As employers, cities and towns have many reasons to enhance workplace wellness, from increased morale and alertness to fewer sick days and a positive impact on health care costs. Municipalities can use personnel and workplace policies to create environments that support employees in eating healthier and becoming more physically active. Across Colorado, obesity increasingly weighs on our businesses and affects their bottom lines. In fact, Colorado spent $1.637 billion treating diseases and conditions related to obesity in 2009. But the impact to employers goes well beyond healthcare costs. A significant percentage of the total cost of poor employee health results from absenteeism and reduced employee performance on the job. U.S. businesses experience $4.3 billion in annual losses because of obesity-related job absenteeism.
Employee Wellness Policies
Some municipalities have passed resolutions requiring a focus on employee wellness. Others have established Wellness Committees that assess the nutrition and physical activity environment within the workplace, survey employees about their needs and interests, implement programs and recommend policy changes.
Access to Physical Activity
Promote employee health by adopting policies around active work breaks and promoting simple ways to incorporate physical activity into employees’ workdays.
Cities and towns are building health breaks or healthy behaviors into the work day through incorporating physical activity breaks or walking meetings, encouraging the use of stairs, and collaborating on stress management and wellness workshops. Taking a break of only a few minutes every hour will stimulate muscles in the body, reducing the risk of chronic issues such as joint and muscle pain, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Choosing the stairs instead of the elevator is a quick way for people to add physical activity to their day.
- Prowers Medical Center See how one hospital incorporates two stretch breaks into their workday.
- Stairwell to Health How the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rejuvenated stairwells to increase physical activity.
- Guide to Improving Stairwells Stairwell basics from the state of California.
Access to Healthy Food and Beverages
Create an environment to support healthy choices by instituting food and beverage guidelines, practices and policies, especially around meetings and vending. Foods consumed from vending machines, through concessions, in meetings and at other public food-service establishments are often higher in calories, fat, sugar and salt than are foods prepared at home. Making healthy food available at municipal buildings is one way to address obesity and overweight by enabling employees to eat a healthy diet.
- Golden, CO – The Human Resources Department at the City of Golden chose to eliminate soda at all HR-sponsored events.
- Healthy Eating Checklist Evaluate if your workplace supports healthy eating.
- Healthy Beverage Guidelines Review beverage guidelines from the Harvard School of Public Health.
- Vending Machine Standards Implement these healthy food and beverage standards in your onsite vending machines.
Make the healthy choice the easy choice at all municipal gatherings by adopting a healthy meeting policy. A group setting is a great place to model healthy eating and active behavior. Make the healthy choice the easy choice at all municipal gatherings by adopting a healthy meeting policy. Such a policy may provide guidelines for healthy foods and beverages and prescribe activity breaks for longer meetings, helping employees stay alert, focused and healthy.
How to Run a Walking Meeting Determine how you can incorporate walking meetings into your schedule.
Healthy Meeting Policy Make HEAL a part of every meeting at your organization
Breastfeeding Accommodations for Employees
Support breastfeeding accommodations for employees because breastfed babies have less illness, and support for breastfeeding mothers results in reduced employee absenteeism to care for ill children, along with improved employee productivity and higher morale.
In compliance with State and Federal regulations, worksite lactation programs are now the norm among large employers. Municipal breastfeeding policies can enhance state-mandated accommodations so that lactating mothers are more supported at work.
Workplace breastfeeding programs may help to mitigate health care costs, lost productivity and absenteeism by:
- Reducing the risk of some short- and long-term health issues for women and children;
- Decreasing employee absences associated with caring for a sick child;
- Promoting an earlier return from maternity leave; and
- Increasing retention of female employees.
United States Breastfeeding Committee Find more online resources for employers, managers and employees.
Breastfeeding Essentials The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment covers the benefits of breastfeeding.