There’s a growing trend in companies across many industries to help employees of all ranks focus on personal health. There’s plenty of talk about “wellness at work” in terms of insurance premiums, posters hanging in eating areas, discounted health club memberships, and other fairly “surface level” nudges toward making healthier choices – but what are they really doing?
The reality of food at work
Picture the last birthday in the office, the last company cookout or potluck… what kind of food was served? Cake? Donuts? Cheese dips? Pizza?
Most of the standard “work party” fare is about as far from healthy eating as it gets, and yet the company focused on “healthy choices” doesn’t make a peep about it!
For all the talk about healthier employees, most companies leave the actual responsibility in the hands of the employees themselves – and while that’s just fine (there shouldn’t be RULES against eating fatty foods or not getting enough exercise), a company concerned with the health of its workforce should at least be leading by example, and rolling “wellness goals” in with other company goals.
When food is coming out of the company coffers, why not make it a healthy meal?
What about a focus on wellness education? There’s an awful lot more to healthy living than just diet and exercise.
Linking Employee Health to the success of the Business
To help root these ideals in reality, companies can look at how employee health affects business goals. Healthy employees are less likely to miss work due to illness, and because healthy choices often carry over into home life (improving the health of children and other family members), health-focused employees are also less likely to miss work to take care of an ill family member.
According the CDC, obese employees show a more than 50% increase of missed workdays when compared to “normal-weight” employees. These statistics apply to both men and women.
Not only are healthy employees more likely to be at work, they are also more likely to be productive (and in high spirits) when they are there. A team of healthy employees will likely work together better, and maintain a less stressful work environment as well.
From an owner and shareholder perspective, healthy employees reduce insurance costs, and health programs can function as great incentives for prospective employees.
So what to do
Companies can work with their staff members to help them make healthy food and exercise choices, provide an environment for health education, and even work as a support system for maintaining healthy lifestyle changes. Let employees include health goals with other annual business goals. Track progress, offer encouragement, and make sure employees know how important the health of the entire organization truly is.
Again, all of this rests on the individual choices of each staff member (and healthy choices should not be required, nor should health be tracked if and employee doesn’t request it), but by creating a landscape where health information, healthy food, and open dialogue about the benefits of health-based decision making are readily available, companies can nudge employees toward improving their health – and everyone benefits!
Are you making health a priority?
Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.
Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.