Traditional workplace wellness has focused primarily on the physical aspects - through on-site screenings, health risk appraisal questionnaires, and perhaps some health coaching and education. But physical wellbeing is more than that.
Thriving in physical wellbeing does not just mean the absence of disease. It’s the energy and vitality to do everyday tasks with ease. Don’t get me wrong, health risks are important to consider, but they don’t tell the whole story.
Physical activity, simply moving around and being active, along with eating nutritious food and getting enough sleep are extremely important elements of physical wellbeing.
With each of these elements, workplace initiatives should aim to educate employees and arm them with the knowledge and skills to develop healthy habits. You can offer all the programs you’d like, but employees won’t engage unless it is on their own terms. You can’t reward or penalize someone into better health. Instead, focus your efforts on fostering an environment that supports overall wellbeing, where the healthy choice is the easier choice.
Going to the gym is not the only way to be physically active. And many of your employees may not respond well to the traditional “get to the gym” advice, as they don’t feel they have time for these kinds of workouts. But there are simple actions individuals can take to be more active – taking walks, choosing to use the stairs instead of the elevator, daily stretching, playing outside with your kids. These may seem minor, but every movement helps. Get up and move!
How can you help encourage your employees to get moving? One way is to implement a “Get Moving” policy. Educate employees on problems associated with sitting for extended periods of time and encourage them to stand up and move around for a few minutes throughout the day. Activities could include taking a short walk around the building, doing some simple stretches, walking a few flights of stairs, or anything that gets them active for a few minutes throughout their work day. Though it is important to note that this “policy” idea is intended to provide permission to employees to get up and moving; it is not meant to be policed.
What else can you do? Some employers choose to offer funds to help employees to make their workspace more conducive to physical activity such as standing desks or a foot peddler. Or for those employees who are interested in working out at a local gym, you could look for a group discount to provide them with.
When employees grab a snack to help them get through the day, why not make it easy to choose the healthier option? Snacking is actually a healthy habit – as long as your snacks are nutrient-rich! These can help keep employees’ energy levels high and minds alert.
Make healthy snacking options the easy choice in your workplace. Swap out the sodas and sugary snacks from vending machines with healthier options. Stock the office kitchen or lunchroom with nutritious snacks such as nuts, dried fruits, string cheese, and fresh fruit.
How else can you make the healthier choice the easier choice in your workplace? Consider nutrition when choosing meals for company functions. For example, opt for salads, sandwiches, and fruits over pizza lunches.
You can also provide adequate facilities for employees to store and prepare food. What if you have an employee who wants to eat a salad for lunch but has no place to keep it refrigerated? They could fall back on less healthy lunch options due to convenience. Make sure employees have the means to keep their lunches and snacks refrigerated and to safely reheat or cook food.
Getting enough sleep is essential to physical wellbeing. Tom Rath and Jim Harter of Gallup compare getting a good night’s sleep to hitting the reset button: “It clears our stressors from the day before. It also increases our chances of having energy and high wellbeing throughout the day.”
We’re all familiar with the recommendation to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Unfortunately many people fall short of this number. The Centers for Disease Control estimate 40.6 million Americans get an inadequate amount of sleep.
What does this mean for your employees? Gallup’s research shows that as a result of less sleep, individuals “move slower, have trouble concentrating, become forgetful, make bad decisions, are more irritable, and show visible signs of sleeplessness.” If you’re striving for an engaged, productive workforce – these are definitely qualities to be avoided!
Sleep deprivation and fatigue can be harmful to your employees and your organization. So how can you promote better sleep habits? Encourage employees to take regular breaks and ensure there are reasonable work schedules in place. Promote or provide tips for good sleep at home such as limiting screen time and avoiding stimulants like caffeine too close to bedtime.
Don’t limit your physical wellbeing efforts to health risk assessments. Physical activity, healthy eating habits, and getting enough sleep are critical aspects to achieving a high level of physical wellbeing. Take action to encourage employees to develop and maintain the energy and vitality they need to get through their everyday tasks with ease.