Making the first step towards a healthier worksite

When the average person spends more time at work then at home, what is the first step to making your workplace healthier?

Does your employer offer discounts to the local gym? Does your employer provide a lower health insurance premium if you participate in a nutrition education program? How about providing resources to stop smoking?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, your employer may have a worksite wellness program. This program may include education and activities to promote healthy lifestyles for employees and their families. Many employers are jumping on board to not only save in healthcare costs but also to improve the overall wellbeing of their employees. Benefits of worksite wellness programs include reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, a more attractive benefit package for new employee candidates and improved morale among employees.

The first step may be to determine if your employer offers any wellness programs currently. If not, you may want to bring attention to those in leadership positions the benefits of evaluating the current workplace environment. The Designing Healthy Environments at Work Assessment Tool can be used to access the current health of your workplace.

Once you have accessed the environment, further steps may include putting together worksite policies, communication/marketing to employees, determining the needs related to employee assistance programs, incentives and partnerships in the community.

Once the assessment and needs are determined, a plan can be compiled to improve the health of the worksite through examples such as:

  • Walking programs/challenges
  • Incentives for weight loss/smoking cessation
  • Healthy options served at meetings and within the workplace environment
  • Pediatrician friendly stairwells
  • Weight loss initiatives
  • Vending machines with healthy choices

Michigan State University Extension health and nutrition programming provides educational programs available to worksites that include online nutrition education, social emotional health education, disease prevention and management and food safety education. More information can be found at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/food_health.

Check back for additional articles focused on healthy meetings, healthy vending options, physical activity during the workday and more!

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