Adulthood obesity and other health problems are skyrocketing across the world. Our activity levels have drastically decreased with the changes in technology that allow us to do our jobs from a chair, staring at a computer all day.

It gets worse for remote workers who don’t have the option to walk or bike to the office, or don’t have much of a window to leave for lunch (unless they have a flexible work schedule, which is a great solution).

Not only is obesity a problem, but the general lack of activity throughout the workday contributes to a whole host of other issues, such as muscle tightness and atrophy, which can lead to muscular injuries, and a decrease in general fitness.

Sitting around so much also contributes to digestive issues, and mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.

It’s a fact that exercise releases endorphins, and those ‘feel good’ chemicals contribute to better mental health.

Staring at screens and fluorescent lights also cause eye strain and fatigue, and chairs can lead to poor posture. It seems companies are right to be concerned with this, as poor health due to our working environments have reached pandemic levels across the globe.

So, what’s a company to do?

Clearly, someone from People Operations can’t just go around pointing at people and telling them their BMI is too high (nor should they!). But there is a lot of company cost involved with poor worker health, so it behooves them to encourage best practices and provide means for employees to take matters into their own hands.

One way that companies can help encourage employee health is to offer tangible items that provide benefits.

The first step should be to make sure each employee, especially if they are remote, has access to an ergonomic workstation.

Proper posture provided by quality chairs, keyboards, and monitors with adjustable heights go a long way in helping to prevent injury amongst employees.

If shoulders are too slumped from a flat keyboard, it won’t take long before a physical therapist needs to get involved with massage therapy to work out fascia issues or a pinched nerve in the shoulder.

Not only can this eat away at employee time (which isn’t really the focus here), it can contribute to lifelong health concerns. Some companies have taken this a step further by offering other tangible items, such as pedometers and health trackers that can sync via bluetooth to apps to encourage workers to get up and move.

Apps can now provide reminders to move, track water habits, and count steps, measured against goals to help motivate those of us that need a gentle prod. However, this should really only be used in the spirit of helping workers help themselves, and never as a way to monitor or pressure employees.

Another way that companies can get involved with promoting health is to offer programs and incentives.

Some companies may find insurance benefits from offering “move more” challenges, where employees can voluntarily band together in teams to compete on who gets the most steps over a period of time.

Although some may choose to do weight loss challenges, we recommend that not come from People Operations, but rather a group of people who do it on their own.

It can be tricky for the company to suggest something of a sensitive nature, as people can feel targeted or harassed if they are approached about losing weight. 

Companies can pitch in, as well for discounted gym memberships for those that are interested. Also, having massage therapists on campus and allowing workers to pay for 15 to 30 minute windows for shoulder massages are a great way to work out some of the stresses of the day. And, because they’re in such small time increments, more than likely cost will not be a prohibitive factor.

You can also bring in a yoga instructor to work in a conference room one day a week to allow for mid-day moving, as well.

Doing lunch-and-learns and bringing in professionals to talk about things they can do, as well, whether it be healthier cooking and grocery shopping, or ten minute stretches between meetings can go a long way, too.

Providing healthy snacking options can help, especially if they’re the “grab-and-go” kind, as many workers bounce from one meeting to the next.

At the end of the day, it’s about providing time for employees to take advantage of these options, and encouraging them to do so without fear of retribution.

Many employees feel they have to be chained to their desk ten hours a day to show they’re a loyal, productive employee. As many in People Operations know, there’s no correlation between longer hours and better, quality output, but the pressure can still be there. These suggestions won’t go very far if your culture is not set up to support a healthy environment.

First things first, take a look at your current company culture and obtain employee feedback to see how they really feel.

Even if cost is an issue now, start planning out small ways you can encourage positive change in your company and take steps to plan out larger financial investments for next year’s budget.

Small changes for health offer big results!

© Human Resources Global


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