10 steps to a healthier office

10 Steps to a Healthier Office

Looking to create a healthier office? You should be. Healthier employees are more productive and also keep your health insurance premiums down. Here are 10 recommendations to get you started!

1. Replace the junk food with healthier alternatives

Every office has one - some type of vending machine or dispenser that is stocked with sugary or salty snacks loaded with carbs and fat. When 3PM rolls around your whole office seems to rummage through their desks for some type of sustenance. When that doesn't work, people flock to vending machines with crumply singles in hand. One small solution is to contact your local vending service and ask for healthier replacements. Most services offer a healthier selection of food that usually includes fruits, nut mixes, and granola bars.

2. Stipend for fitness

Want to have your employees take their fitness more seriously? Offer them a stipend for joining a gym or fitness center. A more popular trend as of late, companies have been giving their employees a stipend of a few hundred dollars to join a gym of their choice. Exercise stipends remove the barrier of cost for your employees.

3. Offer On-Site Flu-shot Program

Flu shots do not have a long term effect on increasing employee health but what it will do is the obvious - prevent your staff from passing the flu to each other! Especially with a mid-sized company, the flu can hop around from desk to desk, employee to employee where it seems like a new person is infected everyday. On-Site Flu shot programs can be relatively inexpensive and can be completed within a few hours for your entire office. Most company health insurance plans do cover flu shots but this you adds the barriers of having employees schedule their own appointments and the cost of co-pays.

4. Offer Employee Wellness Screens

On-site wellness screens will reveal any health risks to your employees. Most popular screenings are heart related i.e. cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure but pulmonary function tests, audio screenings, and TB tests can also be administered. Results are usually sent to employees privately though the mail which can then be used as a medical record for their own physician. Employee Wellness Screens are a good way to kick off a New Year or new season.

5. Appoint a Health Promotion Manager

These ideas might sound great on paper but who carries them out? How about appointing or hiring an employee to manage your company's wellness. Health Promotion Management is a growing field. Your HPM would be responsible for establishing and evaluating current employee wellness and coming up with specific solutions for improving it. Larger corporations can typically afford to hire people with degrees in exercise science, nutrition or even RNs or PAs. For the mid-sized to small businesses, your HPMs can arrange services through third parties and be responsible for overseeing your programs. Can't afford to hire a new employee? Give the responsibility to an administrative staff member with a bump in salary.

6. Offer Incentives for Reaching Wellness Goals

Want to motivate your office to adhere to a healthier lifestyle? Offer them incentives to do so. A growing trend (and even seen on "The Office") employers are encouraging their staff to participate in wellness programs by offering perks. Offer them gift cards, paid days off, spot bonuses, free t-shirts or even praise in the company newsletter for participation. Want to take it a step further? Make a year long game out of it. Create a guideline of healthy behaviors your staff can participate in i.e. join a gym, hire a personal trainer, give blood, run in a 5K. Each behavior is assigned a point value. Cumulative points can be cashed in for prizes.

But of course the greatest impact your office can have in terms of wellness participation is…

7. Smoke Cessation

The biggest type of employee wellness incentive you can offer your office is participation in smoke cessation. One of the first questions asked on a medical history form is if you smoke. The risk carried for being a smoker is far higher than a non-smoker to do the higher probability of obtaining a chronic illness. Premiums are far more expensive as a result. The solution - offer your employees heavy incentives to quit smoking.

8. Encourage employees to bring a lunch from home

Most of the time when you go out to eat during lunch you usually will order a bigger portion of food then you would bring from home. Not also to mention the fact that restaurant or deli food is loaded with a lot more fat and sodium. Encourage your staff to bring a bag lunch. Not only are they cutting down the calories but most likely even saving money.

9. Education

A great way to change behavior to improve self-efficacy. If your employees believe they can reach wellness goals and adopt a healthier lifestyle then they will. Most people have a general idea of how to cut calories or improve fitness but specific information from a trained professional will stick in their brain. The solution - hire a certified nutritionist or personal trainer or both as a guest speaker to educate your staff.

10. Change the culture

The most important aspect of creating a healthier office is by changing the culture. Following the previous recommendations is a great step in the right direction, but ultimately they need be reinforced by the foundation of a healthy culture. Keep health on the tip of your employees tongue's by having a daily email of health tips and information. Schedule weekly or monthly meetings to discuss your wellness program. Most importantly, lead by example. Encourage upper management to actively participate in wellness programs. This will ultimately create a trickle down effect. Really anything you can do to create an environment for wellness is beneficial. Be creative and have fun!