Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon are pushing telecommuting, NPR reported. Due to fears of the novel coronavirus, employees are being asked to work from home. Focusing on employee health can foster a thriving workplace.
Four of the biggest companies in the United States are telling their Seattle-based employees to work from home, the NPR article said. Employees at both Amazon and Facebook have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease contracted from exposure to the coronavirus. “American companies including IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Apple are restricting travel and canceling big events or turning them into virtual gatherings, as they try to limit their employees’ potential exposure to the virus,” the article said.
As of press time, over 3,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States, resulting in more than 60 deaths. Making employee health a priority in the workplace can bolster morale, productivity, and more.
Food and the Workplace
Encouraging employee health reduces insurance bills for companies and means lower profit loss due to sick employees. One way to help employees stay fit is by promoting healthy nutrition around the office.
“Make it more convenient for people to bring their lunch to work,” said Dr. Beth Cabrera, Senior Scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University. “We are a lot more likely to eat less healthy food when we eat out. So, have a place where food can be stored and heated, and a pleasant room where people can eat.”
Alternatively, Dr. Cabrera recommended that companies offer healthy food items at work. Companies can research and implement vendors who provide healthier items in snack machines or pick more nutritional food items from catered work events. There’s also a technique nutritionists refer to as “choice architecture.”
“[Choice architecture] basically means making healthy choices easier than unhealthy ones,” Dr. Cabrera said. “So, place healthy snacks out in the open and unhealthy foods in opaque corners or inside of cabinets. You can also label foods with green, yellow, or red stickers to let people know which ones are more or less healthy.”
Exercise in the Office
As the work force has increasingly moved to sedentary jobs over the last century, people move around less and less during the average work day. This can lead to stress, obesity, and even depression. Spurring physical fitness during the workday counters these issues.
“Your company may not have the resources to have a gym in the building, but could you pay for your employees to have a membership to a gym—or strike a deal with the gym across the street to provide employee discounts?” Dr. Cabrera asked. “How about offering classes like yoga, tai chi, or Pilates to your employees? Many companies use conference rooms on off hours to provide such classes.”
Dr. Cabrera stressed the importance of employees feeling supported in taking the time to exercise during the day, like on a lunch break. She also said that finding small ways to be active throughout the work day can be a boon to employee fitness.
“Sitting for too long is now being referred to as ‘the new smoking’ due to its impact on mortality rates,” she said. “Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a great way to move more. Having walking meetings keeps people active and stimulates creativity at the same time.”
Even if an employee is working from home, they should be made to feel comfortable taking a short walk and a meal break.
Dr. Beth Cabrera contributed to this article. Dr. Cabrera is a Senior Scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University. She received her Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology.