The workplace is an important setting in which to address the health and wellbeing of employees. Employers can and should play their part by making the right choices either in partnership with foodservice companies or as part of their health and wellbeing strategies.
Employers are becoming increasingly aware of how important employee wellbeing is for companies. They know that a healthy and happy workforce makes a more efficient workforce and aids retention, innovation and helps employees enjoy the environment in which they work and in most cases spend the majority of their time. Well looked after staff can bring their ‘best self’ to work and are more productive; morale is improved and less sick days are recorded. Here in the UK, we’ve seen that the overall absence levels have risen slightly from an average of 6.6 days of absence per employee in 2014 to 6.9 days in 2015.
Potential employees also take the business of wellbeing very seriously, it’s no longer seen as a fad or a passing trend. The science of wellness is beginning to take hold. According to NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) physical activity programmes at work have been found to reduce absenteeism by up to 20 percent and physically active workers take 27 percent fewer sick days.
The changing workplace demographic
There are many studies around millennials joining the workforce and expectations of what an excellent workplace should provide. They have a more expansive view of personal well-being than generation X and the demand to weave wellness into all aspects of the working day is growing stronger. Successful programs must be proactive and provide positive, holistic experiences.
Workers are also getting older. An aging population is directly linked to an ageing workforce. According to DWP estimates, by 2024, nearly 50 percent of the adult population will be 50 and over. As a responsible employer, companies need to adapt policies and programmes to service the needs of older employees and in turn keep the millennials happy.
Singleness of purpose
So, this brings me to why I think it’s critical that there is a top down and bottom up approach to wellness at work. I believe that it’s everybody’s responsibility to look after their health and wellbeing and to seek out employers who take it seriously. Why wouldn’t you want to work for the company that is going to take your wellbeing as seriously as you do? I also believe that senior management teams should actively encourage the adoption of these initiatives in an open and transparent way. Attitudes at the top matter. They can proliferate through an entire organisation quickly and effect the DNA of a company.
Wellbeing ‘initiatives’ and policies can take many forms. As an example, senior management can look at employing the right in-house expertise or seek external consultancy. I’m employed as an in-house dietician at G4S FM and am empowered to drive initiatives that can have a positive impact on employee health such as running awareness events where we offer personal consultations on diet, health and nutrition. I also advise on nutrition and food offerings across our client base to help people make more informed choices when they are operating catering services across hospitals or schools.
Employers can also ensure regular wellbeing updates and tips and services are used throughout company newsletters and that they form part of the overall internal communications plan.
In-house experts and consultants can assist with staff training programmes and work on improving catering options providing input on healthier hydration and food choices then progressing onto advice on physical activity, smoking cessation schemes which all contributes to a healthier lifestyle.
Learn to adapt
As with all company initiatives, leaders of business need to put processes in place around wellbeing so the effectiveness of programmes can be properly evaluated. Feedback is important, but it’s what you do with that data that is going to have an impact on your business.
Learn from what employees are asking for from a wellbeing perspective and act on it. Companies can do this through individual performance reviews (a good way to implant the importance of individual wellbeing), through employee engagement surveys and from taking counsel from outside organisation such as British Dietetic Association (BDA). The BDA have recently published a white paper highlighting the evidence of effectiveness of nutrition and wellness interventions. This is supported by a programme with tools, resources and a team of work ready accredited dietitians leading this wellness initiative. It focuses on maintenance of healthy weight for employees and thus reducing the risk of preventable health issues.
Five Top Tips for better wellbeing;
1. Do a company wide health needs assessment. It is important to set out a health and wellbeing strategy for the company that works and can be adapted for the type of workforce you employ.
2. Employee wellbeing will be more effective if supported from the top down. Senior management need to drive these initiatives and ensure healthy meals, snacks and hydration choices are on offer.
3. Employers can set up lunch and learn sessions which focus on practical steps to healthy eating. I.e. for fleet drivers having complex carbohydrates to keep a steady flow of blood glucose level for the brain enabling better concentration on the road as opposed to high calorie sugar snacks.
4. Employers can also encourage an increase of physical activity in the workforce by group walking sessions, pedometer challenges, discounted gym memberships and exercise taster classes. Research studies indicate that a reduction in 5-10 percent of your body weight reduces your risk of non-communicable diseases such as Heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Stroke, musco- skeletal disorders (such as Osteoarthritis) and certain types of cancer.
5. Support the change! Research studies show that by establishing policies and programmes, encouraging support from peers and ongoing environmental initiatives such as healthy food choices, information posters at the workplace may enable behaviour change over a period of time.