September 29, 2020
Company Culture 04 December 2019
How Companies Can Help Keep Their Employees Fit and Healthy
Guest Poster
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Ideally, a company employs and maintains healthy, high-performing staff in their workplace, but that is not always the case. For example, in the US, around half of the workers either need exercise or suffer from high cholesterol. Also, at least one in every four of them have cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or are obese. 

Meanwhile, in the UK, workers lag behind in terms of productivity compared to other G7 countries. Experts believe that British workers’ low productivity is caused by sickness and an unhealthy lifestyle.  


The Importance of Employee Well-Being

Aside from medical costs, sick employees are also less productive. However, most of the spending on health care can be prevented since the main culprit for disease is an unhealthy lifestyle choice. By improving an employee’s well-being, companies can save more than a trillion dollars’ worth of productivity alone.  

Workers who are physically and mentally fit have:

  • More control over their bodies and lives.

  • Better relationships with management and co-workers.

  • A good work-life balance.

Healthy people are often less prone to stress and often feel motivated at work. Their productivity also goes up. Furthermore, even 30 minutes of working out a day can reduce people’s exposure to illness and can reduce absenteeism.

The following are some ways that employers can provide to keep their employees healthy and fit:


1. Provide Incentives for Being Healthy

Companies can create incentives or rewards programs. It doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, you could:

  • Provide a small monetary incentive for those who worked the hardest in the gym.

  • Hand out extra leave to the one who lost the most weight. 


2. Offer Healthier Food Options

Employers can encourage workers to eat healthier by offering vegetables, fruit or lean meat in the cafeteria/canteen. Companies can also make them more attractive by offering discounts. Another alternative is to use a catering firm that can provide healthy meals once or several times a week. By giving employees healthy snacks, they will appreciate the importance of being healthy by eating the right food.


3. Help Workers Stop Their Bad Habits

Promoting a healthy lifestyle and fitness in the workplace doesn’t have to cost much money. A Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) Officer can implement cost initiatives such as:

  • Providing free nicotine patches to employees who want to stop smoking.

  • Installing software on workstations to remind users to stand up and stretch several times a day.

  • Setting up group counseling for encouraging weight loss.

  • Starting a fitness group that will encourage employees to participate in exercises several times a week. 


4. Conduct Physical Activity Events That Require Group Participation

HSE Officers can set up team-building events that also involve plenty of physical activities. Consider hosting friendly completions such as hiking or football. Not only will people’s health improve but also their sense of teamwork.

Other group exercises that HSE Officers can introduce may include jogging or yoga during days off or after work.

 

5. Introduce Short Breaks and Longer Lunch Breaks

Short breaks during the day can allow people to rest and also reduce stress. Most companies only provide one hour for lunch breaks. However, employers should consider providing enough time for stretching exercises or gym workouts.

6. Collaborate with Fitness Studios and Gyms

Partnering with physical fitness facilities is easier and cheaper. Companies should ask around and negotiate discounts.   

Employers should also consider partnering with dieticians and nutritionists. They can provide proper information and also teach workers how to prepare healthy and delicious meals.  

These steps are both easy to implement and affordable. Even with a minimal budget, an HSE Officer can succeed in inspiring employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle and become fit. Ultimately, these efforts will pay off for the company in terms of increased productivity and profitability.


How Employers Should View Their Employees’ Health

Many employers agree that the well-being of their employees can help improve productivity in the workplace. With regard to business advantages, employers can see:

  • Improved productivity.

  • Less spending on health care or disability benefits.

  • Tax deductions.

From a moral and business point of view, taking care of your employees’ well-being can pay off handsomely. HSE Officers must show these benefits to employers. They should also make the employer see that well-being programs are not costs but essential investments for the future of their business.All parties must participate in promoting well-being within the business organization. So, how can companies promote well-being among their staff? There are many types of fitness programs. However, the essential thing is to select the most suitable regimen that will encourage people to keep themselves fit. This could also prevent them from getting sick.

Health care costs will only continue to rise, so companies should focus on how to engage and encourage cooperation in the workplace. The challenge for employers is how to change people’s behavior.

Ultimately, it’s the individual who’s responsible for changing their behavior. However, employers can significantly influence their workers to lead healthier lives.

By implementing a workplace culture that supports a healthy environment, employees will know that the company is committed to their health. Management should consider strategies that can motivate and engage people. Meanwhile, incentives can drive home the message that healthy behaviors are also beneficial for them. However, many companies are not sure if implementing such health programs is worth the investment.


The Critical Role That HSE Officers Play

Admittedly, health and wellness programs will require work and can present challenging situations. For companies in the UK, the person responsible for handling such tasks is the HSE Officer. To find out more about these professionals, consider visiting this site. Keep in mind that the program’s success will depend mainly on how employees:

  • Adopt and maintain healthy behaviors.

  • Ensure that their health risk remains low.

  • Successfully avoid chronic disease.

Often, companies measure their success using return-on-investment (ROI). However, that’s difficult to do with health and wellness programs. Efforts made by companies are unique in terms of:

  • Level of investment.

  • Participation levels.

  • Health outcomes.

In the US, health care industries estimate that the average ROI on wellness programs can range from $3 to $6 for every dollar invested. Also, companies can expect to earn savings within two to three years.Companies should realize that investing in their most valuable asset is worth the investment. If your employees are healthy, they will likely perform better at the workplace. With a wellness program, the company can:

  • Draw the best talents.

  • Lower the rate of absenteeism.

  • Boost employees’ morale.

  • Increase productivity.

  • Reduce employee turnover.

By improving your company’s disease prevention management, you can have a healthy workforce while benefiting from lower health care costs.  


Is Education Enough to Change Behaviors?

To promote a healthy workplace, most companies will implement education and training for every employee. Examples of steps an employer can implement include:

  • Raising awareness of mental health issues.

  • Educating employees about the importance of their health.

  • Screening employees to make them aware of their health issues.

Unfortunately, education may not be enough to sustain any behavior change. Once companies provide them with knowledge, employees can start taking some action to improve their health and lifestyle. However, the HSE Officer should encourage them gradually. For example, employees can use the stairs instead of the lift or allocate one day without opening emails.Competitions can create excitement in changing behavior. However, exercising habit-forming actions can help people make their behavioral change permanent.


Engaging with Employees

While most decisions on well-being programs originate from the top, employees can make valuable contributions too. An HSE Officer can help pass the information to management. By initiating dialogue and discussion, you can empower employees to select the kind of healthy lifestyle that will suit them.      


Conclusion

Many companies now realize that productivity is affected by several factors such as well-being and a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, employers should implement programs that can help their employees become healthy and avoid getting sick with long-term or chronic diseases. In this regard, an HSE Officer can look after the workers’ well-being. 


Simon Bliss is the Managing Director of Principal People, a recruitment consultancy specializing in health, safety, and company environment.