Ever notice how some workplaces tend to be rife with overweight, unhealthy workers, while others seem to be overflowing with fit, energetic people? Turns out, it might not be a coincidence. The choices your co-workers make can influence you too; so if your co-workers are making unhealthy food choices and avoiding exercise, you’re more likely to do the same. Female workers have reported feeling pressure from co-workers to break their diets, and numerous studies have shown the influence that social support -- or the lack of it -- can have on diet success.
Whether you’re the boss, a manager or one of many employees at your workplace, you can have an impact on the overall culture of health at your workplace. By taking some steps to improve your own health, you could find that others will do the same.
Do a simple exercise routine on your lunch break, and invite others to join you. You might be surprised at the power of suggestion. Ideally, you’ll have at least one co-worker who’s willing to lead the charge with you and walk, jog, cycle or attend a class on your lunch break on a regular basis. As you begin to make that workout a routine, encourage others to join you.
Of course, you’ll need to be sensitive to each co-worker’s schedule, so you know when’s the right time to ask. If you know that Linda from accounting has a heavy day on Tuesdays but a light one on Wednesdays, for example, ask her to start joining you on your Wednesday walks.
Sign up for an active event for a cause. If you have a co-worker who’s battled a certain illness, you might sign up for a fun run that raises money for the cause. If your workplace deals with a certain population, you might also take part in an event that raises funds for other services that support that population. For example, if you work with kids, sign up for a pledge walk that raises money for foster kids. Then set a schedule that has everyone "training" a couple days a week on your lunch break or after work. Once you’ve gotten into the training groove and you’ve completed the event, you’ll have established a healthy pattern that you can suggest you all continue.
Create facilities for health and wellness. If you’re the boss, the sky’s the limit. You might invite a yoga instructor in for a weekly session, or award points for people who participate in your workplace walking group. You might even turn part of your workplace into a workout facility with weights, mats and shower facilities workers can use throughout the day. When workers see you using the facilities during the work day, they’ll get the signal that it’s OK for them to do the same.
Encourage healthy food habits. The sweet treats are not likely to disappear all together, but you could set a good example by bringing in alternatives to the donuts, cakes and cookies that so often get passed around. Even if you’re the only one eating them, having fruits, veggies or low-carb snacks around your work area will help you avoid the other, unhealthy options. If you’re a manager or boss, you could even get vocal about limiting the number of treats brought in, or ask people to limit the group treats to one day a week.
Changing a workplace culture that is rooted in unhealthy foods and lack of exercise is not easy, but by taking some simple steps, you might find that more people are interested in changing their habits than you previously thought.
Image courtesy Official U.S. Navy Page, Flickr