The same health and hygiene rules you learned as a child still apply to grown-ups: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, avoid contact with others who are sick. But going beyond wellness basics can net some big health gains for your workplace—and it’s easier than you think.
Prevention programs stop health problems before they affect attendance, productivity or morale. Many times, companies will subsidize such programs, knowing that they’ll save on healthcare costs down the road. Here are a few ideas that can help keep your workplace healthy during the new year.
Stress is a big contributor to health problems. Chronic stress can lead to or worsen depression and anxiety, which in turn can take a toll on the heart, increase the likelihood of obesity and diabetes, or cause sleep issues. To combat stress in the workplace, consider the following:
- Meditation: A 2018 study found a positive correlation between mindfulness and workplace productivity. Meditation practices like walking meditation, which combines physical activity with mindfulness, or mindfulness meditation, which allows participants to focus on the moment rather than looking ahead or behind, can center your coworkers with deep breathing, better concentration, and renewed purpose.
- Yoga: Yoga takes meditation a step further to combine movement and breath in a series of poses that stretch the body and engage the mind. The dangers of sitting for long periods of time have been well documented in recent medical literature, so yoga is a great way to get out of your chair—and better yet, yoga can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain.
Under pressure, many people don’t make the best food choices, opting instead for carbohydrate- and sugar-rich convenience foods instead of the whole grains, fruits and vegetables the body needs. Luckily, easy swaps can ensure you eat better on the job.
- “Candy” jar: It’s far too easy to dip into the candy jar on a long day—but what if that candy jar was replaced with fresh blueberries, almonds or trail mix? Try a healthy twist on easy snacks by keeping healthier food on hand for those midday cravings.
- Healthy Potlucks: Skip the take-out and try an office potluck once a week in which each co-worker brings in a nutritious dish to share—and the recipe. Everyone walks away well-fed and well-equipped to try a new recipe at home.
Being sedentary in the workplace takes a mental and physical toll that can lead to absenteeism and decreased productivity. Looking for ways to keep active while on the job is a healthy habit that can pay off.
- Sit-stand desks, exercise balls and vibrating seats: Flexible seating options that allow employees to sit and stand can decrease the extremes of employees sitting or being on their feet all day. Sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair can engage back muscles (beware—with no back support, this isn’t a long-term option!), while seat cushions that vibrate hourly remind workers to get up and stretch.
- Exercise challenge: Pick a new exercise every month—squats, sit-ups, jogging, etc. Create a calendar that allows employees to increase exercise intervals slowly and progressively throughout the month and have a prize drawing for anyone who completes the challenge.
Wellness doesn’t happen overnight, but little changes in office culture can help keep employees fit and focused, both physically and mentally.