Workplaces are dangerous environments. Bowls of chips, fridges full of sugar-laden caffeinated sodas, cafeterias with hardly a vegetable in sight, drawers full of candy, and high-stress environments all fuel our ill health. E-mail and BlackBerries tether us mentally and physically to work 24/7. One large company human resources director told me they were planning on blocking employees’ access to e-mail when they went on vacation. When Starbucks spends more on health care than on coffee beans and General Motors spends more on health care than on steel, something has to change. Corporations have the most to gain by investing in creating healthier environments, building wellness programs, and allowing for default choices that support health.
Here’s what you can do
- Identify and train wellness champions in the workplace. These individuals can lead support groups for employees to get healthy together by following The Blood Sugar Solution online course
- Improve workplace food culture by improving snack areas and cafeteria offerings. Support workplace lunch potlucks to share the burden and cost of creating healthy lunches and strengthen community within organizations.
- Develop incentives (including financial) for employees to participate in wellness programs. Safeway’s Steve Burd implemented financial incentives for healthy lifestyle change for his employees called Healthy Measures. If this type of program was implemented nationally, it would shave $550 billion a year off our health care bill.
- Support the development of work-based self-care and group support programs. Companies are starting to understand that solving the problem of poor health is not a cost or liability but an investment opportunity. Presenteeism, being at the job but not on the job, costs companies two to three times its direct medical costs, mostly from lost productivity owing to obesity and depression-related symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and low motivation. Globally, companies lose $2 trillion a year in productivity from lifestyle-preventable conditions. Workplace wellness efforts can yield 1,000–2,000 percent returns on Investment. The World Economic Forum created a Wellness App to show companies how much they can save by creating wellness programs (http://wellness.weforum.org).