Employee Physical Health
Table of Contents
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Table of Contents
What Is Employee Physical Health?
Employee physical health focuses on the bodily wellness of an employee. It includes energy levels, physical activity, sleep patterns, diet and exercise routine. An employee’s physical health is majorly affected by their workload and work environment.
Aspects of Physical Health You Can Help Your Employees With
There are many ways companies can influence the physical well-being of their employees. Below are a few impactful areas where companies can step up and be a positive influence on employee health.
- Healthy eating environment. One thing you can do to help your employees’ physical health is to encourage healthy eating in the workplace. Many employees eat two meals a day at work. Employers can incentivize healthy eating by providing well-balanced catered meals, healthy snacks or lunch benefits.
- Physical wellness programs and bonuses. With eight hours in the office, it can be difficult for individuals to stay motivated to exercise before or after work. Employers can offer wellness programs and bonuses for employees who engage in physical activity. Many companies have started to implement exercise in the office by implementing basketball and pickleball courts. When planning work activities, employers can also keep activity in mind. Ask yourself, what can I do on this holiday to get everyone moving? Consider a winter ski offsite or a Fourth of July game of frisbee golf.
- Mental wellness education and programs. Employers can also contribute to an employee’s physical health by reducing employee’s stress and increasing mental wellness. For an employee to have the desire and strength to participate in physical challenges, they must also have the mental capacity. The Handbook of Total Rewards says, “Offering limited ‘wellness’ programs that focus narrowly on the single dimension of physical health as a routine part of comp and benefits has proven ineffective at inspiring lasting behavior change and boosting productivity.” By creating an environment where employees feel mentally well, it opens doors for individuals to stretch themselves and develop new habits.
Why Supporting Employee Physical Health Is So Important
An employer who supports employee physical health will not only have happier and more energetic employees, but may also have better retention rates and lower medical costs.
When we exercise, our bodies release healthy endorphins that improve our mood and our mental health. Employees who are actively engaged in physical exercise have more energy, are more ready to take on the day and are more productive. As employees reach wellness goals, they feel satisfaction in their ability to succeed and accomplish new things.
As the physical health of employees increases, employers may also see a decrease in health costs. Healthier employees may decrease insurance renewal rates, lower the amount of disability insurance or medical costs to the employer. A SHRM study found that, “Over two-thirds (72 percent) of organizations found that wellness programs were somewhat or very effective in reducing health care costs in 2014.”
Retaining and Attracting Top Talent
Health initiatives are becoming a must for employer compensation and benefit packages. When candidates are searching for new jobs, they want to find companies that value work-life balance. Companies use physical wellness benefits to draw applicants in and increase interest to hire the best people. Exercise and wellness plans may also increase retention rates. Once employers bring these individuals in, employees may be more likely to stay in a company with a culture focused on providing an enriching life for the employee.
How to Help Employees Be More Physically Healthy
There are endless ways that you as an employer can help your employees be physically healthy. It also doesn’t have to be an extravagant or expensive benefit. Just helping incorporate simple changes into the workplace is a great start! Some other benefits to implement could be wellness initiatives, company challenges or catered or paid lunches.
Employers cannot force an employee to take steps to become physically healthy, but they can provide opportunities for employees to do so. Standing desks are a great tool that encourage employees to get up throughout the day and stay energized. Other wellness incentives could include cash bonuses, company gym passes or onsite fitness classes.
Getting lots of people involved is a great way to motivate employees. Company challenges can offer healthy competition that allows for employees to meet their goals and stretch themselves. Consider implementing a company step challenge or a week solely focused on drinking water. Prizes may be offered for employees who meet certain health quotas. Use technology! There are many apps that offer ways for companies to track wellness goals.
Providing Healthy Food
Another way to increase employee physical health is to offer catered food or paid lunches. Employees are more willing to eat healthy when they know it has been provided for them. Offering employees ways to save money is always a great motivator. Companies can also keep their kitchens stocked full of healthy snacks for employees to munch on throughout the day. Consider providing company breakfasts for specific meetings and events.
Tying Employee Physical Health to an Improved Overall Culture
A great idea to improve both employee wellness and workplace culture at the same time could be to offer opportunities for active teamwork outside of the office. This idea goes beyond trust falling and is longer lasting than a costly employee bonding retreat. Here are four things you can do to make your physical wellness activities fun and inclusive.
Offer Employer-Sponsored Adult Sports Team Opportunities
Many cities have opportunities for organized sports activities. You would be surprised how many employees will happily participate in a little friendly competition with their co-workers (and supervisors!) to build teamwork and morale, thus improving company culture overall. Imagine the high-fives in the hall when the company team takes home the trophy.
Adjust for Varying Activity Levels
There are many different activity levels in most workplaces. Many activities can be adjusted to suit every level of fitness and comfortability. If there is an upcoming 5K race in your city, invite employees to join a company team. Participants in a 5K may run, jog or walk, which makes this a great activity to be enjoyed by many different employees.
An upcoming company 5K may also influence employees to increase their activity in the months leading up to the event, in an effort to train their cardiovascular health to perform better in the race.
Use the Online Community
Activities and events can easily be found online with an internet search. Local YMCA and other community groups organize opportunities to get out and be active, and your employees may not know about these resources. Additionally, meetup.com is a nation-wide resource any employer may join to find opportunities in their city.
Solicit Feedback and Employee Buy-In
Employee feedback requested by a survey could determine the level of interest in joining a company-sponsored team. The survey may ask for:
- Level of interest in particular sports, activities or even an adventure group
- Which sport employees may be interested in participating in with their co-workers (volleyball, bowling, ultimate frisbee, 8v8 soccer, softball, ping pong)
- What day of the week works best for the employee
- Ideas for choosing a company mascot
Examples of Physical Health Initiatives Other Companies Have Implemented
Want some specific ideas of physical health initiatives you could try out at your organization? Read on for three examples.
Many Utah companies, including Pura and CHG Healthcare, offer their employees access to an onsite gym. An onsite gym allows employees to save money on gym memberships and also have the convenience of quick and easy access to an exercise facility. Half the battle of exercise is getting there. Make the gym just a stop on the way to or from work.
CIT Electronics and Ancestry both offer their employees free massages. Massages are a great way to alleviate physical pain that employees may be experiencing. As employees start to exercise, what better way to help soothe their muscles and joints they aren’t used to moving. Massages also provide a relaxing and restful experience that can give more back energy to the employee.
If an onsite gym isn’t for you, then consider providing a company gym membership or gym reimbursements. Sometimes company memberships can get expensive and require that all employees are paid for regardless of utilization rates. Gym reimbursements, done at Pluralsight, offer employees the opportunity to take autonomy over their physical health. Your employees can choose a gym close to their house. To encourage use of the program, consider only giving reimbursements to those who are actively going to the gym.
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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Employee Physical Health
Ashley Whitelock graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Sociology. After deciding to pursue a career in HR, she received her certification as an Associate Professional in Human Resources. In 2021, she started working as an HR Generalist for CIT Electronics.