Wellbeing

How small business owners can support their employees’ health and wellbeing

Kate Save /

Kate Save

Be Fit Food chief executive officer and co-founder Kate Save. Source: Supplied.

Just as employers play a critical role in setting performance targets and goals for employees, employers also have the power to build a healthier workforce where staff are not just productive, but happier as well.

Studies show 40.3% and 20.2% of employees are overweight or obese respectively, which costs the economy $637 million a year. And if you think that simply means a cost to the healthcare system, you’d be surprised to learn it also includes costs to productivity, as businesses are adversely affected by increased rates of absenteeism amongst workers with obesity

Additionally, a recent nationwide survey found almost 90% of Australian workers feel companies have a responsibility to look after their health and wellbeing.

While businesses are becoming more aware of just how much the workplace affects employees’ physical health, sometimes business owners can get overwhelmed about exactly where to start. So here are some simple ways employers can support their employees’ health.

Move as a team

Many Australian live a sedentary lifestyle, with ABS data showing 56% of adults are not sufficiently physically active. And this is something we should be working together to change because the more we move, the healthier we are, and the more productive we become.

As a team, commit to walking meetings, or foster a culture where it’s acceptable to hit the gym together during lunch breaks. Businesses can even go a step further by offering on-site support in the form of a health coach or a group personal training class.

There’s a reason people like to work out and do diets together: it’s inspiring to have others by your side sharing the same journey. When those around you are also practising good health habits, it makes it easier for you to stick to your guns and follow through.

Overhaul the approach to food

As food plays a vital role in our overall physical health, it’s not surprising the nutritional choices we make throughout the day will affect your emotional state, your cognitive ability, and ultimately your performance at work.

Companies can encourage employees to consume more of the right foods by providing them in the communal kitchen. Instead of having sugary and salty snacks within arms-reach, businesses can remove unhealthy vending machines, and replace junk food with fresh fruit and healthy snack options such as protein balls. Go a step further by offering access to consultations with dieticians to educate your workforce about their options for healthy eating.

Encourage employees to see the sun

Most people are familiar with the obvious benefits of exercise — regular physical activity can increase energy levels, protect mental health, improve focus and productivity and keep us healthy. However, with our ever-growing to-do list, many of us find it tricky to take a few minutes for lunch let alone hit the gym.

Employers should encourage their staff to use their lunch break to their advantage by getting out of the office for physical exercise. Even if you don’t have time to do a workout at the gym, even a walk around the block can make you feel more alert and contribute to achieving your health goals.  

Provide access to subsidised health programs

Health programs such as gym memberships and meal delivery diet programs can be expensive for the everyday person. For organisations that can afford it, offering staff subsidised access to these programs could be the thing that pulls them across the line toward their goals.  

Such programs promote health and wellness, act as a preventative medicine against long-term disease, are cost-effective for businesses and can even be tax efficient.

Offer flexible working hours

One of the main hindrances for people when trying to improve their health is a lack of time. Time is a valuable resource and with people working long hours, it’s difficult to find the time to cook and enjoy healthy meals every night, and exercise regularly.

It’s for this reason that where possible, businesses should look into offering flexible working hours that allow staff enough time in their day to prioritise their health. Whether that be earlier finish times, or perhaps allowing staff to work from home one day a week.

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Kate Save

Kate is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Be Fit Food.

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