Peer pressure touted as effective way to encourage healthier living

Employers should use the power of peer pressure to encourage staff to live healthy lifestyles, according to experts.

Last week, speakers at the launch of the Corporate Heart consultancy’s Wellness Debate 2005 in London told delegates that peer influence is far more effective than measures dictated by business, and should be used to help increase productivity.

It is estimated that ill health leads to the loss of 8.1 million working days each year, at a cost of 7.8bn to employers.

Corporate coaching expert Chris Kaday said employers were trying hard to help staff, but company-initiated change was generally slow, with low take-up.

“People have to take responsibility for their own change,” he said. “There is no shortage of support; it’s about a shortage of will.”

Kaday said that employers should offer staff opportunities for change and create a supportive environment. This would begin a process of peer pressure that would “bring people in”, he said.

Companies then have to make change processes as simple as possible to take up and deliver them using a credible amount of resources, Kaday said.

The Wellness Debate is a quarterly series of talks exploring issues that shape behaviour in the workplace.

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