Posts Tagged ‘health’

Help Employees Include Fitness in Their Plans for the New Year

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

office wellnessEmployees spend a large portion of their time at work. Hitting their deadlines and entertaining clients are often more important to them than making sure they make it to the gym three times a week. Although it’s an additional thing for employees to add to their busy lives, exercising brings a number of benefits when done regularly. You can help employees improve their concentration, feel less stress and sleep more by encouraging them to incorporate fitness in their goals for 2013.

Sometimes employees won’t be able to make it to the gym or the park down their street. If that happens, help them stay fit with some work-friendly fitness tips:

  • Tell employees to take breaks to stretch throughout the day. Stretching reduces risk of injury and improves mental alertness.
  • Start a fitness club. Organize different activities to do with your employees. Try a yoga class one day and a walk around your facilities on another. Offer activities during lunch or after work throughout the year. Participation should be optional.
  • Replace office snacks high in sugar and low in nutrition with healthier options. Also provide plenty of drinking water in your break rooms.
  • Have flexibility in your office start time and end time for those employees who want to work out before they come in and those who want to work out when they leave.
  • Hold lunch and learns for your staff on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Include healthy lunch options for your employees to try.
  • Ask your employees if they have all the resources they need to complete their jobs or a specific project. Ensuring that they have everything they need to perform well will reduce their stress.
  • Have employees move around more by encouraging them to a visit a coworker in their office when they need them instead of buzzing them by phone or writing an email.      

For more tips to improve the overall health and wellness of your employees, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: lululemon athletica

Employees May Need a 7th Inning Stretch

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The post below is a guest blog from Elizabeth Johnson who serves as Health Management Coordinator for CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.

Stretching is a vital and important part of beginning any fitness routine, but did you know that it is absolutely essential to a productive and healthy work environment as well? It increases flexibility, improves mental alertness, and reduces anxiety, stress and fatigue, making your employees healthier and more productive all around.

Employees who work behind a desk all day are susceptible to developing musculoskeletal disorders that commonly arise from having poor or inappropriate seating, spending too much time in one position and engaging in repetitive actions, such as typing. Encouraging employees to take short breaks every hour or two to stand up, walk around and stretch will improve their focus and long-term well-being.

Regular stretching can:

  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Improve circulation
  • Improve mental alertness
  • Decrease risk of injury
  • Tune the mind into the body

Many stretches can easily be accomplished at the desk, but some should not be attempted without warming up. A brief walk around the office stretches and warms the legs and body at the same time, which helps to ease into a few stretching routines for key parts of the body.

Working a desk job and sitting in front of the computer can cause damage to the neck, wrist and back. These areas of the body need special attention. Below are some stretches that will help prevent injury and soreness.

 Neck: Stretching the neck is very important for employees who spend hours working in front of computers. Stretching the neck is simple and can be accomplished anywhere. Looking straight forward, employees should slowly tilt their ear toward their shoulder, paying close attention not to raise the shoulder, but to focus on the stretch in the side of the neck. Hold the position for 15-20 seconds, then slowly tilt the head to the other side. It is also beneficial to look left and right, practice chin tucks (tucking the chin to the chest) and look up towards the ceiling. This stretch should be done two or three times throughout the workday.

 Wrists: Desk employees who type frequently are highly at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, and while experts still argue if it is caused by repetitive strain, employees should exercise caution and stretch their wrists. Extend one hand out in front as if making the hand motion for “stop” and use the other hand to gently pull the fingers back towards the body. Then, letting the fingers of the same hand point toward the ground, use the other hand to pull back towards the body once again. Repeat with the opposite hand. Additionally, moving the hands slowly in a circular motion, in alternating directions, is a great stretch for the wrists. As much as employees type throughout the day, they should stretch their wrists about once every hour.

