levels even when it is necessary to sit for long periods.
Encourage active breaks
Normalize employees taking active breaks. Such breaks will not only get the employees moving, but they will also refresh their minds.
Employees can stretch, walk, or even participate in a group exercise during active breaks.
Provide guides or prompts for short, simple, and quick exercises that can be done anywhere without special equipment.
Back issues are widespread among employees with desk jobs.
During active breaks, encourage employees to perform the best lower back exercises to alleviate or eliminate back pain. It is also a good idea to provide activity breaks during long meetings.
Promoting walking meetings
Wherever possible, encourage walking meetings. Walking boosts creativity.
A person's creative output can increase by about 60% while walking. Meetings on the move can help employees brainstorm ideas or figure out innovative solutions to a problem.
Steve Jobs was known to conduct meetings on foot. Mark Zuckerberg also holds many meetings on the go.
Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity every week, and your walking meetings can count towards that.
In general, make it easy for your employees to make fitness-conducive choices.
Here are some other actions that you can take to encourage and promote physical activity:
- Build an indoor gym, or at least designate a small room for exercise. Make some infrastructural changes to encourage more activity (such as attractive walking paths or beautifully decorated staircases) wherever possible. Offer bicycle parking to promote active transport. Consider providing showers and changing rooms.
- Organize inclusive fitness challenges and offer rewards for completion.
- Bring in certified fitness instructors and offer beginner-friendly classes.
- Leverage technology to remind employees to get more active.
🚶 Zavvy's Walk & talk program automatically pairs employees. It reminds them to get active and build meaningful connections with their teammates.
🍲 Promoting healthier eating habits in your office
The best fitness programs will only bear results if supported with a nutritious diet. Hardworking employees may skip lunch breaks and work or grab whatever is handy (which may not be a healthy choice). Employees may not have another option if your cafeteria only provides unhealthy food choices.
Here are some steps you can take to promote healthier eating habits among employees:
- Encourage employees to take lunch breaks and fuel themselves with good food.
- Advocate for a dedicated 'unplugged' lunchtime, ensuring employees take a complete break from screens. This not only encourages mindful eating but also improves mental well-being.
- In the workplace, ensure employees can access various healthy food choices. Vending machines with healthy options can help combat temptations.
- Offer nutrition education and workshops. You could arrange dietician consultations and hands-on cooking classes where the employees can learn how to prepare simple, healthy recipes.
- Create a supportive food environment. Motivate the employees to bring and consume healthy homemade food. (However, we recognize that preparing healthy meals at home may not always be possible due to busy schedules. In such cases, consider ordering premade low carb meals online. They are a good substitute that doesn’t compromise on nutrition.)
- Create awareness through compelling visuals and content. Design vibrant and visually appealing posters focusing on nutrition tips, benefits of certain foods, or even myths to be debunked.
- Share a monthly nutrition newsletter that shares recipes, spotlights superfoods, or even success stories from employees who've transformed their eating habits.
- Offer discounts or subsidies. Collaborate with nearby health-conscious eateries or meal-kit services to provide employees with discounted rates. It offers them an incentive to make healthier food choices outside of the office environment.
➡️ Pioneer the future of workplace wellness
Even with minor changes, you can make a significant impact. With these small changes, you can create an organizational culture that values and promotes fitness. Implement suitable strategies to care for your most valuable resource - your employees.
When you prioritize employee fitness, you set in motion a chain reaction that leads to increased employee well-being, reduced absenteeism, and higher productivity that benefits both employees and the company.
Sean Lynam: Sean is a dedicated writer specializing in health, fitness, wellness, and mental health. With a keen understanding of the mind-body connection, Sean’s work empowers individuals to achieve comprehensive well-being.