It is harder living in Paris to get to CPD events, and after the long, long summer break (my children had 2 months off school) I was feeling a little out of touch. It was really exciting to be jumping on the Eurostar last weekend to go to a Nutritionists In Industry meeting to hear some interesting presentations and connect with like minded nutritionists. I was hoping to be inspired and excited by interesting speakers. I was not disappointed.
Some of the meeting was devoted to workplace health. A huge proportion of the population go to out to work, spending large chunks of their day in a workplace, be that a shop, an office, a factory, a call centre etc. A high percentage of working people will consume at least one meal and some snacks within their working hours. Working practices within the work place can make it harder to be active and mobile, make it harder to eat well and also be stressful. Small changes within the workplace can have a huge role in enabling those working there to eat better, be more active through their working day and so benefit their health and well-being. Employers that provide healthier environments and encourage healthier working practices can reap the benefits in terms of productivity but also have a huge potential in protecting the health of the population.
“A recent estimate from the National Institute of Health & Clinical Excellence showed that a company employing 1000 people, could lose more than £126,000 a year in lost productivity due to obesity alone.”
Employers engaging with the concept of workplace health have a real ‘win win’ opportunity. A workplace health programme doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and can bring real benefits to the employer through improved productivity. Employees benefit from improved health and well being which in turn can have a positive impact on their life outside work and some health benefits can be gained by their family. If a significant number of employers tackled work place health then this could ultimately help reduce pressure on the NHS and keep people in work.
We were introduced to the British Dietetic Associations Work Ready programme. With good assessment of the how the business works, the range of employees and their roles and work patterns, good staff involvement and ownership in any initiatives, strong management engagement and good monitoring and evaluation, there is evidence that nutrition interventions can support employers to reduce sickness, reduce accidents, improve customer care and increase productivity. From an employer perspective, what is not to like?
In another presentation, it was highlighted how beneficial to health it was for someone who is very sedentary to add just a little activity to their day. Simply adding movement to their day improves health dramatically. We can plot the health benefit of exercise against the amount of exercise, showing that as we increase our exercise the more our health benefits with the curve flattening out at higher exercise levels. But the graph is the steepest at the start. If you are extremely sedentary and just add in a daily walk, the benefits are really strong. In terms of gain for a company, getting those who do very little or no exercise to move more is very beneficial to their health. Providing access to a gym or to exercise classes is fantastic but it won’t benefit everyone. Developing working practices and environments that get everyone moving more reach those who would never go to the gym or a class at all.
Employers – take note – the evidence is there that work place health is more than just health and safety. Looking after your employees and making it easy for them to look after themselves is good for your business! Work places that make eating better and moving more easy will reap the benefits.