Insurance · 14 April 2016

Rid your business of unhealthy habits

view into open desk drawer containing donut
The productivity of over half of UK workers is affected by an unbalanced diet

Rid your workplace of unhealthy habits with some simple tips to encourage employees to eat well and exercise more.

According to survey results from Britain’s Healthiest Company, 36 per cent of UK workers UK aren’t getting enough exercise, while more than half aren’t eating a balanced diet. Bad eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle can seriously impact the health of your employees, which in turn leads to higher levels of absenteeism and decreased productivity. As an employer, there are a few simple steps you can take to banish unhealthy habits from the workplace.

Drink more water

Our bodies are two-thirds water and being even one per cent dehydrated can affect cognitive and physical performance. Adults should be drinking at least one litre of water a day, so it’s important to ensure your workplace has easily accessible drinking water. Encourage employees to use tall glasses rather than small plastic ones and have tap or bottled water available at meetings as well.

Swapping bad habits for good

While you can’t enforce an employee’s behaviour, you can remove temptation in the workplace. According to research by Bupa, more than 85 per cent of employees believe they would be more productive at work if they were able to stick to positive lifestyle changes.

Instead of serving pastries and cakes in meetings, offer staff fruit and nuts or carrot and celery sticks. And consider swapping the vending machine for a free weekly fruit basket.

Make breaks compulsory 

Make it clear that all employees should leave their desk or workspace at lunchtime. To ensure everyone gets a break and to integrate it into the working day, draw up a weekly schedule to stagger lunch breaks in hourly blocks.

Consult others

Bupa’s study of 2,000 UK employees found half are trying to make long-term changes to their lifestyle, so it’s important you support them to achieve their health and wellbeing goals.
Involve your employees in decisions regarding healthy habits – ask them where they think they could improve and work together to promote initiatives such as a quit smoking scheme.

People’s attitudes to health promotion programmes vary, so mix things up with group meetings, one-to-one sessions, posters and web-based campaigns, questionnaires and sponsored charity events.

Look out for signs of stress

Keep an eye out for signs of stress and other mental health issues. If you do notice a change in employees’ behaviour – for example, if they’re not taking their lunch break, are working late or are snappy or uncommunicative – you may need to raise your concerns with the individual and perhaps suggest they see their GP.

The workplace can be a breeding ground for bad habits. A poor diet and lack of exercise can impact your employees’ health as well as their work, but promoting smart lifestyle choices through wellbeing programmes will encourage healthy, more motivated staff.

The average employee in Britain misses 8.5 days of work a year due to poor sleep, which can now be considered a growing health issue. What has been the impact on micro firms and what can you do to address the problem of poor sleep amongst staff?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

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