Most Americans spend the majority of their day at work so it is imperative that the work environment encourages a healthy life style. Fifty years ago, employees burnt more calories at work. According to Microsoft, American workers typically spend seven hours daily in front of a computer (view source).
Compared to years past, the work force is burning 120 to 140 less calories daily. That adds up to a pound a month of weight gain; a sixty pound weight gain in just 5 years. This sedentary work life is a significant contributor to the expansion of the American waistline (view source).
There are small, simple, affordable steps that employers of all sizes can take to positively impact employee health. Step one of implementing a Health and Wellness program directed at reducing obesity is to examine the work place.
First, the office space itself should be examined critically. Is it crowded, cluttered and hard to move through? If so, employees will walk around less. The environment must encourage movement. Something simple like moving a printer across the office can add up to hundreds of extra steps in a day. Stairwells must be well lit and clean. People are far more likely to take the stairs if the stairwell is well maintained. Some corporations pipe music into stairwells to encourage their employees to take the stairs.
Secondly, a pleasant break room or eating area should be available to discourage employees from eating lunch at their desks. If vending machines are present, they must include healthy snacks such as nuts, sunflower seeds or low-fat popcorn. Companies with on-site dining must provide healthy selections at affordable prices. Additionally, companies of all sizes would be wise to maintain an office water cooler and a refrigerator. Providing easy access to filtered drinking water encourages employees to get in their 64 ounces a day, and an available refrigerator allows employees to store healthy meals and snacks.
Lastly, an examination of ways employees can increase their activity while at their work place is imperative. If the office is near walking or bike trails, employers need to encourage employees to utilize them during breaks or lunch. In this vein, bike racks must be provided. Employees need a place to clean up if they chose to work out during lunch. Big businesses should consider adding a fitness center onsite. Smaller business can do something as a simple as adding stretching equipment in the break room. Anything that can be done to encourage movement throughout the day will positively impact employee health.
It is small, simple steps continued over time that yield lasting results. Employers that implement a few of these steps today will begin a journey toward employee health and wellness.