Well-Being//

Why Business Leaders Should Educate Workers About Health

It's up to us to be proactive -- without judgment.

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Courtesy of One Line Man/ Shutterstock
Courtesy of One Line Man/ Shutterstock

In recent years, more businesses have begun to discover the benefits of having a healthier work environment. Healthier employees are more productive, absent less often, cost the business less in health care costs, and bring all sorts of other benefits. So it’s little surprise that “workplace wellness industry revenue has more than tripled in size to $8 billion,” according to one study.

But while businesses are presenting all sorts of new offerings, from yoga classes to mental health resources, many are not taking an important additional step: educating employees about health issues. When the idea of educating employees even comes up in the context of health, it’s often limited to education about health insurance options and programs that they can partake in.

I’ve found that this step makes a huge difference. I’ve regularly held learning sessions for my employees devoted to health topics, inviting in experts to discuss how we can all live healthier lives. The more I’ve done this, the more people have changed their lifestyles — and the more my business has benefited.

Ironically, even when businesses have some sort of health education initiatives, employees often aren’t aware of them. In a survey of employers, nearly two-thirds said they offer some form of education. But a study found that employers “reported offering wellness programs at almost twice the rate of employees who reported having these programs available to them.”

My own journey taught me how important it is to be proactive in getting out the word about all sorts of workplace wellness issues — including some that aren’t obvious to most people.

Discovering transformational wellness

As a tech founder, I know what it’s like to overwork, follow crazy hours, and let certain important basics — like taking care of yourself — fall to the wayside.

Several years ago, I found myself in bad shape. But even as I began to improve certain things, like eating better and getting more exercise, I was still facing problems. My back was hurting so much I could barely sit in a car. I also wasn’t sleeping well. 

So I decided to take a holistic look at what my entire day was like. And that’s when I discovered the myriad elements that can contribute to, or take away from, wellness at work.

This includes everything from standing desks and exercise balls in place of chairs, to increasing my exposure to natural light (and decreasing artificial light), to getting more fresh air. I also added tools to all my computers and devices to reduce blue light.

Little by little, I found that all of these steps and more — like going for walks during the day — can add up to a huge difference.

Educating, without judgment

As a boss, I believe it’s incumbent on me — and others in my position — to provide our employees with both flexibility and access to the best options. If they want to get some work done outside on a laptop, great. If they want to stand, or sit on an exercise ball, or use an ergonomic chair, I support that.

To whatever extent feasible, I encourage business leaders to make healthy environments available. This doesn’t have to mean any big expenses. It can mean opening the blinds, holding one-on-one “walking meetings,” and discouraging employees from checking email at night shortly before bed.

Brief emails to employees or posters on the walls encouraging healthy choices are helpful, along with learning sessions and, perhaps most importantly, setting a good example myself.

But it’s important to do all this without making employees feel uncomfortable about their choices. Work isn’t boot camp — and it’s up to each individual to make choices about how they can thrive.

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