April is home to both World Health Day and Walk to Work Day. On April 7th and 1st, respectively, people everywhere take an interest in their minds and bodies. It’s the perfect time to reconsider your habits and see what your workplace might be able to offer in the way of wellbeing.
Even small alterations to your routine can make a big difference to your health. Lilli Hender from Office Genie takes a look at a few of the ways you can make workplace wellness a reality: from embracing employer-run initiatives to packing nutritious snacks in your lunch box.
Which trends should I look out for?
Over the course of 2016, we’re likely to see British businesses adopt more than a few workplace wellness trends. To keep you up to date, here are five of the most pertinent:
When a desk is named ‘Superdesk’ you have high expectations and in this case they’re not ill-founded. Not only does the continuous wave design look cool, it also eliminates the claustrophobia and isolation sometimes associated with cubicles.
Sit-stand desks are another great option: sitting for long periods of time can lead to a variety of health problems and these could be part of the solution. Interestingly, standing desks have also been found to increase brain function. However they can be costly, so it may be a while before they are found in offices nationwide.
Time to get flexible
While flexible working is by no means a new phenomenon, it is yet to be introduced in many workplaces. It’s been shown to lower employee’s work-related stress levels, therefore implementing flexible hours should be top of the list where wellness is concerned.
It allows you to shape your work around your life to a greater extent. Whether it’s looking after your children or attending a doctor’s appointment, flexible working enables you to make up the time elsewhere. It can help you feel like there’s a better balance between your work and home life, which working from home can also aid.
Wear your heart(rate) on your sleeve
The days of the simple pedometer may be over, but the fitness wearables market has more than made up for the loss. Fitbits are becoming increasingly popular for personal use and company use too. Fitbit’s corporate wellness programme enables employers to track and compare staff members’ physical activity.
To some, this might seem a step too far, but when implemented well it demonstrates bosses are showing an interest in their employees physical wellbeing. When smartphones and smartwatches have the technology to help you get healthy, why not make use of it?
At the Global Wellness Summit in November 2015, the economist Thierry Malleret suggested mandatory measures to improve wellness need to be instated in the workplace. This would mean businesses are obliged to take an active approach to boosting employee wellbeing.
In the UK alone, absenteeism and ill health cost businesses £15 billion every year. Rather than looking at that in solely monetary terms, it’s worth thinking about the sheer number of people affected by ill health to entail such figures. Compulsory wellness measures might help cut down on this.
Learn while you earn
Wellness workshops are popular in the US and Australia and have made their way over to the UK. The aim is to educate staff members on ways to improve aspects of their mental and physical health.
Often an interactive presentation is given by a health professional in their area of expertise; stress or sleep for example. The workshops usually take place within working hours and tend to be optional, allowing employees freedom of choice – an important aspect of wellbeing in itself.
Can exercise and work go hand in hand?
Walk to Work Day is about considering combining work with physical activity and there are more than a few ways to do this:
It’s been found that commuting via walking or cycling results in a significantly lower body fat percentage and body mass index when compared to commuting via car. If possible, why not try walking or sign up to a cycle scheme?
Start an after-hours class
Not all offices have the space to host a fitness class but if yours does, suggesting the idea can be great for you and your colleagues.
Setting up a sports team with your fellow employees can be a great way to get active and have a bit of fun whilst doing so.
Staying sedentary for long periods of time isn’t good for your body and desk exercises can help to tackle this.
Utilise your lunch break
Dedicated fitness fanatics see lunch breaks as exercise opportunities. This doesn’t always mean 100 star jumps or a run around the block; a simple stroll can be sufficient.
What about my diet?
Exercise can go a long way, but what you put into your body is also key to improving your overall health. BBC Good Food recommends opting for alternatives to chocolate and sweets and even tea and coffee. Swapping the sugary stuff for fruit can help to satisfy cravings and it’s a good idea to replace the caffeinated hot drinks with decaffeinated herbal options.
Further alterations can be made when it comes to your sandwiches: aim to swap white bread for a healthier alternative such as granary or rye, and exchange meat fillings for oily fish. If you want to show extra dedication, you can add grains and nuts to your lunch. They’ll not only help to manage cholesterol levels; the nutrients they contain can help decrease stress levels too.
If you’re struggling for ideas, The Muse has compiled a list of seventy-five healthy lunches. They include the Pinterest favourite ‘Mason Jar salads’, which, if you’re unfamiliar, involves finding a nice looking jar and stuffing lots of yummy (healthy) ingredients into it. Other lunch ideas include wraps, sandwiches, soups, and even casseroles. You name it, a recipe will be there.
When it comes to improving workplace wellness, the changes you make might be very small or they might be very significant. Whether it’s investing in wearable tech or simply munching on a healthier snack, you’ll be sure to feel the benefits. The key is embracing the chance to boost wellbeing and the more you and your employer do this, the more positive the outcome will be.
Lilli Hender is staff writer at office search engine and workplace experts OfficeGenie.co.uk.