If you are looking to carry out some health promotion in your workplace? Here are some of the things you can do.
Posting information on the internet/intranet. Years ago, occupational health departments, charged with a bit of health promotion activity in their business plan spent many hours writing up resources and leaflets for various work and non-work related topics. Local NHS Health Promotion Departments handed out small quantities of leaflets. Some of this then started to be posted on fledgling intranet sites. Now, as the 21st Century moves into the stride of its second decade, the internet is full of all the information you could ever need and a huge amount you will never want – and it continues to grow exponentially. It still makes sense to have some of your own information so it is tailored to your own business but the more important skill is not your ability to write but your ability to critically search.
If you want to provide information on back care, there is plenty of it. If you want to provide information on mental health, there is even more. Make sure it is sound and appropriate information, check with the publishers, whether you can post it, reference them and then tell your employees the information is there.
Packs of leaflets and other information. This is still appropriate for employees who may not have ready access to the internet or your intranet. If you work in an office all day, it is easy to think that everyone has IT access but this isn’t the case. If you work on a production line, in agriculture, construction or in any other factory or manual work, you probably don’t log on to your emails every day and might not even have an account. For these environments, a short topical leaflet still has a place.
Amending the staff restaurant menu. If you are lucky enough to have a staff restaurant or canteen, get the catering manager on board. A daily diet of fried food will attract a certain clientele and do nothing for the rest. It is much better to provide a wide range of healthier choices including salads and plenty of vegetables. Health related information is also of benefit in helping employees choose what to eat.
Health Fairs. Health Fairs are a particular favourite of mine as they enable far more people to be seen. Individual health screening requires the use of a health professional for a period of time to provide an individual service. To be worthwhile, a minimum of twenty minutes is required (although 30 – 40 minutes is preferable and more may be required depending on the number of tests) so no more than 24 people can be seen in an 8 hour day and provided the basics. A health fair will consist of 3 or 4 health professionals in a room and between 4 and 8 different stands dealing with various topics such as basic data (blood pressure etc), diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol or any specific topic you might require. Often up to 120 employees can be seen per day. The event will cost more but if well attended, the price per employee is remarkably cheap. Newleaf Health (www.newleafhealth.co.uk) are the best at this and the company to contact.
Fruit. A current client provides a free piece of fruit per day to every member of staff. Another has replaced the increasingly fancy cakes and bacon sandwiches that used to be the staple diet of meetings with a bowl of fruit, plates and knives. Objective measurement is difficult but benefits of having a good amount of fruit and vegetables every day is well documented and both organisations genuinely believe they have seen an improvement in attendance.
Individual Health Screening. The most common and effective way of providing health screening is by a face to face consultation with a health professional able to carry out a number of different tests and discuss the results. This might be on site by one of the occupational health team for those in large organisations or by a visiting health professional or off site by visiting a health centre that provides these services. Sometimes health promotion advice can be added into health surveillance if you are one of those who has their hearing or lung function tested every couple of years. As a cheaper alternative, many on-line computer-based screening tools are available. These are more beneficial if you have the information to put in so participants will need access to accurate height and weight information, blood pressure and possibly cholesterol.
Weight Management Programmes. If many of your employees are overweight and would like to do something about it, weight management programmes can help. As a minimum, you will need help from someone experienced in supporting weight loss. I have known organisations bring in someone from one of the weight management companies but there are sometimes issues regarding product endorsement and appropriate management of genuine health problems. Some qualified clinical input is preferred but tends to cost a bit more. The benefits of losing weight are clearly and there are definite links to lower levels of absence, lower levels of other related health problems such as diabetes, improved levels of energy and higher productivity.
Stop Smoking Programmes. As with obesity, if you have a group of smokers wishing to give up, in-house programmes can help. However in the UK, the NHS provide all of this support free of charge including products such as patches to help so the benefits of running something in house are only really in time saved to the employee.
Walking and Exercise Clubs. For anyone in an active job who is on their feet for most of the day the thought of exercise at lunchtime is a long way behind the thought of a sit down. For those in sedentary roles, lunchtime exercise should be encouraged. A walk is the most common and appropriate. A route that would take most people 20 – 30 minutes can be planned near most offices and if taken 3 – 4 times per week, many will find very beneficial. Once in the habit, many will miss it if they don’t do it. You need to walk briskly though. The benefits of exercise are minimal if the heart and breathing rate don’t increase. For those in the active jobs, some stretching exercises are always worthwhile to stop getting stiff.
Alternative Therapies. Such therapies, often provided in break times including massage, Indian head massage, tai chi and aromatherapy were very popular a number of years ago. In recent times, my experience is that companies have much less cash with which to subsidise such services and employees have less money to spend on them. They can still help some though.
Tool box Talks. Talks on the shop floor or area of work where the presenter goes out to the employees are more often about work related issues; how to correctly wear and look after personal protective equipment or protect your skin.There are no rules to say that a tool-box talk cannot be about any other health topic. By the nature of them they are short; 10 – 15 minutes and practically based without the benefits or otherwise of PowerPoint.
Team Events. Competition is often a way to motivate and team or group events to improve fitness can be very successful if one department wants to lose more pounds, walk more miles, or gain more points than the next. Such events are often run on the basis of a weekly visit over 6 – 12 weeks or 3 – 6 visits spread over a few months and include the provision of plenty of helpful information via leaflets and a website. Sometimes this can be personalised so each employee has their own or team log in and can input data on how they are doing. Be careful to ensure it does not become too competitive. Weight lost quickly tends to go back on quickly and adds another kilo or two in the process. To bring in a personal trainer who can help run these events see www.inspiringfitness.co.uk
Executive Health Management Programmes. At the “high” end of health and wellbeing is the executive health management programme where a specialist company comes into the business and works closely with a small number of critical staff. They will undertake a detailed baseline assessment and provide a tailored wellness and fitness programme including diet and exercise spread over a number of weeks. Such products and services are often extremely effective for both the individual member of staff and the business but can be very expensive. See www.thehardedge.com for more information.