With April 7 as World Health Day, I thought it apt to address the topic and pay forward some of the knowledge I’ve accrued by reading various nutritional journals and books over the past few years. Chiefly, there is now undeniable evidence linking one’s eating habits and fitness routine with one’s intelligence and drive for success. While there still is a genetic component at work — that is, some people may be naturally more adept in some areas — and some more motivated to work than others, the bottom line is that the healthier you are, the more of your potential you will realize.
That is a concept everyone can get behind — hard work and devotion to a set goal will almost always trump innate talent. So, if you dedicate yourself to living a healthier lifestyle with more omega-3 fats, a bountiful portion of green vegetables at every meal and less refined sugar, you will see a difference, both in your waistline and in your aptitude.
In this modern era we live in, where health is so much the focus of our everyday lives, it makes fiscal sense for organizations to improve the wellness of their employees so that the company can actualize the most of their potential. After all, a healthy team means faster learners, fewer sick days and more efficiency across the board. As a bonus, a culture of wellness rubs off on guests, too.
I am not suggesting a draconian mandate be installed in this regard, but rather simple and subtle nudges to promote a healthier corporate culture. Here are five for you to consider:
1. Lead by example.
Actions speak louder than words. Don’t talk about making a change — just do it! If you actually initiate a change in your diet or your fitness routine without trying to force it on others, people will come to admire you for your perseverance (especially when they see the results for themselves) and will want to follow your lead.
2. Reduce unhealthy temptations.
It’s all too easy to indulge when such options are readily available. Whether it’s the treats that a colleague has graciously brought into the staff kitchen or the dessert items at the end of the cafeteria lineup, unhealthy temptations are everywhere, so much so that abstinence can become overwhelming. A good adage to remember here is: out of sight, out of mind. For example, did you know that you are much more likely to eat the foods at the front of a kitchen cabinet than at the back? Therefore, simply moving the junk to the back of the cabinet will reduce its consumption. Moreover, if someone brings in candies or other insulin-spiking foods, don’t leave them out on the counter. Employers can have even more profound influences here by way of their food purchases — fewer processed foods, more fruits and vegetables, going organic and so on. Your property’s employee cafeteria is a good place to start.
3. Offer piecemeal education.
Giving someone a 400-page book on nutrition can be daunting, especially for the uninitiated. Hence, a brief article or tip passed around every day can be a more effective reinforcement tool. You don’t even need to come up with these on your own; there are dozens of resources already available on the web.
4. Provide standing desks.
Some suggest that sitting is the new smoking. It’s an unnatural body position that can reduce flexibility, increase chances of heart disease and lead to severe back pain. Standing desks eliminate many of these problems. Additionally, many reports suggest standing can burn more than 50% more calories per hour than sitting. Compound that over a year’s time, and then see what happens!
5. Make public declarations.
We all avoid public embarrassment, and we all hate it when we fail a group or team. Hence, if you openly declare to your friends or colleagues that you are embarking on a dietary quest, they will hold you accountable should you lapse. In this sense, your desire for improved health is no longer a private concern but a communal one with each and every person you’ve told acting as a control mechanism to keep you on the right path. This can play out in many different forms in the office environment, from a progress board (physical or digital) to monthly meetings and roundtable discussions. Caution here: be mindful of employee rights and any actions that discriminate against non-participants. Remember, you can set an example, but ultimately, we are employers and have to respect all employees’ rights.
Now it’s your turn. I look forward to reading your tips and suggestions in the comments below.