 Back: The most common and consistent complaint for office workers is back pain. The best remedy for it is to consistently practice good posture. To combat the common habit of slouching in front of a computer screen, interlock the fingers and stretch the arms upward. Slowly lean the body to one side and then the other, like a slow pendulum. To invigorate the lower back after long periods of sitting, stand and place the palms of the hands on the lower back with fingers pointing downward. Then, push forward with the palms and lean back gently until a stretch is felt. Employees should perform this stretch about four to five times a day.

Does your company have a system in place to suggest stretching to its employees? If not, get a couple of co-workers together to stretch at the same time to keep up with a healthy work environment. Or even suggest having a professional come in for an hour to set best practices for stretching at the workplace. Whatever you do, fit in some kind of stretch regime to keep your mind, body in balance for a productive workplace. Our Health Management team at HCW has several tools to help our clients develop and implement wellness strategies such as this to create a healthier workforce. Contact us to help you through that 7th inning stretch!

Photo credit: iStock

Keep Workforce Productivity High with 5 Simple Practices

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

People complain that there are not enough hours in their day to complete a laundry list of tasks. Instead of complaining, however, people can make small changes in their workday to have a more productive day, month, year, etc.  Try the five tips below to improve on the job performance:

Don’t Focus on Emails

Answering emails can be a big productivity drainer. Not all of your emails need to be answered immediately. Rather than replying to emails throughout the day, set a specific time during your work hours to answer your mail. Of course you can take time throughout the day to answer emails on time-sensitive matters or from important people, such as your CEO or best client.

The Most Important Is First

If you slept well and had something to eat for breakfast, your productivity level at the beginning of your day should be high. Take on your most time-consuming or labor-intensive project while your energy and concentration are through the roof. Save small tasks for the end of the day when your performance starts to wane.

Use Breaks Effectively

All employees should utilize breaks throughout the day to avoid burn out. Because peak work performance generally takes place at the start of the day, try to save chats with coworkers or updates on your social media sites for late afternoon. Go on a short walk or read a news article mid-morning for a less distracting break near the beginning of your day.

Prioritize the List

To-do lists are great tools to help keep your day organized. But piling too many tasks on your list can affect your productivity negatively. Prevent daunting to-do lists by only selecting items you plan to get done that day. Number each item on the list to prioritize items you’ll do first. Go a step further by allotting a specific amount of time for each task. Complete this process for each day of your week.

Make Good Health Choices

Your energy level each day contributes to how productive you are during your work week. Several factors affect your energy level and good health is the best way to positively shape it. Make sure to get an adequate amount of sleep each night to restore your body for its next day of work. Avoid constantly eating fast food or drinking sugary drinks that deprive you of the energy you need. Exercise multiple times per week to help keep your physical and mental health strong.

For more helpful tips on improving the productivity and overall work performance of your staff, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

14 Ways to Help Your Employees Improve Their Health and Work Performance

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Employers, you can help your employees be more productive and engaged workers. Including activities and programs that improve the mental and physical health of your staff members will help them enhance their work performance. Your employees will experience many benefits by maintaining good health. Stress is reduced, focusing is easier, fatigue is minimized and job satisfaction is increased when workers adopt a more healthy way of life.

There are several ways you can help your employees shape up. Helping them switch some of their routines could also help you reduce the cost of your company health care plan. However, for maximum impact make sure the focus of your health initiative is helping your employees get healthier rather than helping your organization save money.

Below are 14 ways to help your employees improve their physical and mental health:

