With insurance premiums on the rise, employee health has become a prime concern for many businesses. On average, an unhealthy employee costs companies around $12,000 per active employee. Is it any surprise companies cite declining employee health as one of the main challenges when trying to find affordable health care?
It isn’t just businesses that suffer though. Employees end up dealing with higher premiums and deductibles due to the declining health of co-workers. To counteract this, many businesses are turning to wellness programs to keep people healthy. Unfortunately, not all offer such benefits.
If you want a healthier work environment, it’s up to you and your co-workers to put together a plan you can present to your HR department. Even if you don’t have the approval of the HR department, there are still plenty of options you can do to encourage a culture of wellness.
Encourage Healthy Eating
You’ve heard it before, but there’s truth in the saying “you are what you eat.” Unhealthy eating habits are the reason 35.7 percent of American adults fall into the obese category (as well as a lack of exercise, but more on that later). It’s all too easy to eat unhealthy at the office when there’s limited time for lunch and the office snacks consist of cookies and chips. You can easily combat this issue by actively leading a healthy eating program.
Some ideas include:
- Asking building management or the office manager to purchase healthier snacks. Replace the cookies with fruit and vegetables and the soda with unsweetened tea. There might be some grumbles in the office, but ultimately it will be healthier for everyone. And besides, they’ll still be able to get just as much of a sugar fix from an apple as they would from a cookie.
- Compile a healthy eating cookbook with your co-workers favorite recipes. To make it even more useful, include a time limit for how long it takes to cook the meal. Like you, your co-workers are busy and probably don’t have time to make a gourmet meal. Many people also mistakenly believe healthy food takes a long time to make. Prove them wrong and set a limit for 30 minutes; that should include the main meal and any sides.
- Invest in community supported agriculture if you can. These programs allow you to invest in farms while they send fresh produce to you weekly. Even better, everything you get will be in season. You’ll need to have enough people interested in taking part, but once you do, you can get weekly fresh vegetables in the fridge. Encourage employees to take home leftovers. They’ll be thanking you for the reduced grocery bill.
- Host a monthly healthy potluck. Emphasis on the healthy. Not only will this show that healthy food can also be delicious, but it’s also just a great way to strengthen the relationship between everyone in the office.
While healthy eating can certainly go a long way in promoting wellness, fitness is the other part of the equation. An active lifestyle not only helps control your weight, it also reduces risks of serious illness, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers.
It’s easier than it sounds though. How many of us have a gym membership, but never actually go to the gym? How many actually reach the 10,000 steps a day on the FitBit? So how can you solve this at work? Accountability.
Of course, you don’t want to force people to take part in these programs, but if you know of people who have a gym membership or want to get active but just don’t have the motivation, start a fitness group. Choose a few days/times that work for everyone and hold each other accountable for actually following through with going to the gym or stepping outside to get in your steps. You’ll be surprised to see how quickly you form a habit when other people are holding your feet to the fire. For those who aren’t the gym type, even something such as hiking or biking are great options to get the heart pumping.
If you want even more motivation, start tracking your progress and compete against each other. Start a group pool where those who missed out on a class or didn’t make their steps chip in some money. At the end of the month, you can use that to purchase a healthy lunch for the group or something similar.
There is so much false information available, especially now that everyone has access to the internet. It’s difficult to know what sources to trust, especially with so many sites available. Education can go a long way. If you enjoy doing research, you can find and compile top wellness tips every week or month to then circulate around the office. Simple things such as posting tips for eye strain or back pain can be a great way to kick off the newsletter as it’s something that plagues most office workers.
Even better, reach out to your neighborhood to recruit local physicians, nutritionists and other health-related professionals to offer more insight into the benefits of wellness and healthy living. Many companies offer biometric screenings and health assessments for their employees. Not only does this give people a good idea of their current health, it can also give a roadmap on how to improve it.
You don’t only have to do lectures or screenings. Activities such as yoga or guided meditation can be great ways to clear the mind and relieve the stress of the day. If you know or attend a local class, see if a teacher would be interested in doing a brief class for beginners and try to get a video of the instructions. This way those interested can turn to the video for reference. It could even turn into a fun mid-afternoon break from work.
Two-thirds of US employers offer a wellness program, so you should check if your company falls into that category. Even if it does, you can still implement these ideas to make it more attractive to your co-workers. While it might take some getting used to, taking care of your health will ultimately lead to a longer and happier life.
Does your company have a wellness program? If not, how do you plan to bring a culture of wellness to your business?