While interest in workplace wellness has recently peaked, the practice was documented as far back as 1879. Occupational health and safety blazed the trail, with progression into substance abuse awareness and tobacco cessation support. Holistic health support for physical, behavioral, and emotional well-being have been a natural evolution for the average employer wellness plan.
As companies continue to support work-life balance for their employees, it is essential to address some universal issues to provide viable solutions for future healthy lifestyle efforts.
Stress has become a leading factor in the decline of our physical and mental health. It is estimated that seventy percent of workplace accidents are stress-related, and forty-two percent of employees change jobs because of stress.
Physical signs of stress include fatigue, sleep disruption, muscle tension, headache, and gastrointestinal problems. Mental health signs include irritability, anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and reduced cognitive thinking. Signs of behavioral health stress include procrastination, negativity, and substance abuse.
There are some simple things which can instantly make your employees feel better.
- Provide space and time for worthwhile breaks, preferably outside
- Encourage and assist your employees in addressing their screen/smart device time
- Start a paperless workplace campaign to address clutter (which can cause stress and anxiety)
- Provide resources and access to self-care
- Incorporate an EAP to address behavioral health concerns
Recent studies have revealed isolation and loneliness are at epidemic levels. You may never hear an employee reveal they are lonely, so consider adding opportunities for co-workers to connect. Walking meetings, volunteer events, and team-building exercises are all easily implemented practices which increase social connections and reduce feelings of isolation.
Check out these stress relief techniques.
We now know the detrimental health effects of prolonged periods of sitting or overall inactivity. While sitting down all day may seem harmless, there are a variety of negative health issues associated with Sitting Disease. Negative effects such as an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers (breast and colon) are all found to be associated with Sitting Disease.
Encourage employees to stand up and stretch every fifteen minutes. Set walking meeting. Provide standing desks and promote a company campaign around getting up and moving. Consider using incentives to increase the success of your program and get creative about the types of wellness initiatives you are offering.
Have you heard of N.E.A.T.? Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis includes the calories expended outside of exercise, eating and sleeping. Simple tasks such as climbing stairs, chores, and even fidgeting help expend additional calories. N.E.A.T. has been proven to increase metabolic rate and encourages deeper breathing for better cognitive health.
Consistency is key for long-term behavior change. The best way to ensure a successful company wellness initiatives is to have a plan, and promote it. Using the SMART formula, encourage employees to keep a reasonable, not rushed pace to achieve their wellness goals. The SMART goal format also works if you’re in the beginning stages of workplace wellness planning. Keep in mind physical, emotional, and behavioral goals when planning.
Specific; walk 10 minutes during your break
Measure progress; use of a food/mood journal
Achievable; physically able, or mentally ready?
Realistic; focus on what is possible
Time Commitment; set manageable deadlines
Getting started on your wellness initiatives can be as easy as encouraging employees to implement these proactive stress-busting practices a few minutes throughout their day.
- Body-scan/self-massage – awareness of where the body carries stress
- Mindful eating (clean and real food) – use all of your senses to slowly enjoy your meal
- Practice gratitude – be thankful for the beauty of simple things
- Stay connected – share space with like-minded people
- Guided imagery – slow purposeful visualization
- Manage your inner dialogue – keeping intentions and self-talk positive