Kick These Bad Health Habits Out of Your Workplace

RL04-14-15Healthy employees are better workers. Whether it’s an entry-level employee, middle manager, or top executive, the better the health decisions people make, the more engaged and motivated they are in the workplace. In fact, “the healthiest employees are nearly three times more productive while at work than the least healthy,” according to a study highlighted by Inc.

With that kind of impact on productivity, employers need to take stock of their employees’, and their own, health habits at work. There are three in particular that need to be watched for and combated.

Making Bad Lunch Decisions

Unfortunately, because of its position right in the middle of most people’s work day, lunch could be called the “most abused meal of the day.” There seem to be two extremes. On the one hand, there’s the 65% of Americans who don’t take advantage of their lunch break and just eat at their desk, as reported by Entrepreneur. And then there are the remaining employees who eat out for lunch every day. One option leads to heightened risks of depression, fatigue, and inflammation; while the other negatively impacts the waistline and the wallet.

The first step companies can take toward turning around this unhealthy habit is to create an environment that allows and promotes consistent lunch breaks. Then employers should establish a comfortable place where employees can enjoy their lunch. Not only will this help everyone create better lunchtime habits, it will also provide an opportunity for employees to communicate, network, and build a sense of community.

Staying Seated

Desk jobs are no longer “safe” jobs. The amount of research that points out the health risks of sitting all day continues to grow. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, Americans are sedentary for more than 50% of their waking hours, and, for most, the majority of their sedentary time is spent at work.  That means many employees’ workplaces are directly contributing to increased risks for many major health problems, including heart disease, elevated insulin, back problems, abdominal fat, cancer, and diabetes.

The obvious solution is for employees to get up and move more, but it’s not as simple as a lunch hour spent away from the desk. “Even if your employees already break for an hour to go for a walk or exercise at a gym, long, uninterrupted times spent sitting can still prove to be dangerous,” Eric Markowitz of Inc. Magazine explains. To avoid the health risks associated with sitting all day, employees need to get up and move around at least once every hour. Employers can also encourage more movement by holding standing meetings, providing exercise balls for employees to use as chairs, and recommending people talk to one another instead of relying on technology.

Mindless Snacking

Two of the most common reasons for uncontrolled snacking are boredom and stress, both of which are frequently experienced by individuals in the workplace. “The more stressed people are, the less mindful they are of their eating patterns,” points out Entrepreneur – and that applies to bored people as well. This can lead to drowsiness, lack of energy, weight gain, and other health risks associated with poor eating habits.

Employers should consider the snack options they’re providing employees, and, if necessary, switch to healthier options. Vending machines can be stocked with better snack foods, such as nuts, fruits, cheese, and protein bars, and bottled water can be made more readily available than soda products. Also, a general focus on wellness and providing training on how to deal with workplace stress will benefit everyone in the company.

As the trend toward creating healthier workplaces grows, it’s becoming apparent that helping employees take better care of their health benefits the entire company. Not only are there lower healthcare costs and fewer sick days taken, there’s also increased productivity, morale and engagement. And, on top of that, when employees feel like their employers are taking care of them, they become more loyal, which leads to better retention of top talent.

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