The heightened desire most people have to get fit and healthy at the start of each New Year provides the perfect opportunity to successfully launch new physical wellbeing initiatives…
Not only does the UK continue to have the highest obesity rates in Europe, but one in four Britons is now so overweight their health is threatened. Add to this a stark warning from the British Liver Trust that weight-related liver disease is set to overtake alcohol as the biggest cause of cirrhosis, and improving the physical health of employees has now become a top concern for many Occupational Health professionals.
At the same time, each and every New Year, millions of people join the gym hoping to shift those extra pounds and get fit. But come February or March, almost as many find themselves resenting that monthly direct debit, as they realise gym membership in itself isn’t enough to motivate them to make positive, lasting changes to their lifestyle. So this year, employers have an excellent opportunity to make a difference and tap into the New Year desire most of us have to get fit and healthy, by actually helping employees to make this a reality.
Fit for purpose
The good news for bosses is that far from viewing their employer’s efforts to help them improve their physical wellbeing as an unwelcome intrusion, most employees welcome the investment in their health, perceiving the value as far greater than the actual cost of the initiative – so long as the approach is right.
A benefits-led approach, presenting the initiative as more than simply a way for employers to increase productivity, is critical to success. Up-front education, in the form of roadshows, free seminars or online health assessments, will enable employees to see firsthand the benefits that they can personally expect as a result of making healthy changes to their diet and lifestyle.
Make it a social thing
If done correctly, most employees will see the opportunity to improve their health through work as an extremely valuable perk. Furthermore, for employers who also create a greater sense of community, by bringing colleagues together to take part in fun practical events, such as walk-to-work competitions or team sports, the increased sense of belonging can have a highly positive effect on the emotional wellbeing of employees. Other bonuses might include improving the reputation of the organisation as a great place to work and the creation of a much more happy and industrious workforce
By providing employees with the opportunity to take part in diet clubs and other team sporting and wellbeing initiatives, you can also generate lasting changes by tapping into the positive peer pressure that results when people are brought together and encouraged to take part in friendly competition. Any kind of team-based activities, be they five-aside-football, netball, a sponsored charity run, walk-to-work challenge, quit smoking club, company-wide “Olympics”, games of social cricket or rounders in the park, will be much more likely to have a positive impact.
Keep the momentum going
To keep the momentum going, it’s important to plan a calendar of events and promote these well in advance, so that people know what’s happening. If you’re a customer, don’t forget vClub, Validium’s online portal, is packed with ideas and articles that you can quickly rebrand as your own company initiative. Plus each month, your dedicated Validium account manager can help you to produce ideas and promotions that link into any existing health themes you might already be working on.
Most importantly, don’t forget to enlist the support of employees in ensuring any events are widely publicised and attended at grass-root level. Buy-in from senior management is crucial, especially if you plan to give people time off during working hours to engage in wellbeing initiatives. The vast majority of employees simply won’t feel comfortable doing anything, no matter how much it benefits them personally, if they feel their boss will frown upon it.
If you really want to send the message that wellbeing matters, make sure managers and even the managing director or CEO is seen to be participating as well! That also goes for lunch. Employees who routinely work through lunch are more likely to find themselves feeling flat and depressed. Numerous scientific studies show that the better our nutrition, the happier, more energised and alert we are. So, if it isn’t already an established ritual within your organisation, ensure everyone has a daily lunch break of at least 30 minutes, and invest in some nutrition advice, or one of our eating-for-energy workshops, to send the clear message that you expect people to look after themselves.
Find out how Validium helped one company to significantly reduce its absence bill by focusing on the physical wellbeing of employees. Click here to view the case study.
It’s not too late to do something this year – call us on 01494 685200 to find out more