Between sitting all day, eating at our desks, and indulging in too many free office snacks, working in an office over time can lead to poor overall health. Unhealthy office habits aren’t just bad for employees, they’re bad for business, too.
An unhealthy team can lead to high healthcare costs and lost productivity, while a healthy team can lead to bottom line benefits. An analysis of 42 separate studies on employee wellness programs found that these programs resulted in a $5.93 to $1 savings-to-cost ratio on average, plus:
- 28% reduction in sick days
- 26% reduction in health costs
- 30% reduction in workers’ compensation and disability management claims
Employers that invest in promoting better health can reap the benefits of a healthier and more productive team. Even if you’re not ready to create a comprehensive wellness program, the following changes are easy to implement and can make a big difference to your employees’ health.
Encourage Less Sitting and More Moving
Excessive sitting may contribute to a variety of health problems, making it a major health threat. Walking breaks are the perfect answer to all of the time we spend sitting at work. At Covalence, we take a couple of walks throughout the day, whether we’re running an errand or taking a walk between meetings.
It’s up to employees to be mindful of getting up and walking around frequently throughout the day, but higher level employees can help set this habit in motion and lead by example. Furthermore, companies can create an environment that encourages more movement through the following:
- Don’t need a projector or laptop for a meeting? Schedule a walking meeting instead. Walking has been linked to increased creativity, so better ideas may come out of these meetings, too.
- Provide standing desks as an alternative to traditional desk set ups, or have standing workstations throughout the office. Standing desks are not only healthier than sitting, they may lead to increased productivity.
- Show employees easy stretches they can do at their desks, such as this list. Take this a step further by offering weekly yoga or stretch classes, chances are you have a yoga enthusiast on staff who would be happy to lead these stretches.
Provide Healthy Food Options
How many times a month is an email sent out about a cake in the break room? Providing meals and treats to employees is a nice gesture (who doesn’t like free food?), but employer-provided food can be much harder to say no to. Employees feel obligated to partake in office celebrations that center around food, even when they’re trying to eat healthy.
If completely ridding your organization of pizza and birthday cake sounds too extreme, consider providing healthy options alongside less healthy choices:
- Include a salad or veggie tray with meals and accompany desserts with a fruit platter.
- Ask your vending services provider to stock some healthier options than candy bars and potato chips, such as nuts, dried fruit, and pretzels.
- Keep fresh fruit in the break areas as a free snack option.
- Encourage water consumption by providing lemons, limes, or sliced fruit for employees to add to their water.
Create a Welcoming Lunch Area
Eating at your desk while still working is bad for the employee and the office. It’s inefficient, it keeps the employee isolated, and overtime it may increase stress levels. Busy employees may even avoid eating lunch altogether. At Covalence, when a coworker is swamped with no time to get lunch, someone will volunteer to pick up a lunch for them – this is good practice for any team and something to suggest to managers if you notice a lot of people skipping lunch.
Encourage employees to take lunch breaks by creating a place where they will want to escape from their desks to enjoy a meal.
- You don’t need a huge area, just a pleasant area. This could be as simple as a nice table and chairs set up in a break room, which also gives employees a chance to socialize with colleagues outside of their team.
- Choose the right location.The ideal employee lunch break area will have ample sunlight and be far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the office so that ringing phones and work discussions are out of earshot.
- Set up a TV and have a shelf stocked with magazines and books to give employees added incentive to use the area to unwind.
Promote a Healthy Lifestyle Outside of the Office
The Covalence team is always talking about healthy choices and checking in on one another’s workout routine. We also frequently invite each other to activities like boot camps, ultimate frisbee, and mud runs. Our focus on being healthy in the office extends to the time we spend outside of work, too.
Employers can incentivize employees to make healthy lifestyle choices in several ways:
- Arrange employee discounts with area businesses committed to health, such as healthy restaurants, gyms, and sports equipment providers.
- Organize events focused around something active, such as a 5K benefiting a charity. These allow your team to do good in the community, while also benefiting their health.
- Set up progress-based health incentives, such as challenges to lose weight or quit smoking.
A company culture that already emphasizes work-life balance may have the most luck getting employees to adopt healthier habits in the workplace. In order for these changes to stick, you’ll need to create an environment where your employees know it’s acceptable to step away from their desk and take time for themselves while at work.