Employee health is an important matter, not just to the employees themselves, but also to the companies that hire them. Studies show that a healthy workforce will have greater employee morale, less medical expenses, and increased productivity. Nutrition is the first step in achieving good health, and therefore an ideal initiative to incorporate into a wellness program. The most effective nutrition initiatives will promote, inform, and create better nutritional practices in the workplace.
Nutrition is not only important for overall health, but it also reduces the risk of chronic diseases associated with obesity, including diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. The American Journal of Health Promotion estimates that obesity will cost a corporation over $12.5 billion in health care, sick time, and life and disability insurance. It’s reported that about 40% of American employees are currently overweight and at risk for obesity.
When companies take the lead in improving their employees’ health, they not only retain happier, more loyal employees, but lower medical costs, increased productivity, and increased profitability, as well.
Nutrition initiatives are shown to have a high success rate in the workplace. The average worker will spend between 30 to 50% of his or her waking hours at work. If an employee practices good nutrition at work, the likelihood that he or she will continue healthy habits elsewhere is much greater. Coworker support can motivate employees significantly when trying to change unhealthy habits. Nutrition initiatives may also benefit employees in lower socio-economic groups that may not have the resources readily available.
The most effective way of implementing your nutrition initiatives is to promote them throughout the company. Employers can do this through media – email, posters and flyers, campaigns, and newsletters. The key is to spread the message frequently and effectively. The more employees are exposed to your message, the greater the likelihood they’ll participate.
Emails and posters are great reminder tools, but sometimes newsletters can go beyond to deliver the message in both an entertaining and informative way. Newsletters also offer the ability to spotlight individuals who are health champions. He or she can be a great example to motivate the rest of the group.
Get further in your initiative by providing your employees with important nutrition information so they can choose a healthy path. Every employee is unique, and so is their level of understanding and exposure to nutrition. A good rule of thumb is starting with the basics. Provide them with up to date information on nutrition and how to achieve it.
The Internet is a great source of nutrition information. Research reliable sites and provide your employees with informational nutrition handouts and pamphlets. Visit local hospitals and clinics websites. Many of them have a wealth of free information on important nutrition facts and topics that you can pass along to your employees.
An employer that truly wants to encourage better nutrition for its employees will practice what it preaches. Create an environment that values nutrition by taking some active steps to provide better food options for your employees. Some great examples include:
- Providing healthy food and water during meetings
- Sponsoring healthy potlucks and breakfasts at the office
- Providing decaffeinated coffee and herbal tea in your back rooms
- Replacing unhealthy snacks in vending machines with healthier choices
Include fun nutritional activities as part of your wellness program’s events. Be creative and encourage group participation. Some examples include:
- Sponsoring a nutritional cookbook with employee recipes
- Sponsoring a healthy food “bake off”
- Providing healthy cooking classes
- Sponsoring an exotic fruit/vegetable identifying contest
- Providing one-on-one nutritional coaching
The bottom line
Incorporating nutrition initiatives in a wellness program is a great way to encourage your employees to live healthier lives. All employers should promote, inform, and create activities to successfully encourage and communicate their message of nutrition. When done correctly, the employer will not only have a healthier staff, but it will promote greater employee morale, decreased medical expenses, increased productivity, and company profitability.