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With the vast majority of adults spending up to 80% of their waking hours in their offices, the workplace occupies an important role in promoting, supporting, and enabling healthy behaviours and health outcomes. A dynamic and accessible culture of health in offices, plants, warehouses, and other work spaces can actually help reduce risk factors for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and can help mitigate other health risks such as obesity and smoking.

When implemented effectively, workplace health programs and solutions have been shown to improve not just the health of employees, they have also been shown to increase productivity, increase employee engagement, reduce stress, reduce absenteeism and contribute to the overarching goals of the organisation in a sustainable way.

Here are some practices you can introduce to or recommend at your workplaces to start creating a culture of health and wellness.

1. Healthy Snack and Food Options

Just to be clear, we are not recommending that you ban chocolates, potato chips, and candy from your office pantries. We’re just saying that it’s not a great idea to have ONLY chocolates, potato chips, and candy in your office pantry. You’ll be surprised at how many of your employees might prefer snacks such as unsalted baked almonds, sunflower seeds, or bananas when these options are made available.

If your company provides freshly prepared food for your meals, recommend putting labels on food that are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium to encourage your colleagues to include them in their lunch plates. Highlighting dishes that are high in fibre or in omega-3 fatty acids, for example, can also be very helpful towards promoting a culture of healthy eating.

2. Physical Activity

Encouraging physical activity at the workplace is a great way to get people moving, which helps to counter the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. There are many ways to get your colleagues moving. Consider providing computer/laptop stands or adjustable desks that allow for people to stand at their desks. Have a competition to see who can clock in 10,000 steps in a pedometer each month. You can even encourage your lunch buddies to walk out somewhere further for your meals or coffee.

Some companies might choose to encourage their employees to be more active outside working hours, whether it’s through subsidised gym memberships, group yoga sessions, or taking part in a group sport together. However, for companies without the resources of large multinational corporations, simply encouraging employees to take walks for some fresh air or to stretch at the desk once every three hours or so can have positive long-term benefits on their health.

3. Flexible Work Arrangements

What some people might find surprising is how much flexible work arrangements can have a positive impact on not just a worker’s physical health but their mental health as well. Recent research has shown that mental health awareness is on the rise in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia and more and more companies are providing their employees with access to work counsellors and therapists.

With flexible work arrangements, employees are empowered to better structure their daily lives in a way that allows them to take their health into their own hands. With flexible work times, instead of being in the office at 830am, they might be able to go for a morning run instead and report to work at 1030, after which they go back a little later. Or they might choose to work from home on days their children are sick so they don’t spend all day in the office worrying. Such flexibility allows employees to feel more in control of their work, giving them the ability to achieve work-life harmony, which can make them happier, more productive, and, yes, healthier, in the long-run!

About the Contributor:

Hidhir Razak is the Corporate Relations Manager of PEPWorldwide Asia. An ardent believer of the power of storytelling and its unique ability to bring people and communities together, Hidhir is a reader, writer, and researcher by training. His articles have appeared on The Middle Ground, Yahoo Singapore, and Poetry.sg while his creative works have appeared in numerous anthologies and collections in Singapore. He holds a Master of Arts degree from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where he specialised in English and Creative Writing.