Balancing work and a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge. For most people, hitting snooze and snacking on chocolate is more likely than a pre-office workout and a protein shake.

But with evidence showing that healthier workers are more productive, is it time we took workplace wellness more seriously?

Stress: a growing problem

The UK Statistics Authority clocked 17 million work days lost in 2015 due to stress, depression or anxiety. The cost to our economy? A whopping £2.4 billion. We’ve all experienced stress, but what are the consequences for people in your office who are suffering from this day after day?

  • Lower concentration, memory and performance
  • Lower engagement
  • Increased appetite, comfort food craving and weight gain
  • Poor sleep
  • More days off

Imagine the impact of these consequences across teams, and whole businesses. Work rate slows, morale is affected, and staff turnover increases. The bottom line? Productivity goes down as costs go up.

If that doesn’t sound too appetising, maybe this will put a spring in your step: companies with work wellness programs are statistically more productive. Workforce Management Magazine found 77% of us report health and wellness “positively impacts culture at work”

So what exactly is company wellness?

We all know that physical activity releases the so-called happy hormones: serotonin and endorphins. The more we have floating around our systems, the more we’re attentive, productive and motivated. Plus, they lower pain levels and improve our sleep.

So, for the past few years, companies have been joining the wellness bandwagon; offering everything from healthy breakfasts and desk massages to fitness trackers.

CareerBuilder found 44% of us report having gained weight at our current job. We also spend more waking time at our desks than anywhere else. So it only makes sense to encourage employees to get moving.

Wearable trackers log steps walked, heart rate; even sleep. They became big news in 2015, when technology company IBM handed 40,000 FitBits to its employees for two years; with interesting results:

  • Improved mood, attention and productivity
  • Improved motivation
  • Long-term health costs plummeted while profits soared
  • Over 60% continued to wear their FitBits after the challenge ended

But there’s more to wellness than shedding pounds.

Mental health is now the leading cause of sick days off. In case you’re wondering, those 17 million days off in 2015? That’s up an eye-watering 3.4 million from 2014. There’s no denying that as a nation our mental health is getting worse. UK mental health charity MIND found 60% of us would feel more motivated if our employers “supported our mental well-being”.

Mind over matter

Jasmine Gartner, author of “Employee Engagement: a little book of big ideas” is an expert on employee engagement. Her take? Wellbeing in the workplace is directly linked to respect. Respecting employees increases their wellbeing, because they feel valued. And when employees feel valued, their confidence to contribute rises. “Employee wellness is a win-win for businesses”, she says.

Professional services leaders PricewaterhouseCoopers took a look at the elements involved in a solid wellness program. Their assessment showed a bit of healthy competition, one-to-one mentoring and health incentives like quitting smoking were all-round winners. Some hints from the heavyweights?

  • Hewlett Packard’s “Power Pink” program encouraged breast cancer awareness among employees
  • American Express collaborates with local farms to provide healthy, nutritious food on-site

Sportswear brand Sweaty Betty offers group sweat-outs, while Adidas – the proud winner of Britain’s Healthiest Company – has fitness facilities on-site.

Going the extra mile

Do you need the skinny on getting your workforce into physical and mental shape? Here are our top 6 tips to get you started:

  1. Communicate with employees about their emotions and needs
  2. Get departments to participate in fun challenges
  3. Think of ways to make employees feel valued- they’ll contribute more
  4. Create relaxing spaces away from desks
  5. Offer cycle to work schemes, group yoga or meditation
  6. Offer flexible hours, life coaching, gym memberships; even nap pods

Need to think it over?

Why not get together with your co-workers, and talk about what you can all do to make company wellness happen? You could even do it over a group smoothie.

(If freshly-squeezed juices and colourful straws make you realise you also haven’t had a holiday in forever, check out our last post on the importance of taking a well-earned break)