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Apr 2014

7 ways to create a healthier workplace

Are you doing everything you can?

7 ways to create a healthier workplace

Creating a healthier workplace takes more than just handing out pedometers and hoping people will use them. It’s about creating a culture of wellness that is a core part of your organization’s identity.

Here are seven things human resources can do to create a healthier workplace.

Encourage movement

When employees take breaks, encourage them to do more than just stretch or chit-chat by the coffee machine, says Josh Stevens, CEO of Keas, which provides a health and engagement platform. “Foster healthy breaks by encouraging them to take 10 minutes away from their desks and take a quick walk. The fresh air and endorphins from exercise will help them feel better, less stressed and more focused.” Consider holding “walking meetings” as well, to energize people as they brainstorm.

Share recipes

Tap into employees’ interest in cooking and baking by having them share healthy recipes each week, Stevens says. “Encourage more collaboration by having a different employee post healthy lunch recipes in the office kitchen on a weekly or monthly basis.” For potlucks, ask employees to bring healthy, home-cooked dishes instead of bags of chips.

Tidy up

Stevens says messy employee workspaces can cause undue stress. “Encourage employees to take a few minutes to toss old papers and organize your desktop so you have a clean, clutter-free space,” he says.

Ditch the junk food

Eliminate junk foods and soda, and instead offer healthier snacks and water in the break room, says Johnette van Eeden, CEO of Star Wellness USA, which provides onsite wellness screening services. This includes ditching company-sponsored doughnut breakfasts and pizza lunches.

Get people walking

Van Eeden also recommends installing treadmill workstations for employees who are interested in using them. Treadmill workstations make it possible to walk while you’re working. This may also necessitate a change in some dress codes for people who want to use treadmill workstations.

Give employees a break

Some companies can be stingy with vacations, and managers who are resentful when employees want to take time off are sending the wrong message. People need time away from work to recharge. Deborah Teplow, CEO and co-founder of the Institute for Wellness Education, recommends employers see vacations “something that everyone is encouraged to take instead of only rewarding people for working long hours.”

Let employees run a wellness program

Amanda McQueen works in the marketing department at SWC Technology Partners and is an active member of the company’s wellness team, a group of employees that brands and runs the company’s wellness program.

“Together they pick initiatives that are important and meaningful to them which translates into greater company-wide participation,” she says. “The activities they choose are usually team based or educate staff on various wellness topics, such as stress reduction techniques, healthy food bake-off challenges, tips on achieving goals, and so on.”

The team has put together events such as  healthy “breakfast bars” that offer smoothies, yogurt and oatmeal; offering custom water bottles to measure healthy water intake; team fitness challenges and charity races, and intramural sports teams.

“The program is a success because it’s unique and a lot of fun,” McQueen says.

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