  • Provide them with a stipend that they can use for fitness activities, such as gym memberships or yoga classes
  • Replace high calorie snacks and sugary drinks at your office with more nutritious options
  • Encourage your employees to take short breaks between long periods of work to help them regain focus and avoid burn out
  • Create a quiet space with comfortable chairs for employees to take their breaks
  • Make walking maps of the company neighborhood available for employees to use before work, during lunch or at the end of the day
  • Offer a free, healthy lunch option to employees once a month
  • Plan onsite group fitness activities during lunch or after work hours, and allow your staff members to choose if they’d like to participate
  • Personalize items for your employees that will motivate them to pursue fitness activities
      • For example, you can order water bottles and pedometers personalized with the company logo or names of staff members to encourage weekly walking
  • Have a massage therapist come onsite to provide employees with inexpensive massages
      • Massages can be paid for by your company or by your employees
  • Provide information on achieving a healthier lifestyle in your company newsletter and on bulletin boards
  • Plan a company picnic that includes fitness activities, such as softball or tug of war
      • Invite employees’ families to participate as well
  • Tell your employees to take and enjoy their lunch breaks—preferably out of their office or workspace
  • Keep plenty of water in different workspaces for your employees to maintain  hydration and  concentration throughout the day
  • Work with your benefits provider to offer onsite flu shots for your employees and their families

Please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 if you are interested in receiving more strategies to improve workplace performance.

Photo Source: Port of San Diego

3 Tips to Transform a Bad Start into a Positive and Productive Work Day

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Or maybe your alarm didn’t go off and you overslept. Maybe traffic is unimaginably heavy because of an accident, making you late for your morning meeting. And you didn’t have time for breakfast so you’ve assumed your energy level for the day will be low. You’ve already predicted that this is going to be a bad day even before you make it to your office

Instead of fulfilling your prediction, try to prevent a bad start from controlling the rest of your workday. You can still achieve a productive day even if the beginning was rocky. The tips below will help you stay positive while also maintaining your productivity:

Eliminate Negative Talk

Nothing can make your day worse than your own negative talk about how you think the day will fare. If you do find yourself cursing the day or lamenting over a missed opportunity, change your mood by switching to a topic that’s more positive.  Negative words from your coworkers can also steer you off the track to a positive day. Tune out their gossip and treat them with kindness so they know you’re not interested in participating in deprecating conversations.

Focus on Being Positive

So we’ve established that the start of your day wasn’t very good, but that doesn’t mean the rest of your day will hold a similar fate. Instead of focusing on what went wrong during your day, shift your focus on all the things that went well or right. You are in charge of your attitude, thoughts and actions. Choose to react to your bad day with positivity and determination that you’ll make it better. Having this attitude will help you end your day well.

Treat Your Body Well

Being negative or frequently complaining is not good for your overall health. Not getting out of a bad mood can increase your stress levels, making you more irritable and fatigued.  Treat your body well to boost your mood and give you more energy. Get a solid amount of sleep each night, eat healthy and exercise regularly to squash a bad mood.

Training yourself to be more optimistic takes time and a conscious effort, however, attaining this goal will significantly reduce the number of bad days you have.

Photo Source: baka_san

5 Things Managers Should Implement To Avoid Office Injuries

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The following post is a guest post from Connect Physical Health. Connect Physical Health has been providing both on-site and off-site Occupational physiotherapy services including training packages since 1989 and has a proven track record across a wide range of public and private business sectors.  Connect delivers significant financial savings, typically £4 for every £1 invested and helps to improve the wellbeing of your greatest asset – your workforce!

In businesses across the nation, millions of employees sit at desks for at least 40 hours each week. That means 2,400 minutes of shoulder slumping, wrist twisting, and eye straining. You may not know it, but your employees may be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, or even tendonitis. Many suffer from general aches and pains—back pain, joint pain, neck stiffness, sore eyes, and the like—because of improper ergonomics in the workplace.

We know that, as an employer, you can’t risk these injuries in your workforce. That’s why we researched ways to avoid injury at the office. Here’s what we found:

 

1.       Well Designed Office Furniture Is Worth The Investment

One of the direct culprits of office injuries is disproportional office equipment. We know that each individual is different so tailoring to each body type may be difficult. But having adjustable office chairs and desks may be a great solution.

Investing in quality office furniture can be expensive but paying medical bills associated with office injuries can be even more costly to your bottom line. Having furniture that fits your employees comfortably can go a long way in preventing aches, pains, and rising health care costs.

