Managing people

Make healthy choices for your business

study from the Netherlands has found employees with chronic disease and unhealthy habits are at greater risk of exiting paid employment early. This means there’s potentially a portion of the workforce that may not work to their full retirement age. 

The more employee turnover, the greater the costs associated with recruitment and training. While an employee is ultimately responsible for their own behaviours and habits, as an employer you have a duty of care to implement initiatives for the health and wellbeing of your workforce. 

Background and key findings

For the purpose of the study, the unhealthy behaviours included physical activity, consumption of fruit, vegetable, alcohol and smoking. The chronic diseases included cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

The results showed that employees who smoke and had low intakes of fruit and vegetables were at greater risk of leaving employment early. In addition to smoking and low fruit intake, obese employees were at risk of leaving employment and transitioning to disability benefits.

Interestingly, low physical activity topped the unhealthy behaviour list but was not associated with an early exit from paid employment. With these findings in mind, let’s explore ways you can introduce good habits for your employees. 

Instil a good health attitude

To help maximise the work-life and improve the overall health of your employees across the organisation consider introducing initiatives and programs for positive change. By giving employees the tools to adopt healthy behaviours you can also reap the benefits with improved productivity, less sick days, greater employee engagement and purpose. It can send a strong signal that you care about your employees, their lifestyle choices and associated impacts. 

Promote physical activity

Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of developing several diseases – including cardiovascular disease. Exercise releases endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones which can help boost the mood and the mental health of your employees. In a workplace environment, it can improve employee’s morale and positivity.  

There’s much you can do in this space to cater for a wide range of interests:

  • lunchtime running or walking groups
  • basketball or tennis competitions
  • walk to workday
  • virtual yoga or aerobics classes (for staff working remotely)
  • offer staff discounts on gym memberships. 

Fruit and veg box

Fruit and vegetables are important for a well-balanced diet with the recommended advice being a minimum of two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day. As a natural power pack of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, it’s a good idea to include different colours in your diet.

While many employees may grab a juice on the way into the office, to maximise the nutritional content it’s best to eat the whole product rather than consume the liquid form.

There is an abundance of companies that offer workplace boxes with a lot choice – fruit, vegetable, certified organic, so you can shop around for the right mix and encourage staff to snack healthily. 

Smoking – support employees to kick the habit

Smoking continues to be a health problem in Australia.  Your organisation can take steps to help employees kick the habit.

  • Include quit smoking programs with counselling services as part of your wellness initiatives.
  • Support the World Health Organisation’s World No Tobacco Day. Held each year in May, it’s designed to create awareness about the detrimental use of tobacco.
  • Consider formulating a smoke-free workplace policy which covers the parameters near building doorways and entrances where smoking is not permitted. 

Finally, always let your employees know when you introduce new programs and initiatives after all, it’s in their best interest and yours. In your communication, outline the importance of the initiatives and what’s in it for them – the benefits. With employees adopting healthy behaviours, they can extend their working life and help to prolong their own life too. 

Jenny Dikranian

Content Writer, My Business

Jenny Dikranian is a content writer passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation in inspiring business success.


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