Workplace wellness programs should include a holistic approach. Whether programs aim to inspire healthy living through fitness competitions or focus on medical goals with worksite acute care, the most common, and limited priority for many companies addressing wellness in the workplace is physical health. In fact, addressing physical health can be a great first step to reaching other factors that holistically affect well-being.

Many of the driving forces behind promoting health and wellness in the workplace are similar and include improving employee health, decreasing medical premiums, improving productivity, and reducing absenteeism. At Marathon Health, we believe that healthier people are happier people and in turn, they lead more productive lives inside and outside of the workplace

Physical Health is Just the Beginning

Physical health in the workplace is just the beginning of a journey to better health, and getting the first step right is essential to achieving population health outcomes. When an employee makes an appointment at an onsite health center for symptoms of illness or minor injury, the healthcare provider has the opportunity to treat the whole person, instead of just one momentary complaint. During diagnosis and treatment, the provider will discover underlying risk factors or chronic conditions, which can range from family history, established habits, social or behavioral issues, or much more.

A medical appointment that leads to a discussion of an individual’s health risks and goals can then result in a health improvement plan that the patient and provider jointly design. The clinician-coach supports a personalized, step-by-step plan through an ongoing relationship that leads to better health for the employee. These plans take into consideration all the factors that impact physical health by going beyond diet and exercise to address environmental and lifestyle influences on health.

Even if employers don’t offer onsite healthcare, they can still offer programs that address physical health in the context of holistic wellbeing. Physical activity challenges can be complemented with a stress-reducing activity, such as a “mindful Mondays” program. Better yet, integrating aspects of social, behavioral, and environmental health into physical health programs shows an elevated understanding of how the interconnectedness of wellbeing, and will certainly lead to the most diverse and long-lasting outcomes for employee health.

There are many ways to address physical health in the workplace but a focus on wellness will pay off substantially more if improved physical health leads to improved social, behavioral, and environmental health. A focus on physical health can be a gateway to addressing other aspects of well-being, all of which affects productivity and morale in the workplace.

Staying Healthy in the Office is Important

Since employees spend about half of their waking hours in the workplace, investing in the health of your employees makes sense. Whether or not you provide a wellness program to your workforce, creating a culture of wellness where healthy choices are the easiest ones is something that you can adopt today. Here are a few suggestions to make healthy choices more available in the workplace as you explore the wellness offerings that suit your population best.

Bringing Opportunities for Health Onsite

People are busy and as a result our culture caters to convenience. With this in mind, one way to encourage employees to make healthy choices at work is to bring healthy choices to the workplace. A few examples of this are onsite flu immunizations, biometric screenings, and group presentations by subject matter experts. While there is an expense associated with coordinating these events, affording employees the convenient opportunity to take action and learn more about their health status at work can yield savings in the long run.

Fueling for Success

A powerful way to help your employees stay sharp and avoid the after lunch dip in energy is to offer healthy food, snacks, and catering options. This doesn’t mean becoming the food police, but it does mean that the employer leads by example by providing healthy food options during the workday. While you may not complete a total overhaul of your food inventory, a few ways to add the opportunity to choose healthy foods includes subsidizing healthier foods, healthy vending machines, nutritious food at meetings, and offering participation in produce co-ops. Promoting a healthy diet in the workplace is one way to support healthy eating habits that aim to prevent and manage chronic health conditions.

More Moving, Less Sitting

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise has been identified by leading health experts as a healthy habit to adopt because of its power in prevention and management of chronic conditions. Encouraging employees to move during the workday can be a beneficial way to foster camaraderie and boost energy levels during the workday. Walking groups, push up programs, group exercise classes, step challenges, and recreational sports teams are a few ways to encourage employees to reach the 150 minutes of weekly physical activity recommended by the American Heart Association.

Scheduling Health Topic Awareness

Adopt a national health observances calendar (such as the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services calendar click here) to highlight relevant health topics throughout the year. You will find great resources to share with employees each month including resources and tips to help employees stay healthy during the year.

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