When my kids would come home from school I would
have a healthy snack waiting for them on the kitchen counter. They always ate what was laid out for them, happily and with no complaints. I am sure if I had a bowl of candy they would have happily consumed that as well. Having the healthy food in reach as they walked in the door is an example of making the healthy choice the easy choice. That is what we are always striving for when creating a healthy culture in the workplace. One of the best ways to do that in the workplace is to take a look at the organizational policies, both formal and informal, that can support or sabotage a worksite well-being. An added bonus - changing or implementing policy can be one of those low hanging fruit items, which often can be easily implemented and low cost.
Examples of formal workplace policies that support well-being include:
- Tobacco free workplace policies, including in company vehicles
- Healthy food policies for work events
- Creating space for fitness equipment
- Supporting flexible work schedules to allow participation in wellness activities
- Requiring food vendors to offer healthier selections
Some of these, such as smoke free policies, may require a formal review and approval process. Others, such as a healthy food policy for events, can be informally adopted at any level within an organization.
Looking at informal policies may take a little sleuthing. The informal items I refer to are usually not really ‘policies’ but more the ‘norm’ for how things are done around here. For example, I heard of a Human Resource professional who had a HUGE bowl of candy in her office. The intention was honorable, to entice employees to enter her office and feel comfortable talking. But it ended up becoming a monster. Employees insisted on having the bowl constantly filled. When it came time to implement the wellness program this human resource professional had to tear the band-aid off and make a change or that candy bowl ‘policy’ would have become a barrier to creating a culture of wellness. Another example is an organization, which was besieged by fattening gifts from vendors and suppliers around the holidays. They resolved this problem by sending all vendors a letter explaining they appreciated the tokens of gratitude but requested vendors not send items, which conflict, with their desire to create a healthy worksite culture.
While some of these items may be easy to implement that does not mean they will not meet resistance. Be prepared for some push back. Universal law is that most people don’t like change. Communicate the mission/vision and benefits of the new policy or norm, and stand your ground.
Carefully reviewing and changing policies and norms can help shift the thinking from needing to force people to change their behavior to surrounding them with a supportive environment, which makes it easy for them to make the healthy choice.
Organizational policies that help employees to make healthier lifestyle choices should be the foundation to create a culture of health and well-being in the workplace.
Valorie Bender, CWPM
View other articles in the Well-being at Work series: