The Challenge of Obesity – Workplace Strategies

In addition to playing a role in the development of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions, the toll obesity takes often extends to employers, costing ~$13 billion in medical costs and lost productivity each year. Factors are well documented – imbalanced diets, a lack of exercise, and stress – all contribute to one of the most common health threats in America. Recent studies also suggest that sedentary jobs, where little to no movement is required, are to blame as well. (Story here.)

While the legitimacy of latter has been debated, it would only benefit you and your employees to implement carefully planned wellness strategies. In encouraging a healthier lifestyle, wellness programs can help to reduce disability, absenteeism & lost productivity. It is also obvious, but important, to note that these programs should be aimed at all employees – singling out overweight workers can be discriminatory and stigmatizing. However, the program should address the aforementioned factors that contribute to obesity – diet, physical activity, and stress.

Brought to you by Health Advocate, here is a short-version checklist for workplace strategies to take on the challenge of obesity.

Build a Wellness Team – Enlist employees to participate from each level of your organization. These individuals can serve as ambassadors to the program and increase employee buy-in.

Tailor Activities to Needs – Learn about what lifestyle changes employees need to make and gauge enthusiasm. Which programs would be the most interesting to your employees?

Set Realistic Goals – Emphasis should be placed more on participation than weight loss. However, 10% weight loss is considered to be a significant lifestyle change.

Develop a “Culture of Health” – Provide a variety of options to appeal to the most employees possible. Provide healthier options in the cafeteria and vending machines. Provide de-stressing activities as options, such as Yoga classes after work.

Partner up with the Community – Monitor community wellness events and make employees aware of them. Look for local initiatives, as government and public agencies offer wellness toolkits and grants.

Communicate Effectively – Encourage health through all available mediums – intranet, posters, newsletters, etc. Emphasize the value of health.

Reward Employees – Be creative! Use t-shirts, moderate cash awards, public praise, paid days off, etc. as rewards.

Celebrate Group Success – Celebrate with congratulatory announcements or with healthy-food parties.

Click here to check out our full checklist and many of our other whitepapers on how to manage costs by promoting a mentally and physically healthy work environment for employees.

To stay up-to-date on health news, wellness tips, and cost-saving healthcare advice, you can follow us @HealthSurvival and ”like” our Facebook page here.

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