"Make the healthy choice the easy choice!" "Culture before health!" These popular health promotion exhortations draw attention to the need for establishing a work culture that encourages a healthy lifestyle. Given that we spend over half of our waking lives at work, employers should be responsible for providing a workplace that contributes to, rather than detracts from, our health and wellbeing. Every workplace embraces the "safety" aspect of health and safety programs. However, "health" behaviors that pose serious risks to our very lives are thought to be out of the purview of employers. Ignoring behaviors in employees that contribute to cancer, heart disease or diabetes, while focused on accident prevention, seems pretty short-sighted and irresponsible. Short of making employers liable for employees' reckless health behaviors at work, how do we change things? Changing the culture is the answer.
Corporate culture, in its simplest form, is defined as “the way things are done around here”. An employer, serious about promoting a healthy workplace, must influence its culture. It begins with recognition that employees are the company's most valuable assets, and leads to an effort to maximize their health and wellbeing. When this happens, the potential of the individual employee and the business is maximized.
The employer's first step is to make it easier for employees to make good lifestyle choices, and make it more difficult to make bad, or unhealthy choices. Examples might include substituting fruit and whole grains for the morning meeting donuts, or promoting stretch breaks and walking meetings. Small steps, over time, will make a difference in shaping the values of individuals and the business. Gradually, a new culture will evolve with the expectation that a healthy lifestyle and high performance are "the way things are done around here."
M. J. White is the creator of “LEAN Wellness”, which transforms work environments with a radically different bottom-up approach that inspires continuous improvement in health and wellbeing. To learn more, visit the website at: www.wellstreet.us or email M. J. directly at: email@example.com.