As discussed in last week’s blog, there are many ways in which a company can aid in their employees’ wellbeing. This week I’d like to take a closer look at the promotion of physical health in the workplace.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the traditional workspace is the sedentary lifestyle it causes. Many full-time workers spend hours sitting at desks or in vehicles - then go home and sit some more to unwind from work. This causes many Americans to fall short of the recommended weekly activity minimum: 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity, or 1.25 hours of vigorous physical activity. In fact, Americans spend approximately 7.7 hours a day being sedentary! If that doesn’t have you squirming in your seat, according to the CDC, “sedentary behavior increases the risk of death from all causes.” Who knew sitting could be so scary?
Just as sitting still causes harm to one’s health, getting up and moving can provide instant benefits, even if the activity is short. Physical activity not only enhances positive feelings, but minimizes negative ones. It boosts confidence, mood, memory, and productivity, while reducing stress, burnout, and tension. A physically healthy workforce is also less prone to illness or injury. This means they’ll take fewer sudden sick days, reducing the stress of their coworkers who would then have to cover for them. Incorporating physical activity into the workday is a win for everyone.
Incorporating physical wellness into your company culture can be a challenge. Employees’ lack of confidence, urgent work deadlines, lack of guidance and many other factors can contribute to the demise of your wellness initiative. Simply telling employees to hit the gym, even if your company can provide one, just isn’t going to cut it. So start small. Establish a “get moving” policy to educate employees on the dangers of sitting too long, and encourage them to get up, take a walk, stretch, or find their own way of getting their blood pumping. The “policy” acts as a way to give people permission to move about and shouldn’t actually be policed. Invite people to take a walk during lunch and encourage use of the stairs. Provide healthy snack options such as fresh fruit, nuts, and string cheese in your eating areas. All of these little actions add up to a healthier workforce.
While maintaining your small changes, get your employees excited with new benefits and events! Round up a group to participate in local sports leagues. If that’s too much of a commitment, try a single-day event, such as a walk-a-thon or charity relay race. Here at Dion, we’ve participated in a number of Heart Walks, Spin-a-thons, and Relay for Life’s, and it’s always a blast!
Another great initiative is to subsidize digital equipment, such as a fitness tracker. This will encourage people to keep fitness in the forefront of their minds and show your company’s literal investment in their health. Encourage some friendly competition by awarding a price to the person with the highest step count each month. The more fun you can make it, the better! Please note that physical fitness can exist in a variety of body sizes, so I wouldn’t recommend a “biggest loser” challenge – that could leave people feeling worse and overly focused on weight as the only fitness metric.
Whatever you do, make sure you lead by example. Staying physically active is hard and requires a lot of motivation. You need to set the bar, and champion those who rise to the occasion. Now get up and get going!
Aubrey Dion is proud to be back working for the family business she grew up in. Over the years, she has performed a wide variety of jobs in both the office and factory, becoming a true "jack of all trades." Aubrey credits her quick learning ability to her strong theatre background, where memorization and attention to detail are vital. Working in the marketing department allows her to stay creative and work on exciting new projects for the company.