5 Tips for Boosting Employee Health
Looking for creative and sure-fire ways to boost employee health? Whether you’re looking to decrease sick days or increase office morale and loyalty, don’t miss these smart and healthy ideas:
Ditch the Chairs
A new comprehensive study out from the Annals of Internal Medicine reveals that prolonged sitting, even if you exercise regularly, increases risk for early death - specifically sitting for 60 to 90 minutes at a time. If your employees spend most of their time during the day at a desk, find ways to reduce the amount of time they actually spend sitting. You might think about:
Investing in standing desks that mechanically rise and fall to allow for more standing work
Taking conference meetings on the go - do laps around the building instead of sitting around a table in a conference room
Offering stability balls for working on instead of chairs
Requiring 5-minute stretching sessions intermittently throughout the day
Moving the water cooler/snack area further away so it requires a longer walk
Reimburse for Fitness
Whether your company offers health benefits or not, you might also think about reimbursing for fitness expenses. This latest trending perk is especially hot with millennials and may be just the motivation your employees need to seek out regular exercise. Reimbursement might come in the form of a gym membership, payment for a class like yoga or SoulCycle, or even sponsoring an employee in a charity run. Routine physical fitness, roughly 30 minutes a day for adults, has been shown to strengthen the immune system and lower risk for everything from high blood pressure to diabetes and even Alzheimer’s.
This tip might seem antithetical - vacation is important to employee stress management and health right? Absolutely. In fact, one study even found that risk for heart disease increased 30% in men who didn’t take a vacation for five years vs. those who took one week off a year. Regular vacations help boost office morale, make people less likely to quit, and keep them happier and more engaged with their jobs.
The problem with the trending employee perk of “unlimited vacation,” however, is that research is showing employees are less likely to take a vacation when they don’t have a set number of days allotted to them out of concern about taking too much vacation. Tips for addressing this type of unintended consequence include:
Set up a FAQ to provide a framework for an unlimited vacation policy so your employees feel more reassured about their choices
Higher level employees and CEO’s should take a vacation as well to set an example for the rest of the team
Avoid letting people take “working vacations” where they are off but still plugged in and on tap for work, this negates the benefits of what a vacation can offer
Modify Work Environments for Disabilities
Complying with ADA regulations comes with its own legal obligations, but modifying the office environment for temporary disabilities like an employee with a broken leg is different. Not only does going the extra mile (by moving their work area closer to the door and clearing trip hazards like wastebaskets and cords from common walkways) show the employee that you recognize the difficulties and want to help, but your entire team will notice as well.
For employees on crutches or using a knee scooter for a lower leg injury, for example, you might even purchase helpful accessories like crutch bags, a knee scooter basket, or cup holders that make their work day that much easier.
Prepare for Cold and Flu Season
When it comes to helping employees stay well and make it into work regularly, most challenges will present themselves during cold and flu season. Roughly 5 to 20% of the population may contract the influenza virus each year, with outbreaks peaking between December and February according to the Centers for Disease Control. Protect your office from the flu by:
Encouraging employees to get the flu vaccine by reimbursing them for it
Stocking the office with hand sanitizer and tissues to prevent germ spreading
Tracking flu outbreaks in your area with apps like FluView from the CDC
Allowing employees to telecommute if they feel under the weather
It goes without saying that one of the best ways to influence employee health in a positive way is through the nutrition offered at the office. Salty, sugary processed snacks from a vending machine have no place in an environment where you expect mental clarity, focus, and productivity. Offering weekly catered lunches with healthier options, or simply stocking healthier snacks like fresh fruit, granola bars, whole grain crackers, guacamole, hummus, and veggies in the break room can make a big difference in achieving your team’s health goals.