Promoting a healthier workplace (8 ways to try)

July 13, 2021 - 16 min read

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What are the benefits of promoting health at work?

8 best workplace health strategies

How to promote health at work

How to stay healthy at work tips

Ready to promote health at work?

Leading a healthy lifestyle is about much more than packing in a smoothie in the morning and crushing it at the gym after work. It’s crucial to consider health at work.

But it’s also about ensuring your mental fitness and stress levels are kept in check.

The problem is, most of us spend the majority of our waking hours in the office. This can make meeting these needs feel difficult.

How can you maintain great health at work and promote a healthy work life balance for your team?

We’ll discuss eight strategies you can use for maintaining a healthy lifestyle at work. Plus, we’ll cover health promotion strategies for leaders, and additional wellness tips for the workplace.

What are the benefits of promoting health at work?

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Before we discuss the specific strategies you can implement, let’s take a minute to review the benefits for leaders and organizations.

It’s important to understand why health promotion strategies are valuable. Here are just a few reasons why:

1. Reduced health risks

Learning how to stay healthy in the workplace ensures that healthy behaviors are maintained.

This reduces the risk of employees coming down with an illness.

When employees have better occupational health, they’re better protected against chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes.

2. Decreased absenteeism

It’s a pretty simple equation:

When employees are less healthy, they are more likely to take days off work, whether for physical or mental health issues.

Promoting health tips at work doesn’t just reduce employees’ risk of becoming ill. It also lowers your absentee rates.

If employees fall sick less often, they won’t need as many sick days.

3. Lower healthcare costs

The reduction in illness means that each worker is less dependent on healthcare providers. This means fewer GP visits and prescription costs.

These savings lower their cost of living and can have an impact on the cost of health care plans provided by your organization.

4. Better workplace focus, efficiency, and productivity

It has long been understood that improved employee health lifts productivity. Healthy employees produce more in the same amount of time as unhealthy ones.

This means that the employer gets a better return on their investment. And they can then reinvest this return in more workplace wellness programs.

5. Improved employee retention

Focusing on health and occupational safety initiatives also leads to improved employee retention. This stems from two factors:

  1. Healthier employees are happier employees. And happy employees are less likely to leave.
  2. Employees tend to value companies that value employee safety and well-being.

Interested in learning more about workplace wellness? Check out our article: 22 new wellness trends that should be on your radar.

 

8 best workplace health strategies
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What’s the best way to create a healthy workforce?

Adopt these eight workplace health strategies.

1. Pay attention to overtime and the number of hours worked

Long weeks and excess overtime leads to high levels of stress. Stress, when experienced for prolonged periods of time, leads to burnout.

The first step in creating a healthy workplace is setting a policy that restricts or at least carefully monitors overtime.

Enforcing paid leave is not only important to reducing your company liability count. It’s also essential for ensuring employees are well-rested and healthy.

2. Provide social support

One of the key factors that impact happiness (an aspect of overall health and wellbeing) is a strong social network.

It might not be your place to involve yourself in your employee’s family and friend groups. But, it’s still possible for companies to influence and encourage social wellbeing.

Consider starting a social club with monthly events, or even encouraging or subsidizing a Friday lunch in the office.

3. Offer health insurance

One of the easiest ways to get involved in the health and wellbeing of your workforce is to offer health insurance benefits.

This shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of your workplace health initiatives. It’s more of a safety net than a preventative measure.

However, some insurance policies include free regular screenings, check-ups, and vaccinations, all of which can help improve individual health outcomes.

4. Initiate physical fitness initiatives

Not every office has the ability to fund an on-site gym. But that doesn’t mean you can’t implement physical health initiatives.

Examples of effective physical health programs include:

  • The Biggest Loser style challenges
  • Bootcamps
  • Jogging clubs
  • Sit/stand desks
  • In-office yoga classes

A little competition goes a long way, so consider how you might incentivize team members to work toward a goal.

For example, the person who attends the most fitness classes over six months might get an extra day off.

5. Offer mindfulness and meditation classes

It’s important to keep in mind that health at work does go beyond physical health initiatives such as exercise and healthy eating.

Mental fitness is equally as important to your workplace health offerings. A popular way to incorporate this area of health is to offer mindfulness, meditation classes, and deep breathing exercises.

This can be done in-office (many coaches are happy to take a seminar at your office), or you can organize a group trip.

