“Hey, that’s their problem. I have enough to worry about on my plate, without worrying what employees put on theirs,” say haggard employers. “I mean their diet - their exercise - their business. Right?” Well, legally, yes, but fiscally you could be slitting your own bottom line.
Reports from the Surgeon General show that two out of every three Americans are overweight or obese, and that one out of every eight deaths in America is caused by an illness directly related to overweight and obesity. The daily grind of stress and lack of activity, combined with eating high sugar and high fat foods can lead to diabetes, heart attacks, and other health related problems. Taking action now is the best way to head off problems down the road. You owe it to your staff and stockholders.
The first step for human resources professionals would be to survey and ask what employees think about the idea of having a Healthy Eating Management program. Ask if anyone has ideas of their own for implementing a program; make a list; set up a bulletin board for suggestions and partnering up to exercise during lunch or breaks. Make it possible to keep this as an ongoing program with continual employee access, in which questions can be answered along the way. Revisit the program twice a year and see if it is still working and what changes need to be made.
* Stress Busting. While some stress is good for motivation in our work and personal lives, workplace stress from increased deadlines, possibility of layoffs, and many other hardcore job realities can kill. The sedentary employee, planted at his desk all day, goaded by poor time management and eating habits is heading for a mental overload. Work still needs to be accomplished, but as most managers have learned, applying pressure from without seldom improves productivity. Instead, encouraging a series of short breaks and environmental changes help act as mini-refreshers, and allow the worker to attack the problem anew for another limited burst. Suggestions: - Introduce short bursts of activity into the day that are not necessarily work related. If the office has the room, mark a two-minute walking course in yellow that workers may take at their leisure. - Post a sheet of in-cubicle exercises, (as do many airlines.) - Designate one room as a “Stretch Room,” where employees may go and do just that occasionally. - The key here is to avoid regimentation. You do not want to demand workers rise on cue, sing, shout, jump, and do pushups.
*Food and Mood. The initial move is to develop a Healthy Eating Management program, urging a healthy lifestyle among employees at work and home. This brings people together and boosts morale. It also does wonders to lift mood, self-esteem, and energy. Conversely, obesity not only zaps energy, but it can affect our mental stability causing a chain reaction through illness, absenteeism, anger, and harassment; along with snap decision making, employee turnover, reduced efficiency, and even alcoholism. Also, links have been found in the connection between poor psychological health and an increase in disease and illness that are causing companies to spend millions on healthcare - and it is rising each year.
Implementing a Healthy Eating Management program will help open up the dialogue within the company. There might be someone in the office who has a hard time speaking up or is uncomfortable talking with others on their own when they feel there is a problem. Just scheduling a group survey and dialogue could jump start someone to better mental and physical health, and help lower company cost in healthcare in the future.
This aspect of a corporate Let’s Get Healthy program provides another benefit. Many employees can feel left out of the social chain when they sit in a cubicle or office all day. The program adds group unity and a good social environment so important for good morale in the workplace. Suggestions: - When you start your Healthy Eating Management program, make sure you include brochures to employees that encourage healthier exercise and diet choices. There is lots of free information printed out there which companies can use. Oh, and don’t forget the food pyramid. - Place a bowl of fresh fruit in the break room - Make sure vending machines are full of healthier choices for snacking. Sodas, cookies, and chips are the highest in fat and sugar, and many schools have removed them from their premises. Studies shows that students who were sluggish and not eating sufficient amounts of nutrients during the day had lower test scores and attention spans. - Cafeterias are a great place to start by adding nutrient information to the menus, and giving plenty of healthier versions of meals from which employees may choose. -Suggest restaurants that offer foods for a better diet by listing them on bulletin boards, and ask others to suggest some too.
* Break and Lunch Times. These should be spent nourishing our brains and bodies with power snacks, increasing activity by taking a walk, making better lunch choices, and not sitting in front of the computer the entire day. Insist employees take their breaks throughout the day, and not plop at their desk while eating. Creating better break room environments or sites around the building outside can help motivate them to leave their desks. Even encouraging company outings at lunch or after work once a week will increase their social activities. Suggestions: - Put up a dart board in the break room, below a clock so employees can keep an eye on their break time. - Start a walking program at lunch time, or a company team sport after work to help jump start more activity which leads to improving mental health and weight loss. - Implement an incentive for exercising on a regular basis, like gift certificates for local sports facilities or health food markets.
* Don’t Forget Family. Family is an important part of the employee’s life. Family is hurt in the long run if the employee is overworked and unsatisfied from a poor work week. Even though good eating habits should be formed in the home, many families today do not even eat meals together because there is not time for preparing healthy meals. They eat food on the go, making poorer choices for themselves and the family outside of work.
Letting employees work from home at least once a week would ease the stress and anxiety from work overload and deadlines. It offers the chance for more quality time to spend with family, friends, and their food choices would be simpler.
The benefits of initiating a Healthy Eating Management program are innumerable, ranging from improved mood and self-esteem to just plain less absenteeism and greater productivity. Yet whatever program the company adopts, management has got to mean it. If the program is launched out of a true concern for the company team - employees will sense it. If it is presented as management’s condescendingly throwing a perk or another mandate - this too will be quickly taken to heart. The choice is yours. Biz4
Elizabeth Stelling is chef/owner of CookAppeal, LLC in Princeton, She hails from Texas and has been running a catering company in New Jersey for the past three years. She works as a personal chef in homes and on the road as a restaurant consultant. Stelling enjoys writing about healthy eating, recipes, as well as food and wine education. Stelling has been in the food industry and working in the kitchen as chef and manager for over 30 years, and has owned three businesses along the way for the past 17 years. She believes in sharing her experience with organic cooking and healthy eating are as important as being a skilled person in the workplace.