You’ll want to choose a chair with a stable five-point base that’s on wheels. The height should be easily adjustable so that each employee can rest his or her feet on the floor. Also, consider chairs with adjustable armrests that allow your employees to rest their arms at waist-level.

Just like the chair, the desk should be adjusted to fit the user. While the employee is seated, the desk should come up to elbow level. Employees should not have to hunch over to reach their work. There should be enough room beneath the desk to comfortably fit the worker’s knees and thighs.

 

2.       Make Sure Each Computer Is Properly Placed

 The majority of your office workers probably use a computer to complete their tasks. Employees with a standard desktop should have the monitor centered at eye-level. It should be ‘arms distance’ away from the employee’s body.

For those employees using a laptop, proper ergonomics can be difficult. Keeping the head and neck in line, while also finding a comfortable position for the hands and wrists, can be a challenge. That’s why we suggest an external monitor or keyboard for frequent laptop users. This way, you can be sure that each employee has the office design they need to keep proper posture and spine alignment.

 

3.       Encourage People To Have Good Posture

Even with the proper office design, employees sitting with incorrect posture are bound to need a trip to a physiotherapist eventually. While sitting in an office chair, users must keep the bones of the spine properly aligned in order to avoid injury. Having diagrams of proper office posture  in the break room can be a great reminder for your staff.

Here are some guidelines to suggest to your office employees:

  • Sit with hips and backside as far back as possible in the chair. Use a rolled up towel or the chair’s lumbar support to keep the lower back comfortable.
  • Knees should be positioned slightly lower than the hips.
  • Let the arms hang natural and relaxed. Rest the forearms on the chair’s armrests. Keep elbows in close to the body, especially when keying and using the mouse.
  • The head should always be level and in line with the torso.
  • Sit close to the desk. Never slouch or slump.

 

4.       Schedule Rest Breaks

 With the hectic pace of corporate America today, “rest breaks” have all but been eliminated from our vocabulary. As the employer, we recommend that you promote breaks and brief walks to help keep your employees energized and relaxed. We recommend a short break every 30 to 60 minutes. Encourage your workers to stand up, walk, or stretch during this period. Here are some specific stretches for employees who need to alleviate tight muscles:

  • Stretch arms over your head and link fingers. Lean back slightly, pushing the chest out.
  • On one side, tilt ear to shoulder. Hold for five seconds and return to vertical. Repeat on the other side.
  • From a relaxed position, bring shoulders up to ears. Hold briefly and then relax.

 

5.       Have Proper Ergonomics Training

 Taking a class on ergonomics can give your company the in-depth knowledge you need to keep your workforce functioning at an optimal level. Organizations like the National Safety Council or OSHA, along with universities and private organizations, all offer ergonomics training. You may also contact occupational physiotherapy professionals, like Connect Physical Health, for advice on preventing and healing any musculoskeletal ailments that occur in the workplace. Just being aware of ergonomics safety can greatly impact your office.

For the untrained eye, improper ergonomics can be difficult to detect. We hope this blog post will encourage you to promote better office design and posture in your workplace. With your hard work in office ergonomics, we bet you’ll find improved productivity and happier employees.

Note: The content of this article is for general information purposes and is not meant to replace physiotherapy or medical consultation.

What is the current state of ergonomics in your workplace? How do you think improved ergonomics could benefit your workforce?

Photo Source: Army Medicine

4 Reasons Why You Should Take Your Vacation Days

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

I hope everyone enjoyed a relaxing and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend—free from work and even email! Taking vacation is underutilized by many employees, and the reasons why vary. Some workers believe that they must always be in work mode to get a promotion or even keep their jobs. Others plan poorly and realize at the end of the year that they didn’t take enough vacation and that their allotted days have expired.

