For many, the short workday and long lunch are simply a dream. The reality is that an ever-increasing number of employees are spending a large bulk of their day sitting behind a desk. Given that, any healthy-habit encouragement that workplaces can provide their staff can only be a positive.
“Employers have the potential to reach a significant amount of the population who may not otherwise respond to health messages, may not use the primary health care system or may not have time to make lasting change to their behaviour outside of work,” said VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter.
“A healthy working environment improves productivity, staff morale and enhances an organisation’s ability to attract and retain staff. It can also decrease staff turnover, absenteeism, accidents and injuries and worker compensation claims.”
Sitting is the new smoking
The Chiropractors Association of Australia has labelled sitting the new smoking. Low back pain is a growing problem and now ranks second in Australasia and seventh in the world according to the World Health Organisation’s latest Global Burden of Disease study. One explanation for this is the negative impact an increasingly sedentary lifestyle has on postural fitness.
“Every day more and more Australians experience disabling low back pain, neck pain and headaches, limiting their ability to work and engage in an active healthy life” said CAA President, Dr Laurie Tassell.
“Poor posture increases pressure on your spine which can cause low back pain, neck pain, headaches and fatigue. But more importantly these problems can lead to a reduction in a person’s overall wellbeing.” Dr Tassell said.
Improving office health
VicHealth has launched a new Creating Healthy Workplaces Program and a new online resource in conjunction with SuperFriend and WorkSafe Victoria to provides resources and case studies to encourage workplaces to implement positive mental wellbeing strategies that enhance existing policies and processes and programs and create positive and supportive work cultures and environments. It’s certainly worth a look.
Some other specific suggestions for easy ways that employers can make a healthy change include:
- Provide free fruit. A box of free fruit for staff to eat during the week can help your employees make healthier food choices. It could be a small cost for you, in return for increased employee satisfaction.
- Encourage a regular lunchbreak. It’s tempting for some staff to sit and eat at their desk during their lunchbreak – but getting up and moving around will be better for their health and their concentration.
- Set up a walking group. Why not encourage staff to bring joggers to work and set up a lunchtime or before-work walking group? Alternatively, a lunchtime yoga or other exercise session could be popular.
- Encourage initiatives such as ride2work day. According to Bicycle Network’s annual Ride2Work survey, more than half of riders who start commuting to work on National Ride2Work Day are still riding regularly 12 months later!
- Have a competition. A friendly competition in your workplace (whether for weight loss, running distance or something else) can be a good way to promote fitness.
- Be a good role model. It goes without saying that a “do as I do” attitude rather than a “do as I say” approach will get better employee results!
There are plenty of other easy and mainly free strategies that you can use to promote employee health. And it can be a win/win situation: better employee health could lead to better productivity, too.