Ever notice your energy tanking at about 3 pm? It’s pretty easy—especially in an office setting—to reach for a sugary snack to get through the end of the work day. Between the vending machine, the goodies in the breakroom, and the monthly office birthday celebrations, it’s all too easy to find a quick snack. The problem, of course, is that quick snacks are usually not particularly healthy.
Each new generation of workers brings their own values to the workplace. Millennials are no different. Travelers Insurance explored the changing face of the workplace in their recent report titled Workplace 2.0. The report identified a common theme among Millennials: an emphasis on work/life balance, including a focus on health and fitness.
Employers are taking note. It’s not uncommon in the workplace to find yoga classes, game rooms, sports courts, and gyms with all the amenities like free weights, treadmills and stair climbing machines.
These onsite exercise opportunities are great for attracting new talent, improving morale, and increasing productivity. But, they are also introducing a new set of risks.
Employers are increasingly recognizing the value of offering a wellness program. Studies show that there’s a correlation between healthy employees and employee productivity, among other benefits. (1)
With summer in full swing, high temperatures and humidity are prevalent. While this means more time at the beach and the pool, it can also quickly end a fun day in the sun. When it’s over ninety degrees, the risk of heat-related illnesses increases dramatically.
Many companies are discovering the benefits of encouraging a healthy lifestyle. According to Aflac’s 2015 Workforces Report, wellness programs contribute to overall job satisfaction and employees are less likely to look for new jobs when their company has a wellness program in place. However, just like with personal health habits, it is one thing to know that something is good for the company and quite another to know exactly what to do and how to sustain it.
Any organization, regardless of size or budget, can create a corporate culture that nourishes the development of Total Health for every employee. It’s a matter of recognizing that your company is unique and what works for your company may or may not work for others and visa versa. Whether you are just getting your wellness program off the ground or looking for ways to reinvigorate your current program, we recommend surveying employees to find out what they are looking for in a wellness program. You can design your own free survey using a free online survey provider like Survey Monkey.
We also encourage our clients to have fun with their programs and come up with unique ideas that are suited for their culture and budget. Here are just a few ideas:
According to Work Well's "Promoting Healthy Eating at Work," healthier employees are more motivated, innovative, creative, and productive. Encouraging healthy eating habits and exercise are the foundations of a solid employee wellness program. How can employers promote healthy eating? First things first: help your employees understand the basics.
Healthy eating starts with reading and understanding labels. Food labels tell you the types of vitamins and minerals that are in foods, as well as whether something is non-GMO, organic, or natural.
Here’s what your employees should be aware of when it comes to a few popular food labels:
According to the USDA, for a product to qualify as organic, farmers, ranchers, and food processors must abide by certain standards to “preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics.” Animals that produce meat, eggs, and dairy, must have access to the outdoors and cannot be given growth hormones or antibiotics. Produce must be grown without genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers. Here are 10 reasons people choose organic foods.
Not sure if something’s organic? Look for a USDA Organic seal.
What's the harm of one more cookie or another glass of eggnog? As much as we look forward to holiday office parties and department celebrations, many of us end up packing on the pounds because we indulge a little too much.
The average American gains 1-2 pounds over the six-week holiday season. While this might not seem like a lot, those unwanted pounds don’t tend to come off. This additional weight adds up over the years and can lead to weight and health issues in the future.
With a little planning and vigilance, you can maintain your normal weight without sacrificing all the fun of the holidays. Here are a few tips to remember:
- Bring something healthy. Check the sign-up sheet for your holiday office potluck. Volunteer to bring a healthy dish, giving you at least one good option to enjoy. Once you’re there, survey the buffet table before you grab a plate and be sure to take small portions, since it’s easy to fill up your plate to the brim. It’s okay to have a little bit of everything, so you don’t feel deprived.
On Your Mark, Get Set, Motivate!
Savvy employers recognize the benefit of a healthy workforce. Study after study has demonstrated the increased productivity, improved morale and the health insurance savings that come with a healthy and physically active group of employees. As John F. Kennedy said, “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”
Yet knowing that something is important to the wellbeing of an organization is not the same as knowing how to implement an effective employee wellness program. The question remains: What can employers do to introduce healthy habits and keep employees motivated to stay active?
Marsh & McLennan Agency decided to test the effectiveness of our own wellness program Total Health by challenging our associates. In June, the MMA West San Francisco and Walnut Creek offices took part in the Get Up and Go Challenge, modeled after one of the basic challenge events from our Total Health wellness program. Using this model, we measured the number of steps people took, with the goal of 10,000 per day. This might sound like a lot, but using a conversion sheet, our associates were able to log steps taken doing everyday activities such as gardening, grocery shopping, and even housework.
The statistics are sobering. Each year, more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the US and over 90% are caused by the sun. What may surprise some people is that you don’t have to be actively sunbathing to get a damaging dose of the sun. Sun protection is an important health habit for everyone and is key to preventing skin cancer and premature aging of the skin.
With our fast-paced lifestyles, it’s easy to grab whatever sunscreen is on the shelf and head outdoors or worse, forget the sunscreen altogether. But with skin cancer on the rise, there are important facts to consider.
UVA vs UVB
One distinction that sometimes confuses people is the difference between the sun’s ultraviolet rays. UVA and UVB simply refer to the different wave lengths. The important thing to know is that the UVA rays cause the skin to take on a darker shade, whereas UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburns. Both types of UV rays play a part in skin aging, eye damage, and skin cancers and both require a sun protection regimen that includes the correct and routine use of sunscreen.
Choosing a Sunscreen
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, refers to how long it will take UVB rays to burn your skin compared to not wearing anything at all. For example, wearing SPF 15 will take 15 times longer to redden your skin than if you were not wearing any protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using SPF of 15 or higher. That said, SPF gives your 93% protection against UVB rays and SPF 30 gives you 97% protection.
It’s no secret that health insurance costs are increasing year-over-year well above inflation. To accommodate those increases, employers are looking for ways to share some of those costs with employees. And who can blame them when the CDC reports that 75% of Americans’ chronic health conditions are caused by lifestyle choices?
But before pointing the finger at the employee, we may want to rethink the office environment. The CDC identified four lifestyle choices, including physical activity, and then assigned responsibility to either the employee or the employer. In the case of physical activity, four out of five “fingers of responsibility” pointed at the employer. On average, office workers spend almost 6 hours per day sitting.
Add to that the findings from a recent study by the Work & Health Research Centre at Loughborough University which found “those who sit for longer at work are more likely to sit outside of work” and you can conclude that a key contributor to a sedentary lifestyle is the office environment. University of South Carolina looked at sedentary behaviors’ effect on the mortality of men and found that risks for heart disease, diabetes, and a number of health problems increased alongside levels of LDL Cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), triglycerides, blood sugar, and BMI among men who sit more.
So what can employers do other than simply asking employees to exercise more? Consider the following suggestions to build physical activity into the office environment:
- Walking Meetings: Offices are never lacking in meetings. An easy way to implement activity is to make at least one meeting a day a walking meeting.