Forgoing your vacation days isn’t advantageous. Taking time to unplug from work is helpful for both employees and employers because several benefits emerge from taking regular time off. Here are some of the top reasons why you should use your vacation days and encourage your staff to do the same:

Maintain Health

    • Leaving the office for several days reenergizes your mind and body. Worry and tension is released when you’re not focused on your responsibilities at the office, allowing you to sleep better, concentrate longer and be happier. Studies reveal that vacations can also reduce feelings of depression.

Prevent Stress

    • Always pushing yourself and working past your limits without breaks causes stress. The high-anxiety atmosphere you create for yourself will ultimately catch up with you, whether the result is business failure or poor health. Take your vacation throughout the year to decrease workplace stress and keep it at a manageable level.

Inspire Creativity

    • Vacations are great for inspiring creativity because your brain isn’t focused on the long list of tasks and projects you left at the office. Time off allows your brain to recharge from your busy workweek. A good recharge is especially beneficial to employees who have positions requiring creative and innovative thinking

Improve Job Performance

    • Taking your vacation time helps you return to the office fresh and motivated to take on your goals and workplace challenges. With your stress levels down and your brain fully charged, your productivity and job satisfaction will increase. Additionally, you will have a more positive outlook, which will help you nurture and maintain better relationships with your coworkers.

Cut the number of long days you spend at the office and raise your number of requests for time off this year. For any questions regarding vacation time and its many benefits, please call CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Nicolas Mamberti

Use Effective Time Management to Keep Your Workforce Productive

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

At 2 a.m. this Sunday, we will set our clocks forward one hour for Daylight Saving Time. The practice first used in World War 1 adds daylight to our afternoons and evenings. Many activities benefit from the spring time change, but many people don’t forget the fact that we lose an hour to keep some sunlight. Depending on your organization and the work your employees complete, this loss of an hour could have a negative effect on your company’s productivity. Utilizing effective time management strategies will help you and your staff avoid unfavorable results from the lost hour.

Successful time management comes easy to some, but for most people, it is a skill that takes time to learn and perfect. Being more efficient with time has several workplace advantages. Here are a few: deadlines and expected results are met because they were realistic, fewer errors occur in projects because staff members allot appropriate time to complete them and last-minute panicking to address pertinent assignments decreases.

Some managers and members of senior leadership think the answer to solving time management issues is to eliminate all time wasters. Examples of time wasters include chatting with coworkers, surfing the internet, taking personal phones calls, checking personal emails and running errands. Yes, these activities take away time from completing projects, but they shouldn’t be eliminated all together. If employees work straight through their 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shifts, they will most likely burn out. Breaks, downtime and socializing should be practiced in the workplace because they help create a positive atmosphere for everyone. Instead of eliminating these activities, limiting the amount of time spent on them is encouraged.

Here are a few more time management strategies to share with your workforce:

  • Plan your day
    • Whether you make a to-do list or setup tasks in your Microsoft Outlook, specify the assignments you want to complete for the day. You can also go one step further and specify the amount of time you’d like to spend on each project. Make sure your list is manageable so this method is helpful not overwhelming.
  • Practice prioritizing projects
    • Finishing all of your easy assignments in a day does feel good, but dragging out the length of a high-priority assignment is never fun. Build time in your daily schedule to work on an important project. Break it down into smaller parts or take breaks to avoid a burn out. Getting these assignments finished before or by deadline will make more of an impact on your company than the easy projects.
  • Delegate when you can
    • If you have tasks that can be completed quicker with the help of additional team members, ask for their support. Delegation is a great business tool because it helps free up some of your time while also empowering the employees who receive the additional assignments.
  • Know when to say no
    •  Sometimes employees take on more work than they can handle for various reasons such as, wanting a raise or proving they can take on more responsibility. Overworking creates stress and lowers employee morale and job satisfaction. Instead of volunteering for projects that come your way, evaluate the core assignments that you have to finish. If a new project will cause a missed deadline for another project, politely decline and give the reason why you are declining.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
    • Loss of concentration can often be attributed to an unhealthy lifestyle. Eating nutritious food, exercising multiple times per week and adapting a routine sleep schedule will give you plenty of energy to stay focused throughout your work day. Your ability to stay focused will help you complete tasks more efficiently and with fewer errors.

