With the current economic troubles and with rising costs in health care, more and more people are foregoing doctor’s visits or needed prescriptions, therefore setting companies up for monetary losses in the future as their employees’ serious conditions go untreated. There are, however, many things an employer can do to foster health and wellness in the workplace.
Encourage Healthy Eating
Even small changes can add up. One morning per week, provide employees free, fresh fruits for a heart healthy, quick breakfast. Make sure the company cafeteria also offers plenty of healthy foods, such as salads, fruit, baked chicken or fish, whole grain breads, vegetarian meals, and unsweetened, decaffeinated drinks. In the vending machines, replace candy and chips with dried fruit, nuts, and granola bars. At employee meetings, provide yogurt and fresh fruit, instead of the standard fare of cookies and sodas.
Promote Ways to Reduce Stress
The workplace can be stressful, especially with today’s looming layoffs, budget cuts, and increased demands for overtime due to staff cuts. If left untreated, stress can lead to depression, anxiety, fatigue, trouble concentrating, stomach problems, or increased use of alcohol or drugs, all of which are detrimental to the employees’ performance. To offset these stresses, offer strategies or tools for relaxation. Invite a yoga expert to lead a 15-minute meditation and relaxation exercise during the day, or bring in a masseuse to give 15-minute neck and shoulder massages.
Management should also communicate the best they can to reduce uncertainties about employees’ jobs and futures. Also, avoid unrealistic deadlines and make sure the workload is suitable to the employees’ abilities. Most importantly, show your employees that they are valued members of the team.
Encourage Physical Activity
Promote exercise by allowing employees who walk or bike to work to arrive five minutes late or leave five minutes early. If space and costs allow, install an employee gym and showers so that workers can exercise during breaks and lunch hours, which not only increases physical health and mental acuity, but can also decrease stress.
Are your employees competitive? Sponsor a weight-loss competition or walking challenge with pedometers to determine who walks the most steps in a week. Start a company volleyball or softball team for weekend games, or install a ping pong table in the cafeteria. Hold employees to a health standard by having them sign a fitness contract.
Sponsor a Health Fair with Preventive Screening
Organize an on-site health fair, bringing in representatives from fitness centers and health food stores to talk to employees about health related issues. Some fitness centers may even offer discounts when several employees join at the same time. At the health fair, hold a raffle, with the winner receiving a bike or gym membership.
Invite a company who offers mobile health screenings to spend the day at your workplace. As their schedule allows, employees can find out if they are at risk for heart disease or stroke and receive valuable information they can provide to their physician if there is a problem. Administered by trained professionals, the tests these companies offer are quick, non-invasive, and painless, and can save lives, since many of the symptoms of heart disease can go unnoticed.