With the New Year bringing resolutions of healthy eating, fitness and detox, now is a good time for organisations to think about ways in which they can promote healthy eating and exercise for the long term benefit of their employees, and put in place positive changes which last longer than just January.
There are a number of ways that businesses can help their employees who are looking for a healthier lifestyle by offering corporate memberships with gyms, cycle to work schemes, lunchtime exercise activities such as walking or even just encouraging them to use the stairs rather than taking lifts or escalators.
Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, has called for a change to the ‘cake culture’ at work saying it adds to the obesity problem and poor oral health in the UK.
Danny Clarke, Group Operations Director for the ELAS Group says: “It’s easy to fall into bad habits when it comes to food in the workplace. How many of us came into work today to find piles of chocolates, biscuits or cakes brought in by people following the Christmas holidays? The temptation to snack throughout the day can be hard to resist meaning even the most well-intentioned can end up piling on the pounds. In line with the recommendations of the Faculty of Surgeons and Faculty of Dental Surgery in overcoming the so-called cake culture, we would recommend that companies consider providing healthy alternatives to sweets and cakes i.e. in vending machines or when celebrating people’s birthdays.”
He continues: “At this time of year the media is full of stories regarding the best diets or ways to lose weight, ranging from the cabbage soup or green tea diet to high protein low carbohydrate diets such as Atkins. Recent research has shown that in order to see long term benefits, simple lifestyle changes work best.”
Other options which employers can offer include wellbeing sessions focusing on nutritional advice to promote long term healthy eating instead of the faddy crash diets which are in abundance this time of year.
Danny Clarke says: “We work with a lot of organisations which have seen benefits from our wellbeing sessions. Some of these interactive sessions include healthy eating and have proven popular with employees by dispelling some of the myths around healthy eating and enabling people to understand what it actually means.
“Whilst diets are popular – particularly at this time of year – they don’t necessarily change peoples’ perception of food or long term eating habits and we often find that they return to old habits once the diet is over, leading to an ongoing cycle of weight gain and loss. Our wellbeing sessions help people to identify these habits and understand what constitutes a healthy balanced diet.
“Ultimately it is about encouraging the right behaviours.
“A healthy workforce is a productive workforce and the long term benefits, both to the employee and the employer, have been proven time and time again. Making small changes in diet can have a big impact on an individual’s long term health as well as business benefits including increased productivity, attendance and workforce morale.”