For additional tips to effectively manage time and increase productivity for your company, consider participating in CAI’s Time Mastery: Taking Control of Your Time course.

Photo Source: Victor1558

America is Stressed: Five Tips to Help Your Employees Prevent the Effects of Workplace Stress

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

The American Psychological Association (APA) released the results of its annual Stress in America survey on January 11, 2012.  More than 1,200 adults, aged 18 and older, participated in the survey that was conducted between August 11 and September 6 of last year.

In describing its findings from the survey, APA suggests that America is on the verge of a public health crisis due to stress:

“Participants’ responses have revealed high stress levels, reliance on unhealthy behaviors to manage stress and alarming physical health consequences of stress — a combination that suggests the nation is on the verge of a stress-induced public health crisis.”

As an employer, it is important to know that 70 percent of survey respondents cited work as one of their top stressors. The survey reveals that people understand the effects that stress can have on their health, but they are not taking adequate steps to prevent stress or manage it well, which causes them to experience symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, and lack of interest or motivation.

Employees who have high levels of stress struggle to perform at their best. For your company, this means less quality work, more errors, decreased morale, poor customer service and increased absenteeism if you decide to ignore the presence of stress in your workplace.

Our December post on stress offered tips on how you can help your employees maintain their stress levels. The tips below offer your employees tactics that they can utilize on their own to manage stress. Share and review the following with your workforce:

Press Pause

Many people experience stress because they regularly work up to their breaking points. Approaching work in that manner causes high anxiety and frequent fatigue, and completed products from this method are generally less than stellar. Avoid this behavior by taking breaks when necessary. Walking away from an overwhelming project for 15 minutes can help you calm down and return to work with a clear mind that is ready to focus.   

Lean on Colleagues

Do not be afraid to speak up when your workload is greater than you can handle. Companies who value teamwork are successful, so reach out to you coworker to see if he can spare ten minutes to help you review a document or complete a task. If help from your coworkers does not lighten your load, talk to your manager to see if she can help you create a system or action plan to complete your tasks.

Utilize Flexibility

More employers are offering their workforces flexibility around their schedules. With family duties and responsibilities not related to work, life can get stressful trying to balance it all. If you cannot afford a babysitter but need someone to watch your children after school, ask your manager if you can work at home for part of the day. If rush hour traffic lengthens your commute time or guzzles up your gas, ask if you can adjust your start time and end time. Show your appreciation for workplace flexibility by not taking advantage of the system and completing work during your redesigned schedule.    

Manage Time Effectively

Fifty-six percent of the survey participants believe that managing their time better will help them manage their stress. Time management is critical when working to complete several projects, but people who are stressed often spend time worrying about how they will finish their work, which leaves them with more frustration and less time to complete their projects. Stop this cycle by creating a list of the tasks that you need to get done. Prioritize the list by importance and deadline, and work hard to cross each item off. You can also break your long list into daily lists and indicate the tasks you wish to complete for each day of the week.

Be Healthy

APA’s survey revealed that participants ranked eating well and exercising at the bottom of the list when comparing factors that create a healthy lifestyle. Practicing good nutrition and fitness will immediately cause stress levels to go down. Healthy food provides your body with energy so you can stay alert for eight hours at work. Exercising multiple times per week gives you energy to focus and releases endorphins to help you stay positive. Sleep is also essential for battling stress. Getting at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep will help you recharge and feel refreshed for your next day of work.

According to the Stress in America survey, respondents have consistently listed work as one of their top stressors for the past five years. Be aware that this trend will likely continue for the next five years, so help your employees handle their stress to avoid burn out and achieve success for themselves and the organization. For more strategies on combating employee stress, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: bengerman