Health Article by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director
February 26, 2013
Many of us are spending more time in the office than we do at home. The average full-time employee spends a minimum of forty hours per week in the workplace. By putting in these hours, worksites have the opportunity to encourage healthy habits and help prevent health problems such as diabetes, depression, and heart disease in their employees. A well-designed worksite keeps employees safe and encourages physical activity during the workday.
Worksite wellness aims to create a positive wellness culture in the workplace. It contributes to the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of workers. There are several components of a successful wellness program, the first being the nutritional health of workers. Full-time employees will usually eat at least one meal or snack within the workplace environment each day. By providing nutritious options at work, worksites can support employees in making healthy choices each and every day. This includes adopting a healthy vending policy, increasing awareness of healthful foods in cafeterias and regulating refreshments and/or snacks to be served in meetings. If you or your employer is interested in implementing healthy vending criteria, the Independence Health Department will be presenting a Healthy Employer Workshop on February 27, 2013. For more information, please call 816-325-7185.
A second component to a wellness program is the aspect of physical activity. Most of us are in an office environment, in which we spend the majority of our day sitting in a chair behind a desk. It is important to encourage yourself and fellow employees to stay physically active throughout the workday. If your worksite is multi-level, take the stairs. To encourage this, suggest placing stairwell prompts at elevators, giving the stairwell a fresh coat of paint along with placing motivational posters along the way and by replacing/adding stairwell treads for safety. Another option is to research walking trails that may be near your worksite, or different walking loops around your worksite that can be completed within 15 or 30 minutes.
The third and often the most difficult hurdle to jump is implementing a smoke-free worksite. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at their workplace have an increased risk of heart disease and an estimated 46,000 will die from this annually. Policies establishing smoke-free environments are the most effective way to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. If you or a group of co-workers are interested in pursuing a smoke-free worksite, the Independence Health Department does offer free smoking cessation classes, which are open to the public.
If your worksite has already accomplished the above mentioned ideas, or you feel up to a challenge, tackle the idea of a workplace garden. A workplace garden is a creative way for your organization to get healthy and give back to the community. A workplace garden can lead to healthier employees, which can help better control health care costs, increase opportunities for team-building and improve community relationships. Once you have established the idea of a worksite garden, start thinking of implementing a worksite mini-market. Placing a farmers' market on site will make it easier for employees to purchase healthy foods for themselves and their families because they can conveniently buy fresh produce on a break or during their lunch hour. These markets also help to increase access to fresh produce for the surrounding community residents.
For further information on creating a healthy workplace environment, you can visit www.eatwellworkwell.org, www.cdc.gov or contact the Independence Health Department at 816-325-7185.