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New Year, Good Habits? Helping Employees Keep Their Wellness Resolutions


It’s cliche, but true: Gym memberships skyrocket in January, as resolution-makers swear this is the year they’ll get in shape.

And yet by May, nearly 80 percent of new gym members will have stopped going. And by the end of the year, fewer than 10 percent will have felt like they kept their resolution.

As an employer, can you help things be different this year?

Employees spend more than a third of their waking hours at work, which makes the workplace the perfect opportunity to develop and reinforce good habits. When you help your employees stick to their resolutions—whatever they may be—you end up with a happier, healthier workforce and more productive, effective employees.

Here are a few easy ways to get started.

Talk With Employees

It’s hard to support employees in their overall wellness efforts when you don’t know what their interests, goals, or even stumbling blocks are. Take some time to talk with employees and see what they’re looking to accomplish in the year ahead. Then, identify ways you can help them succeed in creating new good habits.

Maybe they’re looking to learn a new skill or aiming for a promotion. Or maybe they want to become better at time management or task delegation. Offer whatever support you can, and then check back in with them regularly to see the progress they’re making toward their goal. Not only will your employees appreciate your support, but you’ll also gain a better understanding of what motivates—and frustrates—them.

Make Healthy Food Choices Easier

What you eat doesn’t affect just your physical health—it can also impact other areas of health, like your concentration, mental focus and ability to manage stress. Chances are, you’ve got a lot of employees coming down from sugar highs each afternoon, thanks to a birthday celebration or a grab-and-go candy bar from the vending machine. Productivity is tanking, enthusiasm is waning, and the only solution to the afternoon slump seems to be more sugar.

We wouldn’t suggest policing food choices or replacing all the candy bars with kale chips, as that may spark a backlash. However, encouraging people to eat healthier can be done gradually by sprinkling in healthy alternatives amongst the pizza and the burgers and subtly encouraging better eating habits.

Here are two simple ways to make healthier options more attractive:

1. Make Them Easily Accessible

Keep a stash of healthy snacks like yogurt, fruit, nuts, and granola available to all employees in the breakroom. Instead of being tempted to mindlessly snack on doughnuts or cookies, employees can take a healthier alternative back to their desks.

2. Make Them Less Expensive

Whether you’re offering deep discounts on salad bar purchases or pricing air-popped popcorn a quarter less than the chips in the vending machines, making your healthy options less expensive may entice employees to try something new.

Encourage Active Living

“Losing weight” or “getting in shape” are some of the more common resolutions—and with good reason. Making even small improvements to physical health can eradicate some weight-related diseases, prevent future health issues, and extend lifespans, not to mention improve mental and emotional health. But active living doesn’t have to mean training for Ironman competitions. Encouraging movement can be as simple as:

  1. Offering sit-to-stand desks to employees and encouraging them to get up and move regularly throughout the day.
  2. Promoting outdoor walking meetings during good weather.
  3. Handing out inexpensive pedometers and rewarding steps with water bottles, gift cards, and other incentives.

Create Social Support

Employees are more likely to keep their good habits going if they have a social network they can count on for support. Like it or not, we’re all influenced by our peers. If we go out to lunch with a co-worker and they order a salad, we might be more likely to forgo our hamburger and cheese fries in lieu of lighter fare. And if our co-worker takes the stairs to head to the weekly staff meeting, we’re inclined to follow their lead.

Take advantage of the positive influence you and your employees can offer each other by building social networks through common interests and problems:

  1. Set up a Slack channel for employees with similar resolutions, like saving money, losing weight, or reading more.
  2. Bring in guest speakers to discuss common challenges employees face, like smoking cessation or planning for retirement.
  3. Start a lunchtime fitness club. Members can walk outside, participate in an instructor-led yoga class, or engage in another physical activity.

Offer a Holistic Approach to Wellness

Many view the new year as a fresh start—an opportunity to reinvent themselves and do things differently. Unfortunately, only a small percentage follow through on their resolutions. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As an employer, you’re in a unique position to support your employees and provide the resources and guidance to help them turn resolutions into lifelong good habits. And what you’ll get back in return is priceless: productive, enthusiastic, and empowered employees who contribute to the success of your organization.

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