14 ways to help improve employee health and well-being

Clocking 40-plus hours each week at a job means the average American spends a significant amount of time in the workplace. With so much time spent in one place, it’s important to encourage your employees to make the most of that time and do their best to stay healthy.

Avoiding the flu, managing stress, being more active, and maintaining a healthy weight can seem like a lot for employees to juggle on top of a busy workday. But if they start small and add a few things at a time, making healthy changes can be manageable for them. Share these tips and tricks with your employees to help them improve their health while at work!

Eat a good breakfast.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Eating a morning meal can improve concentration and mental sharpness. Yet many Americans may skip it altogether. It’s important to educate your employees about the importance of a good breakfast and healthy eating. One way to start the discussion is to have a “Free Breakfast Day” and invite a nutritionist from your community to make a brief presentation.

Be prepared to handle stress.

Stress in the workplace can run employees down and affect their performance if it’s not well managed. It is key for them to learn how to identify triggers and have a quick coping technique planned. Some companies offer stress management programs to help employees learn these techniques so they can become “stress resilient” and avoid the negative effects that accompany extreme or chronic stress.

Reduce sitting time.

Many employees have long commutes and sit even longer once they’re at work. Learning to count their sitting time, as well as their active time, can help employees make better choices to lower their risk for health problems. Offering desks that convert to standing desks and encouraging employees to make stretching breaks a part of their day can help them move more.

Build a healthy lunch routine.

One of the common barriers to eating healthy (and managing weight) can be the lunchtime rut. Often, people rush out the door, forget to pack a lunch, and are faced with making decisions on the go. Typically, those decisions are not the healthiest. Healthy vending machines that offer snacks like pretzels, granola bars, and low-calorie drinks are one way to help employees make better choices. If your workplace has a cafeteria, find out if it provides healthy lunch options.

Encourage hand washing.

We touch a lot of things and meet a lot of people in the workplace. That’s why hand washing is so important. Believe it or not, hand washing is one of the easiest ways for employees to protect themselves from getting sick or spreading germs to others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand washing is an effective way to stop the spread of disease—and not just during flu season! Posters in kitchens, bathrooms, and other common areas can help employees remember to wash their hands.

Prevent back pain from sitting.

Sedentary habits can lead to countless health-related conditions—including back pain, which affects 8 of 10 people at some point in their lifetime. Encouraging employees to get up during the day is an easy way to help problem solve excessive sitting. A properly set up workstation and good posture can help, too. Posters around the office can serve as visual cues to help employees remember to take a moment and prevent back pain.

Avoid digital eye strain.

The average office worker spends many hours each workday on the computer or staring at a screen. In addition, between work, television, smartphone activity, and tablets, Americans are locked in most of the day to some type of screen. Encourage your employees to give their eyes regular breaks by following the 20-20-20 rule. It’s simple and easy to try: Every 20 minutes they should take a break and stare at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Make time for physical activity.

The easiest place to start is by breaking up sitting time with movement. Encourage employees to use part of their lunch break to walk, schedule walking meetings, park farther away and walk to work, and take the stairs as much as possible. Desk stretches can also be helpful. Some workplaces offer discounted gym memberships and formal incentive programs for achieving a step goal.

Try “office recess.”

The concept of office recess has been adopted by organizations all over the world, and now it’s your company’s turn to join in the mid-day energy boost. Remind employees to take a few moments to pause and do something for themselves. Encourage them to get started on the path to relaxation, feeling better, and improved health.

Change snacking habits.

Snacks may be a staple in the workday that your employees use to keep going. If you provide snacks, whether regularly or from time to time, make sure they are healthy. Simple and easy snacks include rice cakes, almonds, and protein bars.

Stay hydrated.

This healthy habit plays an important role in both fitness and weight loss. The body uses water to maintain its temperature, lubricate the joints, remove waste, and much more. You can promote hydration with some simple tips. For most people, water is best for hydration, but some foods such as fruits and vegetables also have high percentage of water. These include pineapple, watermelon, blueberries, pears, grapefruit, cucumber, lettuce, celery, and tomatoes. You can also encourage your employees to avoid sugary drinks and soda.

Get enough sleep.

Losing sleep can impact all areas of health and wellness and cause a dip in work productivity. Make sure your employees know the importance of getting between seven and nine hours of sleep (or the amount that works best for their body) to help them to tackle the workday feeling energized and refreshed.

Practice good hygiene.

Many employees eat breakfast and lunch at their desk. Multitasking during meals is not uncommon—but it can be dangerous. That’s because of the hidden bacteria lurking on desktops. You can help protect employees from foodborne illness while they at work by providing disinfectant wipes so they can clean their area before and after they eat. Ensure you have enough refrigerators and microwaves so employees can properly store and heat food. Signs reminding employees to clean up spills help make sure these areas stay clean.

Offer health coaching.

It isn’t always easy for people to make healthy changes—especially in today’s always-on-the-go workplace. Employees are busy and can be tempted by unhealthy choices like fast food and vending machines. Sustained motivation through a health coaching program can make a significant difference in helping employees accomplish lifestyle change goals. Offering a health coaching program lets your employees know you care about them, which can boost morale and productivity. This type of program can also help you attract new talent and retain extraordinary employees.

As an employer, the best encouragement you can offer your employees is to start small and add as they can. Ultimately, by helping your employees feel healthier and more productive, you can prevent absenteeism and presenteeism—which can help your company operate successfully. Choosing UPMC Health Plan gives you access to options that can help your employees achieve this.

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