The prognosis of the American workforce’s condition is in, and it’s not good. As a collective, we are overweight, stressed-out, exhausted, and apathetic. These conditions can lead to worsening problems, i.e, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, headaches, anxiety, and depression, to name just a few. All of this is taking its toll on the vitality of our organizations. We are paying a high price for poor health, and the future looks very, very bleak. How are we to combat such an epidemic? Like finding the solution to most immense problems, the answer to promoting a healthier, more engaged workforce lies closer to home than we might think. Here are 4 health activities to promote workplace wellness.

Consider the following statistics:

  •  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third (36.5%) of adults in the United States are obese.
  • A Harvard Gazette article states that “36 percent of workers suffer from work-related stress that costs U.S. businesses $30 billion a year in lost workdays.”
  • The “costs attributable to sleep deficiency in the U.S. were estimated to exceed $410 billion in 2015,” according to the Harvard Gazette.
  • Employees who are described as “actively disengaged” cost their organizations 85 percent more in lost productivity over their engaged peers, according to a Gallup analysis.

1. Water, Water Everywhere

Good habits are contagious; start spreading one today. As a leader, you have tremendous influence over your workforce, so use that power wisely and for good. You can start small by implementing a few healthy habits into your own daily routine. Do these without any announcement or fanfare; just lead by example and others will take note. One very simple display of your interest in good health is carrying a reusable water bottle with you to work. Let it be your loyal sidekick, traveling with you to your desk, the board room, the break room, and to and from your car. Refill it as often as you need and stay hydrated. A fun way to get the whole company on board with healthy hydration is giving out branded water bottles. You promote both a healthy habit and pride in your company; it’s a win-win. Snack Nation lists this first in its line-up of 121 employee wellness program ideas. Check out some fun options for branded water bottles.

2. Don’t Wait to Lose the Weight

Let’s face it: losing weight is hard. Most of us have probably tried to lose weight at some point in the past. Maybe you succeeded, and maybe you didn’t. Even if you did, the odds that your weight crept back are likely pretty high. To truly keep the weight of, following fad diets in the short-term is simply not going to be enough. You have to commit to change your lifestyle and way of eating over the long-haul. Choose to snack on raw veggies and hummus instead of chips and dip. Make a large salad part of your lunch or dinner every day. Dr. Joel Fuhrman advocates the “nutritarian diet,” and he has done some fascinating research in the field of nutrition. Check out his youtube channel for some inspiration on regaining your health.

To get your office on-board with weight loss, try implementing a “biggest loser” challenge where participants vie for the lead in shedding those excess pounds. You can even get others in the community involved by working with other local companies to join in on a friendly competition for most overall weight loss. Have something tangible as the take-away prize, like a trophy, complimentary gym memberships, or gift cards to local health food stores. You can help make the weight loss more attainable by offering healthy
snacks in the break room in lieu of doughnuts or high-calorie junk food. Make the competition fun and engaging for everyone.

3. These Shoes Were Made for Walking

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and walk your way to better health. An article by The Washington Post touts the benefits of walking as “improved body composition (higher muscle-to-fat ratio) and decreased risk for metabolic syndrome.” Metabolic syndrome is defined as “high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which together increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.”

Convinced of the benefits? Let’s get walking! Get your company on board by hosting a walking challenge. Need inspiration? Check out Terryberry’s annual West Michigan Walking Challenge, a six week competition created by Terryberry as an initiative to increase awareness and engagement of health and wellness in the workplace throughout the surrounding community. Companies compete not only for the benefit of their own employees’ health, but to vie for top honors in participation rate and the greatest average number of steps per employee. At the competition’s close, prestigious awards are presented. There’s nothing like a friendly competition among surrounding companies to spark some motivation among your employees.

4. Whistle (or Slumber) While You Work

Cultivating happiness, productivity, engagement, and overall wellness among your workforce can be a multi-faceted enterprise. One of these facets should include paying attention to the physical surroundings of your employees and the way they utilize office equipment (computers, chairs, work stations, tables, etc.) on a day-to-day basis. Enter “ergonomics,” a term coined by Polish scientist Wojciech Jastrzebowski way back in 1857. According to an article by business.com, “While many business owners are aware of the fact that the greatest threat to productivity is employee absence due to injury, too few people know that many workplace injuries do not occur as a result of falls or lifting heavy equipment, but rather due to daily repetitive strain.” Sitting for long periods of time with no breaks, hunching over keyboards, and straining your eyes by staring at bright computer monitors can all take their toll, causing repetitive injuries that develop slowly over time and can incur lengthy treatments, and in turn, lengthy or frequent absences from work.

So what can you do to help tackle the problem? Taking short breaks from sitting throughout the work day is one simple solution. “Ergonomic experts recommend standing for 15 minutes for every hour during the day, which improves blood flow, increases energy and focus, and leads you to better work,” according to the Human Solution, a company offering ergonomic products for both the workplace and home office. Encourage your employees to take frequent breaks, or better yet, supply them with sit-to-stand desks, which offer the flexibility of either sitting or standing while still keeping them productive and engaged on their daily tasks. You’ll help improve your team’s mood, stamina, concentration, and posture.

Another simple solution that combats eye strain is to install color-temperature regulating apps on computers. The free application f.lux automatically adjusts the color temperature of a computer monitor based on time zone and time of day, creating a warmer tone in the evening and night-time hours, and a tone more like natural sunlight during the day. The effects of blue light emitted from electronic devices on melatonin production has been well studied and documented. Applications like f.lux combat eye strain and help the body fall in line with its natural circadian rhythms, which could help your employees get a better night’s sleep, especially for those who work long hours into the evening, or have flexible hours at home.

Another way to help employees get adequate rest is to follow in the steps of Uber, Ben & Jerry’s, and Google, to name just a few, and offer dedicated “nap rooms” or “nap spaces.” A well-rested employee equals a happy employee.

Implementing a wellness program in your organization speaks volumes to your employees – it tells them you care about their well-being. Need more ideas or help to create your own wellness program? Terryberry is here to help with health and wellness incentives. A healthier, happier team is just a click or phone call away.