Farmington, CT (March 27, 2018) –When it comes to supporting the health and wellbeing of your employees, you’re a leader. You have an incentivized wellness program built on behavioral science. You provide employees with personal health coaches, disease management programs, and smoking cessation tools. You have a top-notch employee assistance program (EAP) to build resilience and respond in times of crisis. But when an employee closes the browser on the wellness program or hangs up with their health coach, what does the rest of their day look like? Too often these programs that build and support healthy habits aren’t reflected in the workplace itself. Imagine getting off the phone with your health coach, feeling confident in your plan to improve your eating habits, only to immediately get an email that there’s cake in the kitchen. What can you do? Our Applied Behavioral Science team has a few ideas.
First, the solution isn’t to ban baked goods – there’s always room for treats in a healthy lifestyle. But how can a company both welcome cake and promote wellness? It’s all about company culture and rituals. For instance, you could create an expectation where people who bring treats into the office don’t leave them in the break room for anyone to grab first-come-first serve all day long. Instead, the tradition could be that all treats are brought to a common area where they will be available for a limited time (e.g., from 2-3pm) before clean up. During this time, build your company culture by inviting employees to socialize, take a quick break, and have a piece of cake as a group. This could accomplish two things: 1) people may be less likely to bring in treats since it requires more than just dropping something on the counter and 2) those who do partake will get healthy socialization with coworkers, possibly eat a smaller piece as they chat, and maybe even get in some standing!
Consider Taking the Stairs!
Taking the stairs instead of the elevator can be beneficial in several ways. Try integrating this into your workplace culture.
Shifts in company culture can take time to implement, but small environmental nudges could also help employees make healthier choices throughout their day. If your building has several floors, consider how you could help make the stairs the ‘default’ option for employees. Many offices were built to favor the elevator, with dark, dingy staircases tucked out of the way. Make these spaces more inviting by applying a fresh coat of paint, hanging art or signs, or installing softer lighting. You could also place visual cues by the elevator, like floor stickers that guide people to the staircase or encourage them to walk up the first two flights before taking the elevator the rest of the way.
Vending machines or the office café is another great place to promote healthier choices. Make sure the majority of items are healthier alternatives and have them arranged at eye level, with candy bars displayed at the bottom. Better yet, make a small investment to have easy-to-grab fruit attractively arranged by the vending machine as a free alternative. Small changes can also help employees break up their sedentary routine throughout their day. Consider replacing casual meeting spaces of couches and coffee tables with counter-height tables for standing meetings. Or organize a walking group where employees are encouraged to take a 20-30 minute walk, in addition to their lunch break.
Don’t try to impact your entire organization in one swoop – start small with one team.
Beware of the temptation to set rules such as “no treats allowed” or “everyone must stand up and walk once an hour.” It’s human nature to have a negative response to being told what we can and cannot do – and health and fitness is a very personal topic. Instead, ask your employees for their ideas about ways to shift the wellness culture. Don’t try to impact your entire organization in one swoop – start small with one team and let changes spread organically as other teams get word and excitement builds. When other people start to follow suit all on their own, that’s when you’ve created a true cultural shift. What works for one company culture won’t work for all, but there are many ways you can support the investment you’ve made in employee wellness by extending that culture of health throughout the work environment.
Lauren Plowman — Digital Marketing Specialist, Envolve PeopleCare
Lauren started her marketing career in the health industry and never looked back. At Envolve PeopleCare, she serves as the marketing team’s digital specialist and recently completed her Masters in Public Health, focusing on the application of traditional marketing tactics to health behavior change.
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