Employee Nutrition – Good Health is Good Business
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Healthier employees save corporations money in the long run

By Andrea Holwegner BSc., RD

How to eat well at work - workplace nutrition

The working world has become more stressed, and that is taking a toll on the health of Canadians. In the current recession, employees might be worried about job security and salary reductions or be expected to work longer hours or be accessible and connected to their jobs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Now more than ever, it is important for companies to invest in wellness strategies to help support the health of their employees. Without a healthy team, companies will face higher bottom line costs and reduced employee health.

Employer return on investment

There are clear benefits to employers who choose to invest in wellness, including:

  • Decreased corporate health care costs.
  • Improved employee health and wellness.
  • Maximized employee energy, effectiveness and productivity.
  • Decreased employee absenteeism, sick days and stress or medical leaves.
  • Increased employee appreciation and job satisfaction.
  • Boosted team cohesion and office morale.
  • Improved bottom line.
  • Enhanced corporate image, recruitment and retention.
  • Reputation as one of the top world class employers.

In February 2008, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published one of the most comprehensive research studies on the impact of employee wellness programs on health care costs over four years. The results suggested that the return on investment was $1.65 US for every dollar spent on employee wellness programs.

These results are consistent with a 2005 review of the economic return on worksite health promotion published in the American Journal of Health Promotion. The average return on investment in the 22 studies mentioned in that review was $5.81 US for every dollar spent on employee wellness programs.

Attributes of a healthy workforce

According to an occupational medicine forum published in 2006 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a “healthy workforce” for both individuals and organizations is characterized by four key attributes:

  • Healthy: demonstrating optimal health status as defined by positive health behaviors, minimal modifiable risk factors and minimal illnesses, diseases and injuries.
  • Productive: functioning to produce the maximum contribution to achievement of personal goals and organizational mission.
  • Ready: possessing an ability to respond to changing demands given the increasing pace and unpredictability of work.
  • Resilient : adjusting to setbacks, increased demands or unusual challenges by bouncing back to optimal “well-being” and performance without incurring severe functional decrement.

Practical workplace wellness ideas

Companies can choose to support wellness initiatives in a wide variety of ways depending on the company budget and employee concerns and interests. Here are a few practical ways companies can help support a healthy workforce:

  • Offer ongoing lunch and learn sessions, wellness retreats and half-day training sessions to increase knowledge of nutrition, fitness, emotional health and other areas. For more information on workplace wellness program ideas visit:www.healthstandnutrition.com.
  • Provide on-site fitness/yoga/relaxation programs.
  • Make shower facilities available for those who wish to cycle to work or go for a walk or run on their lunch hour.
  • Offer a pedometer challenge, with prizes for individuals or departments that walk the most steps over a given period of time.
  • Send a wellness tip or handout with your monthly pay cheque stubs or company newsletter.
  • Post copies of a healthy recipe of the month on your lunchroom bulletin board.
  • Build a wellness library in the building or on your website, with resources to support learning.
  • Help your employees understand what is available to them through their company health benefit plan since many employees are unaware of all the services covered.
  • Hire a traveling massage therapist to provide on-site neck/shoulder massages to reduce tension.
  • Provide partial or full support for gym memberships.
  • Respect your employees’ lunch hours by not hosting meetings so that they can ensure they have time to take care of their personal health.
  • Register in a corporate fitness challenge or walk/run event.
  • Provide healthy meal and snack options for catered meetings.
  • Stock the office fridge/kitchen/vending machine with healthy snacks and beverages.

Is now the time to be spending on wellness?

It is now more important than ever to support employee wellness given that many employees are dealing with more stress on account of greater job uncertainty or covering more tasks because of layoffs or salary cuts.

An engineering firm recently hired me and my business partners to do its first ever wellness program after cutting one-quarter of its staff and reducing salaries in response to the recession. The firm’s financial and human resources teams determined that allocating finances toward wellness was more important than spending on training or sales at a time when employees are adjusting to many changes. They knew supporting their core team with fitness, nutrition and stress management was important to retain productivity and morale. They also knew that they had a great corporate culture they wanted to keep so that once the recession subsided, they would continue to attract the best people for the job.

Empowering employees to take charge of their health by offering corporate wellness seminars and other initiatives will clearly help companies save costs and remain productive.

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF of this article

Andrea Holwegner, known as the Chocoholic Dietitian, is founder and president of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc., a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and a media expert for the Dietitians of Canada.


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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
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Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
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Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
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Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
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Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

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I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

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Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
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