In our current economic climate, it is vital that employees are as efficient and focused as possible.
While motivators such as salary, benefits, and retirement plans are essential to retaining long-term employees, health is often overlooked as the key to a successful, lasting team. Health-related diseases, such as heart disease, forms of cancer, and diabetes, are still among the leading causes of death in the United States.
However, more organizations are encouraging employees to pursue a healthy lifestyle, complete with exercise and a sensible diet. Employers who encourage a healthy workforce can benefit substantially through increased efficiency, fewer employee absences due to illness, and, possibly, lower health insurance premiums as an organization. Personal health has the potential to create more content and effective employees.
Fighting the Daily Doldrums
Many employers have recognized this connection between personal health and its benefits for business.
Some organizations have in-house exercise facilities or offer membership discounts to local health clubs. Other businesses offer low-calorie, organic dining options in the cafeteria. While these are great options to have as an employer, several simple alternatives exist that will encourage healthy practices among employees.
Walking is one of the simplest exercises to maintain productivity and health. Prolonged sitting reduces the body's metabolism and increases the risk of obesity. The once-desired employee who is strapped to the desk or computer is no longer an asset. Workers who remain at their desk quickly fatigue. Concentration deteriorates quickly; and when concentration dissipates, efficiency quickly decreases.
By simply taking a brief exercise or walking break, employees can "restart" their brains and actually accomplish more within shorter amounts of time. It is a win for employees' health and for an organization's production goals.
Restructuring the Company Meeting
Too often, the daily or weekly meetings that occur in an organization are wasted opportunities.
Most company meetings are simply too long and do not tap into strategies that could truly motivate and encourage employee participation and feedback. The end result is a meeting that ends with glazed-over eyes, empty notepads, and bored employees. A forum that was meant to inspire and inform has done the opposite.
Meetings should not last for more than an hour. The average adult attention span lies somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes. While breaking up activities into smaller sections of group work or presentations does help to mentally focus employees, the fact remains that the setting remains constant, and little exercise happens during meetings.
Some executives recommend power walks as an alternative. Several people can discuss an issue or brainstorm solutions while also getting fresh air and exercising. If this power walk could be extended into an organization's exercise facility so that employees can participate in strength training and aerobic activities, then personal health and cooperative teamwork both benefit.
Presenting Fitness as Fun and Practical
One of the best ways to encourage employees to make a healthy lifestyle a priority is to incorporate these behaviors into the organization's health insurance plan.
Healthier employees miss fewer work days due to personal illness, and are more productive during their work day, so why not reward those employees with reduced health premiums? In other words, healthy employees benefit in a physical and economic sense by their hard work in the office and at the gym.
Another effective incentive is to create teams that compete to lose weight in a fun contest similar to The Biggest Loser.
While employees enjoy the competition and connection to pop culture, they also work toward actively introducing a healthy diet and exercise to their lives. Any activity that encourages bonding through exercise, such as team running or walking on a regular basis, improves health and enhances interpersonal communication within the workplace.
Team sports are another good way to bond.
Softball, basketball, soccer, or flag football can also increase motivation and build an esprit décor within an organization. Team sports encourage all employees to share their work and acknowledgement. Great teams, whether on the field, the court, or in the office, are built on trust, reliability, and respect.
Encouraging the Healthy, Happy Employee
By taking strategic steps toward prioritizing health in an organization, measurable increases in productivity, motivation, and employee satisfaction can occur. By understanding the need for regular daily exercise and incorporating that into a standard work day, employers have the chance to benefit from higher efficiency, fewer work hours lost to illness, and lower insurance costs to their organizations. In addition, each employee is empowered to invest in his or her personal health.
Success and effective teamwork can exist on the field, in the boardroom, and in the personal lives of healthy employees when the importance of personal health is recognized in the workplace.
Photo credit: wellcommons.com
Frederick Southwick, M.D., is a professor of Medicine at the University of Florida and manages New Quality and Safety Initiatives for the University of Florida and Shands Health Care System. He also is the author of Critically Ill: A 5 Point Plan to Cure Healthcare Delivery.