Battling Obesity Epidemic In Workplace
Helping employees stay fit and manage healthier lifestyles are important for all businesses – not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it makes good business sense
Twenty-five years ago, life seemed much simpler, didn’t it? When I first started working, we didn’t have as much technology to stay connected, work was confined to the hours of 9-6 and the pace just seemed a little more relaxed. This also meant that we were much more physically active. I used to walk around 4-5 miles every day to meet customers and spent my evenings playing with my daughter.
Today, we live in a very different world with multiple pressures and conflicting demands of work and family. Due to globalization, we work late hours to connect with colleagues in different time zones, binge on unhealthy foods to save time, and often juggle between our desktops and smartphones to never miss an email - all leading to sedentary lifestyles.
If you’re nodding in agreement, it is not just a matter of “remembering the good old days;” it’s time to understand how this is resulting in people becoming unhealthy and obese due to limited physical activities. Did you know that about 30 million people are overweight or obese in India and the direct and indirect cost of obesity-associated conditions in India is estimated at nearly US$13 billion by 2025? People who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk for developing diabetes, stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol and certain types of cancers – and for an employer, that can mean greater absenteeism and higher healthcare costs compared to non-obese employees.
But employers can help make a difference - by providing an environment that fosters and supports healthy choices and actively investing in sustainable approaches to employee health and wellbeing. With a bold aspiration of having the healthiest workforce by 2020 at Johnson & Johnson, we have developed, launched and measured a number of successful wellness and prevention programs to help our employees achieve their own personal best. Today, more than 90% of our employees around the globe have access to programs that encourage preventive care, healthy eating and healthy movement. Employees participate in regular step-challenges using digital tools, utilize on-site fitness centers and enjoy weekly yoga sessions at their work desk.
We understand that encouraging exercise and healthy eating among staff members can’t be done in isolation – instead, it should form part of a far broader initiative to promote staff health and wellbeing. For example, in partnership with the Human Performance Institute, we offer the Energy For Performance program to our employees. Grounded in the sciences of performance psychology, exercise physiology and nutrition, it teaches employees to manage and maximize their emotional, mental, physical and spiritual energies, so they can perform their best at work and home.
Periodic health assessments and employee assistance programs can also help employees make right health choices and opt for early interventions as required. All Johnson and Johnson employees have free access to our Life Coach Program, which offers support and guidance at any time of the day or night. Colleagues facing challenges such as depression or stress can speak to a Life Coach and be guided towards the help they need to protect and restore their mental well-being.
Helping employees stay fit and manage healthier lifestyles are important for all businesses – not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it makes good business sense. Studies show that by combating obesity in the workplace we can decrease employee absenteeism, improve productivity and reduce health care costs.
All these important benefits strengthen businesses in the long term. We believe society will not succeed in reducing health care costs and improving lives …until we pay as much attention to preventing disease and its complications as we do to treating it or ensuring care.
November 26 is observed as the Anti-Obesity Day, and I would urge you to pledge your support to make India's workforce healthier as #IndiafightsObesity.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.