Posted on: Wednesday January 20, 2021
January traditionally sees a surge of interest in health and fitness after the excess of the festive season. Brands are tapping into this with initiatives like Veganuary and Dry January that encourage making healthier choices. Yet this abstinence quite often doesn’t last - so how can employers encourage staff to take care of their physical health in the long-term?
Physical inactivity and poor diet are among the top causes of ill health, which can subsequently negatively impact on our working life. Conversely when we’re feeling well, we’re at our best. We’re more productive and take less time off sick, so it’s no surprise that employers increasingly see that it makes business sense to support the health of their staff.
Nudging not lecturing
No employer wants to alienate their workforce by preaching at them, so it’s important that your initiatives strike the right tone. Talk to your employees and understand their working patterns and the support that could be provided. Try to ensure information and opportunities are available and suitable for everyone. Engaging shift workers is particularly important as shift work is associated with increased BMI, obesity and other health problems1.
Taking everybody with you will help staff make healthier choices, creating solutions which are better embedded in their day-to-day working lives as they are co-produced and co-owned by and with staff.
Encourage staff to get moving
According to Public Health England, about a third of adults are damaging their health through a lack of physical activity. But employers can make a difference - promoting walk or cycle to work schemes and providing lockers, changing and bike storage facilities as well as encouraging staff-led lunchtime walking or running clubs all make it easier for staff to be active every day.
With so many staff now working from home it’s harder for employers to have a direct influence on activity levels, but there’s still potential for change. Managers could organise a friendly competition within teams using fitness trackers on mobiles to see who is doing the most steps. You could also encourage employees to take regular breaks/stretches from staring at a screen and promote the idea of taking exercise during a lunch break.
Access to healthy food
Employers who provide food for staff in the workplace may wish to consider whether they can improve their offering. Whilst is it impossible for employers to police what employees can and cannot eat, and unreasonable for them to want to do so, there are some ways in which they can positively impact the eating choices of their employees.
Employers should ask questions like: Do unhealthy options dominate the offering in our canteen or vending machines, could we subsidise healthier options and are there enough fridges so staff can bring fresh food or packed lunches?
You could also include information on how to eat better as part of your overall wellbeing offering. For example, Personal Group’s Hapi-life resource library has articles like ‘7 ways to supercharge your workday breakfast’ and ‘5 ideas for healthy family meals on a budget’.
To find out how the right wellbeing support can improve productivity, check out our Wellbeing Hub, with access to reports, blogs, a resource library for employees and more.