A December 17 article in BenefitsPro.com by Sylvia Landy Vail, co-founder of Mainstay, Inc., says that it’s not about coming up with as many wellness topics and initiatives as possible to engage the workforce in reducing overweight conditions, diabetes and metabolic syndrome that result in healthier employees. She points out points that three central drivers – focus, food and smart engagement – make the difference.
According to Vail, overweight conditions are the most formidable drain on corporate resources, productivity and the bottom line. With over two-thirds of the population now packing on extra pounds, the idea that this is a problem hampering a small, high-risk segment is outdated.
1. Focus your efforts. Focusing your efforts allows for investment in meaningful resources that build and, over time, infuse a culture’s DNA with a clear message and pathway. You get to be known and respected as the company that is strategically helping its employees create a healthier lifestyle by zeroing in on weight management. Instead of a little bit of time dedicated to this and a little bit of money spent here, prioritizing the primary preventive health driver is astute, common-sense business. This is how most successful companies hit critical goals in other departments within their corporations.
2. Change eating habits. The most effective way to accomplish sustainable weight loss is to help employees change up eating habits for the long term. Preventive health experts agree that if we don’t get food right, wellness and weight loss remain an uphill battle for most people. You might want to focus on walking clubs to accomplish weight management, but you’re not going to get the bang for your buck given that it takes about an hour to strut off the calories from one can of soda. Besides, everyone has to eat while exercise is still an option.
To galvanize the troops, it’s most effective to create a common language around nutrition and habit change that resonates within your broad-based population and associated family members. Reimbursing various diet programs for individual employees doesn’t foster momentum or a holistic strategy that can be capitalized upon across the organization. Deciding that everyone should be a vegan or go gluten-free isn’t going to move the preventive health needle in the right direction either.
Rather, choose one program to back that has a track record of impressive outcomes within employer groups and is based on a realistic, non-extremist approach from the standpoints of: household budget, food choice moderation versus deprivation, meal prep ease and eating out flexibility. Whatever approach you select — and encouraging employees to Google healthy recipes or lining up deliveries of apples to the break room every few weeks shouldn’t be in the running as your bedrock nutrition program — it’s important that a toolkit be included. Robust resources are needed to help educate employees and provide support as they go about planning, preparing and shopping for food on a daily basis.
3. Be a smart engager. Smart engagement ties together messaging and activities, so there is a clear theme and road map that leverages group dynamics, but provides for individual support that extends to the household. There are about a thousand and one affordable, fun and meaningful ways to promote eating better in a cohesive fashion, across any size corporation.
Vail says smaller businesses can get onto a whole company bandwagon to learn and motivate one another. Larger corporations get traction from initiatives taking place in individual departments of the organization and a total company mantra dedicated to nutrition habit change.