Helping Employees Get and Stay Healthy

176558747In June, the American Medical Association took a position on what seems like the most innocuous of human activities: sitting.

According to Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the AMA board, “Prolonged sitting, particularly in work settings, can cause health problems and encouraging workplaces to offer employees alternatives to sitting all day will help to create a healthier workforce.”

The human resources community has to contend with many concerns, among them care for the well-being of workers. Efforts along these lines are well established at many companies, from formal wellness programs to a workplace culture of healthy living. As the Affordable Care Act comes into effect, more organizations may institute programs to promote well-being to lower company insurance costs.

Helping employees sit less often at work is one step that is garnering a lot of attention. Some opponents to standing desks and similar measures are vocal simply because they like to sit. Companies may find it difficult to conduct a wholesale replacement of office furniture, however, talent management professionals should pay heed to the pronouncements of the AMA.

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Here is a list of ways to encourage employees to leave their desks during the day to increase their health:

  • Encourage the use of software and apps that remind workers to get up and stretch. Many solutions in this area are available, from special programs that lock a computer and lead a worker through a series of mild stretches to smartphone apps that remind workers to take a break from the screen. Short breaks can be beneficial, and don’t require new furniture or overcoming the opposition to standing desks or isometric balls.
  • Small Business Trends recommends instituting standing meetings. The publication notes that these meetings tend to be shorter, as everyone is motivated to get back to their desks. Walking meetings, ideally outdoors, are also a way to help get employees moving.
  • It’s important in all of these efforts to accommodate employees of every skill level. An office culture of physical activity is a great one to have, but some workers may be physically unable or unwilling to participate. People who fit this description should still be given breaks from sitting, but talent management professionals should trust employees to use that opportunity as wisely as possible for themselves.

Businesses that institute these small changes may expect to see increased productivity and energy among their staff, which is always welcome. Equally positive are the many health benefits that can come from allowing employees to take a simple break and stretch their legs.

Talent management efforts should focus on the physical as well as mental well-being of employees.

MORE: Help yourself by helping others

Joseph Azzata

Joseph Azzata
Joseph J. Azzata is the founder of eCareer Holdings, Inc. From 2002 to 2010, Azzata was CEO and co-founder of Medical Connections Holdings Inc.

Joseph Azzata

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