Taking Action to a Healthier Workplace: What can you do today in your organisation?

Vivian Fong · 20 Oct 2022

Taking Action to a Healthier Workplace: What can you do today in your organisation?

To support employers to better understand the ranges of possible holistic wellbeing interventions available, PWC has developed a framework of categories for workplace health interventions. The selected interventions depend on each workplace’s population, budget and resources and the choice of interventions should be implemented based on the workplace environment and how it can better thrive. Categories are divided into Physical Activity, Health Screening, Work-Life Balance, Workplace Infrastructure, Tobacco Control, Chronic Disease Management and Nutrition.

To read the full study, visit https://www.pwc.com/sg/en/publications/assets/healthcare-future-workplace-2018.pdf

Physical Activity

1) Subsidised gym memberships and sports activities

Employees with on-site fitness programs were between 4-5% more productive than those without)

2) 10,000 steps reward programs

Everyone loves a good challenge, and using a step rewards program can be a great way to get the workplace involved. To calculate steps, there are many wearables, phone apps or the use of a pedometer. In a study, the use of a pedometer was associated with significant increases in physical activity and a significant decrease in BMI and blood pressure. It was also shown to result in a modest amount of weight loss. Of course, tracking steps should only be taken lightly and used as a guide. There is no number that will gauge how “fit” one is.

3) Standing desks and readmill disks

To aveliate the constant sitting in the workplace, standing desks are a great way to get the blood flowing and the body moving.

4) Reminders through screensavers or posters to get out of your chair and stretch.

It is so necessary to be reminded, because it is so easy to forget! Those 30 minute midday breaks are extremely important for restoring focus and allowing your mind to just be.

5) Walking meetings

Pilot walking meeting study in Miami showed that walking meetings increased the average number of minutes participants engaged in combine work related moderate/vigorous physical activity per week. Harvard business school found that people who participate in walking meetings are 5.25% more likely to report being creative in their jobs and 8.5% are more likely to report high levels of engagement in their work. You also get some physical activity in!

Health Screenings

1) Regular health checkups for employees

2) Wearable technology and health apps to monitor health indicators

Participation in a wellness programme consisting of screenings and interventions was associated with a trend towards lower health care costs and decreasing health care use. Allowing one to know if they are at risk for any future problems regarding health helps alleviate stress and can allow one to start taking action towards better health.

Work Life Balance

1) Flexible hours and the option to work from home

2) Workplace satisfaction surveys

There is evidence to support the benefits of flexitime, schedule control in terms of employees wellbeing and productivity. This gives employees the authority to control their own schedule, feeling more in ownership of their life. The pandemic has also changed the way we work, and the innovations currently put in place have helped increase workplace productivity.

Workplace infrastructure

1) On site gym or fitness programs

2) Stairs, bike racks and showers to promote activity

The WELL Building Standard is a holistic approach to workplace infrastructure. It was developed by integrating scientific and medical research and reviewing existing literature on environmental health, behavioural factors and health outcomes. Employers who have implemented the WELL Building Standard have reported a 27% reduction of staff turnover compared to the previous year and 80% believe their new office environment supports greater productivity. Constructing the workplace environment to care for the individual wellbeing of employees shows empathy and can increase overall levels of satisfaction.

Tobacco Control

1) Counselling sessions

2) Smoke free workplaces

Tobacco cessation programmes have been shown to be more effective in a workplace settings versus a clinical setting. This was proven through a study in 2016 showing cessation rates in a workplace to be 44% over a 6 month period compared to 18% in a clinic setting.

Chronic Disease Management

1) Insulin testing on site

2) Subsidised checkups with specialists of GPs

Nutrition and physical activity programs in the workplace are critical elements in addressing type 2 diabetes. Of 3,000 taxi drivers and bus drivers who took place in a pilot health screening in an intervention program in Singapore, 1 in 4 had improved from abnormal to normal in their health status across BMI, blood cholesterol, blood pressure or blood glucose

Nutrition

Evidence exists to support the impact of nutrition education and healthier eating in the workplace.

1) Healthy cafeteria options

LL Bean, Maine sporting goods manufacturer experimented with encouraging healthy eating by subsidising healthy foods and funding the subsidy with a premium on high fat foods such as French Fries. After 2 months, they found a 50% increase in the sale of healthy foods and a corresponding 50% decrease in the sale of high fat foods

2) Promoting water consumption by adding water refill stations

Lack of hydration is responsible for many workplace complaints such as fatigue, headaches and feelings of lightheadedness. Drinking water consistently and throughout the day helps ensure hydration levels are being met.

3) Elimination of foods high in sugar, salt and fat on site

4) Provision of free fruit and other healthy foods

In comparison to the bowl of sweets in the office lobby, a study conducted by John Hopkins found that ensuring access to fresh fruit and vegetables at workplace meetings and events can increase fruit and vegetable consumption.