How Employers Can Make a Difference in Employees’ Health Practices

group of young office workers

Business leaders know that the health of their employees is a major concern. Statistics have consistently shown that an unhealthy workforce leads to lower productivity on the job and ultimately costs companies in revenue.

Even though improvements have been made in this area over the years, there’s still room to do more. London-based firms alone lost 13.9 million working days in 2017. The average cost of sickness-related absence is £4,800 per week.

There are regulations in place to ensure that every workplace meets the standards of health and safety. And many employers try to improve their organizational culture as well, which has a positive impact on people’s health and well-being.

But we can do even more to influence the lifestyle decisions of employees outside the workplace. It’s time to go above and beyond the minimum required and guide our people towards healthy living.

The determinants of health

Employers don’t just have a moral and ethical imperative to look after the health of their people. There’s a legitimate business case for taking care of their well-being. But health is a complex issue.

Each individual has their own determinants of health. These can include intrinsic factors such as heredity, age, and sex, and other things you can’t control. The employee’s place of residence can influence the levels of pollution in their environment, or the time it takes to commute to work, for example.

In general, it’s a lot easier to focus on the things that happen to employees once they are in the workplace. But you also have the ability to strongly influence factors related to the employee’s health-related ‘baggage.’ Their practices, beliefs, attitudes, values, and resources can be improved.

Doing more than ‘well enough’

Why go the extra mile, though? If your workplace is fully compliant with safety regulations and you afford workers flex time, and reasonable workloads, the risks of injury and stress-related issues are lowered. Positive interpersonal relationships at work go a long way towards helping both company performance and personal satisfaction.

The problem is that doing ‘well enough’ in the office environment may not be enough in the context of the employee’s entire lifestyle.

For instance, rising costs of living relative to wages earned may compel some workers to take on a side hustle. This can lead to increased stress and unhealthy coping strategies, such as substance abuse.

Most jobs today are also sedentary, and unless you carve out time in the workday schedule for daily exercise, people must meet recommended physical activity requirements on their own time. Failure to do so can lead to obesity and an increased risk of chronic diseases.

It’s easy to focus only on what’s required and then absolve yourself of responsibility for the decisions an employee makes outside of work. But does that do you any good when they call in sick regardless?

woman talking to man

Exercising influence

You can influence healthy lifestyle choices without having to intervene in your employee’s personal time.

Just as good home kitchen design can encourage people to cook more often and manage their nutrition, employers can also make healthy food choices more accessible at work. What’s in the office pantry or vending machine? What options are on the menu of concessionaires?

People tend to be more motivated to exercise regularly when they have a buddy. You can leverage the influence of fitness enthusiasts at work and turn them into lifestyle influencers who can encourage their colleagues to really avail of that gym membership.

Employers often provide additional training to improve their people’s capabilities. How about giving them a course in stress management techniques?

There are many ways to get creative in terms of exercising your influence. And by doing so, you give people healthier, more productive lives, even outside of work.

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