Coworkers' birthday cakes. Vending machine pick-me-ups. Long hours sitting in front of the computer. 

5 ways to break the link between work and weight gain

Coworkers' birthday cakes. Vending machine pick-me-ups. Long hours sitting in front of the computer.

"A typical sedentary office job, including the commute to and from work, can easily add up to nine or ten hours, five days a week in which employees engage in little physical activity," says Daniel Buckalew, manager, Ceridian Health & Productivity Solutions. Combine that with the wide availability of unhealthy snack options and it's not surprising to learn there's a growing body of evidence supporting the notion that the workplace is making you fat.
   National Center for Health Statistics estimates that medical expenses for obese employees are 42 percent higher than those for employees with healthy weights.

Obesity costs U.S. companies $13 billion per year, according to the National Business Group on Health. Many businesses are now realizing that workplace obesity prevention programs and measures can lower health care costs and absenteeism while increasing employee productivity. 

According to the Buck Consultants survey, companies are investing in health promotion and workplace wellness strategies and 66 percent of respondents indicated they had a formal wellness strategy in 2010. According to a 2009 study by the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent Obesity Alliance, 71 percent of employers believe it's appropriate to offer obesity-related services in the workplace. Additionally, 80 percent of employees hold the view that healthy lifestyles and weight management programs belong in the workplace. These findings were published by the consortium, which was directed by the George Washington University's Department of Health Policy in Washington, D.C., and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. 


How employers can step up

Consider the following five strategies to help your employees get healthier and become more productive in the new year. 

  • Create healthy incentives 
    From 10,000 steps programs to cash rewards for dropping pounds, America's companies are getting serious about weight loss. Eleven percent of U.S. participating companies surveyed spent more than $500 per employee per year on wellness incentive rewards in 2010. The largest rewards reported were $3,000 per employee, according to the Buck Consultants report.
  • Switch out junk food for healthier fare 
    Stock vending machines with 30 percent healthy food choices such as apples, nuts and sunflower kernels. Make sure beverage machines provide bottled water, 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar as well as sugar-free and caffeine-free soda selections. Bulk up and trim down conference room and cafeteria menus by adding more lean protein, whole grain selections, fresh fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dressing options. Also, make nutrition information for vending machines and cafeteria menus easily accessible for your employees.
  • Know your employee population 
    Eliminate the guesswork when choosing a health care or corporate wellness plan by utilizing a sophisticated tool to gather employee information on medical history and lifestyle. You'll have the metrics you need at your fingertips when employees complete a thorough, tested evaluation such as the Ceridian Health Risk Assessment, called the Life Health Assessment (LHA).
  • Offer options for fitness 
    Lack of physical activity was named the top U.S. driver for wellness programs, according to the Buck Consultants survey. Make it easy for workers to develop healthier habits. Provide on-site exercise facilities or employee discounts at nearby gyms and allow employees the flexibility to work out at different times during the day. For those employees who may not feel comfortable working out at a fitness facility, Buckalew suggests offering a discount for the purchase of home fitness equipment.
  • Provide weight management assistance 
    A proven strategy to help employees lose weight and make healthy lifestyle changes is to offer a long-term, balanced program that provides personalized support such as Ceridian Weight Management. "It's a permanent change in lifestyle that's needed." says Buckalew, "And there are two pieces to that: a change in eating habits and a change in activity level."

"It's not just a matter of providing health and wellness products and services," Buckalew cautions. "That's just the first step. The next step," he adds, "is to create a fully supportive environment where management encourages employees to participate in available programs and services, such as walking or attending health education classes at lunchtime." 

If attempting to find the right healthy workplace solution is causing you stress, don't sweat it. Contact Ceridian today to find out how we can help you achieve your desired health and wellness outcomes.