Maintaining Physical Health and Wellness in the Workplace | EAPA-SA

Healthy employees perform their roles more efficiently, miss fewer days of work, and this plays a positive role in boosting productivity and profitability.

Organisational health and wellness interventions may include:

Healthy Eating
Good nutrition can help to reduce the prevalence of many common diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis. Adults typically spend 50 – 60% of their waking hours in a work environment, and may eat one or more meals and snacks at work.
The workplace provides an opportunity to influence better eating habits by increasing the accessibility of healthy foods in work canteens, and also by increasing awareness of healthy eating and its role in maintaining good health.

Physical Activity
Employers can promote increased levels of activity in a number of ways. It is recommended that employers develop an organisational-wide plan or policy to encourage and support employees in being more physically active.
These include:-
• Encouraging employees to walk, cycle or jog part of or all of their commute into work.
• Allowing staff to work flexible hours that can accommodate physical activity
• Joining a corporate membership scheme with a gym and promoting this with staff
• Encouraging participation in local events such as sponsored walks and fun runs
• Arranging a team gathering or corporate away day that involves some form of physical activity
• Encouraging the use of stairs by painting and installing adequate lighting in the stairwells
• Arranging an ongoing corporate challenge that involves physical activity, with prizes or incentives
• Providing staff with information on the benefits of physical activity and finding out what types of physical activities they would be interested in participating in.

Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for good health. Employers can help staff to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight by encouraging physical activity and healthy eating in the workplace. The knock on effect is that this can improve the health of employees, reduce medical absences and increase productivity.

In addition to offering a poor selection of healthy food in their workplace canteens, as well as limiting the on-site sale of high-fat, high-sugar foods, in-house weight loss support groups and programmes can also be really useful for employees who do not have the time or money to attend a membership fee-based programme.

Employers should be mindful of workplace discrimination relating to obesity. Being overweight can be caused by, or bring on depression, social isolation and stress, so discrimination in the workplace against affected employees will only make the problem worse.

Smoking / tobacco awareness
Studies reveal that tobacco use remains a major cause of ill-health and premature death in South Africa, causing skills and productivity losses among the workforce. According to the National Council Against Smoking there are 5 steps to assuring a successful smoking control policy. These are suggestions of what might happen in very large companies. In smaller companies the process may be simpler and quicker:

  • Cooperation begins with a management review in which a presentation is made defining the issue and the decision for which management is responsible. The management team then selects a program coordinator, a policy development team, and the work for which the team will be responsible. In small companies this is a tighter process.
  • The first task of the policy development team is to complete a situation analysis, or internal information gathering process. This includes surveys and/or reviews of employees, labour relations and contacts, facilities, extent of personnel policies, and so on.
  • Once the relevant facts are gathered, strategic planning begins, resulting in a written policy. The planning should include consideration of such important factors as policy enforcement, cessation assistance, smoking breaks, and in-house communications.
  • The fourth step of the process is actual implementation… announce the policy, maximize employee communications, holds special events, put cessation programs in place, make any physical changes to the work site that may be necessary, and begin monitoring the policy.
  • The final stage, evaluation, allows the company to measure the result of the policy and its implementation. The benefits of reduced absenteeism and increased productivity can also be measured.



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