You should also consider offering some form of confidential counseling services that employees can access autonomously.

6. Improve knowledge of healthy behaviors

One of the key barriers that stands in the way of a healthy lifestyle is accurate knowledge of what a healthy lifestyle actually is.

Part of your healthy workplace strategy should include improved awareness of the impacts of:

  • Poor desk posture
  • Staring at a screen for too long
  • Excessive caffeine intake

Try to provide some guidance around healthy eating as well.

Many foods are advertised as healthy options (such as muesli bars or low-sugar drinks), but in reality, they aren’t all too good for you.

You can share health information on a regular basis through email, posters, or during meetings.

For instance, one week you can send out health tips for working parents. The next week, you can send out general tips for office workers.

7. Subsidize gym memberships

The average gym membership costs just $10 a week.

That’s not a huge cost for some companies to bear, considering the positive impacts of improving employee health.

You don’t have to fund the whole membership, though.

Many employers choose to meet their employees halfway, offering to subsidize 50% of a gym membership instead.

This can actually be a great way to get buy-in and accountability from your team, as their money is on the line too.

8. Encourage preventative screenings and vaccinations

Many healthcare insurance policies offer preventative screenings and vaccinations. But these rights often go unexercised.

This happens for a variety of reasons. A common one is that employees simply struggle to find the time to put aside for routine check-ups.

One way you can encourage your team members to take advantage of these offerings is to allow them to take paid time out of their workday to head to the doctor.

You can go one better by offering routine vaccinations (such as the flu shot) to employees in your office. This will make it accessible to even the busiest of employees.

 

How to promote health at work

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Creating a healthy workplace takes a bit of work, but we’re sure you’ll agree that the benefits of healthier employees make the work worth your while.

Still, it’s important to follow a process. This will reduce the amount of time investment required to get your workplace health initiative off the ground.

Here’s a five-step process you can use:

1. Survey your teams to identify needs

Start by determining how your employees feel about the health initiatives you offer at the moment.

Ask them what kind of initiatives they’d like to see implemented.

Find out what challenges they currently face from a health perspective. Make sure to keep it high-level or make feedback anonymous, so as not to cross any personal boundaries.

Chances are, you’re not going to be able to meet everyone’s needs immediately. But you can pull all of this survey data together and start by ticking off the most highly desired results.

2. Draft a health policy and determine initiatives

Once you’ve got a solid understanding of your team’s needs, it’s time to put pen to paper and draft a health policy.

You’ll outline your company’s commitment to employee health and safety. Then, list the initiatives you plan to put in place to achieve those goals.

3. Get feedback

Before you begin rolling things out, it’s a wise idea to get feedback from your employees on your plans. They might be able to offer valuable insights that can save you both time and money.

4. Dive in headfirst to your new health initiatives

Once you’ve refined your health policy and initiatives to incorporate that feedback, it’s time to get started.

You might find this process easier by rolling out new initiatives in phases, rather than launching everything at once.

5. Adjust accordingly

It’s unlikely that you’re going to hit the jackpot with health initiatives on the first try. Be prepared to make changes as time goes on.

You might wish to set a date in the future (say 3 or 6 months) to get further feedback from your employees on how these workplace health initiatives have impacted their wellbeing.

 

How to stay healthy at work tips

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Health at work doesn’t have to rely on large-scale corporate initiatives. Small changes can have a dramatic impact.

Here are six quick tips you can share with your team so everyone can start to improve workplace health today:

  1. Stay hydrated by keeping a water bottle at your desk
  2. Be aware of tension neck syndrome (TNS) and perform regular stretches
  3. Avoid working too many long days in a row, as you’ll hurt your sleep hygiene
  4. Work in 90 minutes blocks with breaks in between to get up and get some blood flowing
  5. Use ergonomic equipment such as chairs and keyboards
  6. Reduce your sugar intake by cutting down the sugar in your coffee

 

Ready to promote health at work?

Let’s recap on the eight strategies we discussed today for promoting health at work:

  1. Pay attention to overtime and the number of hours worked
  2. Provide social support
  3. Offer health insurance
  4. Initiate physical fitness initiatives
  5. Offer mindfulness and meditation classes
  6. Improve knowledge of healthy behaviors
  7. Subsidize gym memberships
  8. Encourage preventative screenings and vaccinations

Need help implementing employee wellness strategies? Learn how BetterUp can help.

Published July 13, 2021

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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