employees workplace wellness

Part II: ‘How Can Employers Help Employees Increase Physical Activity Levels?’

Yesterday we began addressing an important question that, with research, addresses program design within a well-run workplace wellness program: “How can employers help employees increase physical activity levels?”

The guidance comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has published the Physical Activity in the Workplace” guide, created in partnership with the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The CDC writes: “Given the extensive health and business benefits that come from a physically active workforce, employers are interested in learning how they can increase physical activity levels in their workplaces.”

Tips to Help Employees Gain Physical Activity

Today we continue their list of research-based tips:

  • “Create a community-wide educational campaign. An educational campaign can improve knowledge about the benefits of physical activity and ways to overcome barriers, increase awareness about opportunities for physical activity during the workday, and increase participation in workplace-based events. Campaigns should use highly visible messages delivered through multiple channels, including announcements at meetings, emails, and newsletters.”
  • “Tailor programming to employee needs and desires. New technologies like wearables and fitness apps may provide the extra push that less active employees need, while active employees may simply need peer support. Sometimes, using non-traditional approaches to improve health works best: for example, focusing on what employees value most (often, not their health).”
  • “Target multiple factors to help maximize success. Because physical activity covers a range of health behaviors and reinforces a number of other health promoting opportunities, addressing multiple risk factors alongside physical activity will maximize success… best practice programs are multi-level and multi-component, helping build a culture of health.”
  • “Consider using new technology to boost engagement. Utilizing modern technology has great potential for reducing sedentary lifestyles… However, despite emerging evidence that new technologies can facilitate behavior change, many new apps and wearables remain untested, and their effects on behavior are not fully understood. Also, it is not clear whether technology-based interventions work as well in lower income populations. This does not mean that employers should shy away from new technologies, but rather that programs should conduct thorough evaluations to examine the effects of new strategies and share their findings with the research community. Finally, wearables can be a great tool to get employees motivated to start a program, but there is currently little evidence they can sustain behavior change over time.”
  • “Set realistic goals, and monitor progress towards those goals. Dr. Mukhtar stresses that one critical element of achieving goals is continuous monitoring and evaluation of progress. Monitoring and evaluation help employers identify and improve upon weaknesses, leading to better programs and healthier employees.”

In summary, the CDC states what those who design, implement and execute a well-run workplace wellness program know well: “Physical activity plays an important role in employees’ health, well-being, and quality of life. Employees who are healthier are more productive, require less sick leave, and have lower healthcare costs.”