As a working professional, your personal wellness is in your best interest — for reasons beyond the obvious. Healthy employees are happier, more motivated and less costly (due to decreased health insurance costs and less absenteeism — in fact, workplace illnesses and injuries cost US businesses more than $225 billion every year).
Many businesses opt to institute a formal employee wellness program to bring those costs down and improve worker health, but if your employer doesn’t have the time, money, or interest in creating a program, you might have to take some measures on your own to improve employee wellness in the office. Thankfully, there are some easy ways you can improve your own wellness (and the wellness of others), even without a program in place.
Provide healthier options in the break room
How often do you see donuts, cake or other pastries in the breakroom? It’s hard to avoid these sweet indulgences when they’re right in front of you. Putting a spin on your corporate culture and changing the types of food you bring in could help people make healthier decisions throughout the day. For example, buying a vegetable tray for the group, rather than a box of cupcakes, may not be met with the same enthusiasm, but it will serve a similar purpose and help people stay on the right track with their health and fitness regimens. Keep some healthy snacks stocked so people aren’t tempted to hit up the vending machines or get fast food.
Use free information widely available on the Web
Collate and print out informational booklets to distribute to your coworkers. These could include tips on how to eat healthier and live a more active lifestyle, such as describing the nutritional value of different food groups and recommending specific workout plans. You could also include information on healthcare costs, and the value of preventative strategies. Or, you could post a healthy tip of the day on shared bulletin board to inspire your co-workers to eat better, get up and stretch or make time for the gym.
Utilize your lunch break
It’s easy to just skip lunch and eat at your desk. While on occasion, this can help you be more productive, making a habit of eating at your desk can lead to many problems. Take advantage of your lunch break to take a mental break. Go outside or take a stroll around the building. For most, lunch time is the only time of the day you have for yourself. Take advantage of it!
Hunger is your worst enemy when trying to stay healthy, notes Health Vermont. It causes you to lose focus and can be a key contributor to overeating and gorging on bad food. When you’re at the office, junk food is often readily available and can help to a loss of energy and overall declining healthy.
Eating more often can be the key! Rather than the traditional three meals a day, research is proving that 5-6 smaller, healthier meals can help you maintain your health and feel great. And it makes sense. When you’re planning for these meals, you can make better decisions and insure you have the right kind of food. And by eating before you have the starving feeling, you can maintain portion control and eat healthier.
Stretch and exercise midday
Every so often, get up from your desk, stretch and walk around to get some exercise. If you encourage other people to do this, maybe once an hour, you’ll collectively become more active and avoid the health consequences of simply sitting all day. If you know a yoga practitioner in your office, ask them to lead a quick session of “desk yoga.” You don’t need to be in particularly good shape to do this, nor do you need much time. All you need is a bit of collective awareness.
Hours of working at your desk can take a toll on you body. Taking breaks helps you improve focus, according to a 2017 study, so they can improve performance. But long stretches of work can be hard on your body. According to Scientific American, “Maintaining unbroken focus or navigating demanding intellectual territory for several hours really does burn enough energy to leave one feeling drained.”
Take short breaks to ensure you maintain focus and help from feeling mentally and physically drained after work. You’ll get more done and have more energy to stay active when you’re not behind the desk.
Make it easier to join a gym
If you have a local gym where all or most of your coworkers can easily travel, consider negotiating a group rate is the recommendation of heart.org. Most gyms will be more than willing to cut the monthly cost of a membership if, say, you have 30 people ready to join immediately. If your company is willing to invest some extra money here, you can subsidize portions of your employees’ memberships. Having a gym membership isn’t a guarantee that you and your coworkers will exercise more frequently, but it’s a good start.
Focus on improving posture
Bad posture is an easy habit to slip into, but over time, it can lead to the development of chronic back pain and other issues. Giving yourself regular reminders to correct your posture, or forcing yourself to correct it with orthopedic furniture or standing desks, can dramatically improve your health and feelings of wellness and may inspire your co-workers to do the same.
Start bike or walk days
Biking to work is highly beneficial for a number of reasons, allowing for exercise, better perspectives on the city, reduced carbon emissions, reduced fuel costs, and sometimes even cutting the time it takes to get to work (depending on where you live). However, some people won’t be willing to bike (or walk) to work unless there’s an extra push to get started. For you and your team, that could mean leading the charge on “bike days” where you encourage everyone to bike to work on a specific day of the week, or collecting like-minded people together to commute in carpool-style bike packs.