Losing five pounds only to quickly regain 10 is a disheartening experience most of us can relate to, and one you’ve likely heard your employees complain about – especially around the holidays.
Helping your employees become healthier means helping them make lifestyle changes for the long term. Adopting a workplace health program that promotes behavior modification is the first step.
Research supports the use of behavior modification to help people make lasting changes that can alter their health for the better, and reduce the cost of medical care associated with being overweight or obese — conditions that affect more than two-thirds of the adult U.S. population,1 and likely, a good number of your employees.
How Workplace Health Programs Promote Change
Introducing a sound behavior modification workplace health program to your employees will promote employee health and help them:
- Set goals that are realistic and measurable
- Develop a reasonable plan for reaching their goals, and
- Make changes incrementally2
Controlling Our Food Environment
Our daily environment — whether home, school or work — influences our lifestyle choices. Workplace health and wellness programs that incorporate behavior modification encourage employees to eat mindfully and to keep tempting, high caloric foods out of their house and the office.
Planning ahead and keeping healthy food choices such as fruit, vegetables and nuts readily available both at home and at our desks helps cut calories while preventing the hunger often associated with dieting.
Health programs for employees should encourage them to adopt new behaviors around food, such as eating smaller portions, saying no to second helpings, limiting alcoholic beverages, and filling up on low calorie foods.
Increasing awareness about existing behaviors and how small, simple changes can dramatically reduce employees’ daily caloric intake can have a powerful impact on employee health. To this end, employees are encouraged to keep a food journal, which research has shown to be an effective weight loss tool. And, thanks to smartphones and wide selection of sophisticated food journal apps, keeping a detailed food log is easier than ever.
Activity Must Be A Priority
A healthy employee is one who is regularly active. A successful workplace health program will help employees make activity a priority and plan for it in their schedules on a regular basis.
Connecting with others – ‘people like me’- who are also working to make lifestyle changes can be helpful to people as they work toward their goals. Employees can be encouraged to take a walk with a colleague during lunch breaks, provide encouragement over a social network, go to the gym with a friend or even participate in a work running club. Working out with a companion can make exercise more fun and keep employees accountable to each other. Social support from a network of friends and family can encourage healthy eating and exercise habits.
And, like the food journal, research also shows that an exercise journal or regular use of a wearable activity monitor tracking how much employees engage in physical activity helps to increase awareness about their level of activity and promote long-term change.
How Workplace Health Programs Reward Change
We all respond to rewards, which is why behavior modification uses reinforcement to help people reach their goals. Ideally, those rewards will be tied to an individual’s intrinsic motivation.
Positive behavior and the achievement of specific goals, such as short-term weight loss, are a good way to keep motivation high. Rewards should reinforce both short and long-term goals. For example, after losing five pounds, a new tennis racket will both act as a reward for reaching a goal and also encourage more physical activity.
Achieving small continuous steps to accomplish sustainable results can have a huge impact on employee health. Implementing a scientifically supported behavior modification program is one important tool employers can use to encourage healthier lifestyles among their workforce.
A good workplace health program for employees is one that promotes long term behavior change, is personalized to each individual employee and provides smart technology and mobile apps for tracking nutrition and exercise on the go. Most importantly, the workplace health program you choose, must understand that instant gratification in health doesn’t provide long term results.