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Happy and Fit … Office Workers?

  • June 3, 2013
  • By Brittany
Happy and Fit … Office Workers?

A recent post on Greatist got me thinking about maintaing a healthy lifestyle at the office.  I’ve written on this topic before for FitKit but I feel that it is such an important point, I wanted to touch upon it some more with you folks.  The Greatist article discussed Google’s fancy offices, which offer employees fun perks like free healthy snacks and encourage them to get active.  From my personal experience, this kind of focus by employers on employee health is rare.  In fact, in more instances than not, I find that work can be a source of unhealthy options rather than healthy options.  With issues ranging from long hours, stress, rushed lunches and a plethora of unhealthy meal options and/or treats, I have always found the office to be an obstacle to my health rather than a facilitator.  The article about Google got me thinking, why are more employers not concerned with employee health?

We constantly hear how we spend most of our time at work.  By the same token, not a day goes by where we don’t hear about the myriad of things we can and should be doing to increase our healthy choices.  So it would seem natural that the two should meet and coalesce.  So why don’t they?  Well, for one thing, the Greatist article featuring Google screams “big budget!”  I think a lot of employers are concerned that providing healthy options like treadmill desks and in-house fitness activities will cost them a lot of money.  Greatist makes an excellent point by focusing on the fact that the items at Google that did seem to cost a lot of money, really were not used as much as simplier solutions like making healthy snacks visible and “hiding” unhealthy choices or offering employees discounted gym memberships.  What Greatist is touching upon here is that it it the attitude of the employer that matters most.

If an employer takes an attitude that health is important and employee healthy choices should be nurtured, the entire office culture shifts from one of stress/unhealthy habits to one that values healthy and happy employees.  Simple changes like offering healthy food choices (I used to hate that we always got pizza or pasta or cake at work.  What’s wrong with salads or fruit!?), discounted local gym memberships and generally encouraging employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle are effective.

While these changes seem so simple, it’s actually easier said than done.  As a lawyer, so many of us are slaves to hourly billing.  We bill in 6 minute increments, meaning that every six minutes offers a new chance to make more money for your employer.  Even in industries not focused on hourly billing, many employers may fear promoting a healthy lifestyle focused on exercise, less stress, good nutrition and sleep will take away from their bottom line because it will require employees to turn their focus to something other than work and force them out of the office in order to pursue these healthier options.

While of course this perception that employees will be less focused on their work if they are trying to balance yet another thing in their lives (I mean isn’t work/life balance hard enough, now you want work/life/health balance?) may deter many employers from promoting healthy lifestyles, the question is whether this perceived lack of focus will actually impact the bottom line long term.  More and more I hear of employee burnout and corporate employees seeking paths of entrepreneurship or other forms of employment to avoid the pressures of their office culture.  My friends, who works in finance and law, talk about burnout not in terms of “if” but rather “when.”  I often wonder if there was more of a focus on providing healthy options for employees, if employee longevity would increase.  For instance, rather than being forced to eat quickly at one’s desk, the option of heading out for a walk or to the gym might provide much needed relief during the day.  Again, providing the treadmill is not the solution, it’s the attitude.  Making it okay for an employee to leave to go to the gym is what is important.

So what can you do to change your workplace?   Well, starting the conversation is the first step.  Talk with other employees.  The more employees who want change, the easier it will be to create change.  Provide feedback to your employer.  Make requests.  Remember, change does not happen overnight but implementing a few small changes will get the ball rolling.  If all else fails, we can all apply for jobs at Google!

Readers, does your employer encourage healthy habits?  How do you balance work and a healthy lifestyle?  How would you change your current work situation to make it healthier? 


By Brittany, June 3, 2013
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  • Holly
    June 3, 2013

    No one ever takes a lunch at work–we eat at our desks. Was thinking of getting a podium desk to stand and work or bringing in a large, workout ball for seating at my desk now and then for core strengthening.

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