Business in the Community and Public Health England have published a toolkit to help employers encourage healthier eating and exercise habits among their staff.
The toolkit, Physical activity, healthy eating and healthier weight: a toolkit for employers, has reminded businesses that healthy staff can be more productive, take less time off sick, and stay in employment longer than those considered unhealthy. It has provided a checklist of actions that employers can take to support their employees in making healthier choices.
It has argued that around a third of adults in England are “damaging their health through a lack of physical activity”, because of factors such as prolonged sitting in the workplace and making a majority of their trips by car.
To reduce prolonged sitting, the toolkit suggests that employers could encourage staff to get up from their desks every 30 minutes, promote standing or walking meetings, or provide extra-long telephone cords or cordless phones so that employees can stand or walk during calls.
When it comes to promoting healthier eating, the toolkit recommends that employers work with staff to help them identify what is needed to encourage them to make healthier choices. It also suggested that healthier food and drink options be provided at meetings or events, that free fruit and vegetables are also supplied, and that “family days” are held to help encourage healthy eating at home.
The toolkit said: “Employees are more likely to make healthier choices about physical activity and diet if they feel supported by their employer. An open and inclusive workplace culture helps to tackle the stigma of physical and mental health.
“As employers begin their journey, the first step should be to engage with employees, involving them from the very beginning to create an approach that will work best for them.”
The toolkit has also offered advice to organisations with shift workers and remote workers, as well as information to help those with mental health issues, which could have an impact on people’s eating habits.
The number of people diagnosed with diabetes is estimated to have more than doubled in the last 20 years to 3.7 million, according to the NHS, while the charity Diabetes UK has said obesity is one of the major causes in preventable cases of type 2 diabetes.