Small steps, big changes: How can you help employees adopt a healthier lifestyle?


The importance of a healthy workforce is an issue often overlooked by managers. That’s somewhat understandable as taking the lead on employee health can be a challenge when team leaders are faced with the day-to-day demands and stress of their role.

However, research by mental health charity Mind found that 60% of employees say they would feel more motivated – and therefore more productive – if their employer took action to support their health. They are also more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work – something particularly critical given the challenges many businesses face with finding experienced staff. Here are five changes you can make in our own team to provide better wellbeing support for your employees this year:

1. Ask what support is needed

Open and honest communication will help you identify each employee’s goals and challenges. Bear in mind that you might not be able to cater to every individual, but you can try to support them to meet their needs and ambitions.

An employee survey is the best method of gathering information on whether their priority is physical or mental health, or improving their financial and/or social wellbeing. This powerful data can then be used to explore what specific benefits or policies will best support your team, and inform a tailored wellbeing support plan.

2. Help form new habits

Forming or altering habits can be a daunting task. Habits are an unconscious response to a trigger and compose much of our daily activities - a study at Duke University in the US examined the diaries of students and community members, and concluded that up to 45% of the activities and tasks we undertake daily are habitual.

To change or instigate a new habit, you need to find a trigger for the behaviour, reward that behaviour, and make the change an easy choice. For example, many employees spend most of their days sitting down, so encouraging a habit of taking regular walking breaks would help prevent inactivity and boost physical wellbeing. To build this habit, a trigger can be a regular weekly meeting, such as a catch up with their manager, but instead of sitting in a meeting room or hopping onto a video call, encourage employees to take a walking meeting. This could be turned into a competition with prizes for those who walk the most over a month, providing an external reward for the behaviour.

3. Build daily moments of wellbeing

A survey of office workers by the British Heart Foundation found that 45% of men and 37% of women walk for less than 30 minutes a day at work, 38% email colleagues next to them, while 52% regularly eat lunch at their desk. Creating moments of movement during the work day can alleviate this inactivity, and prevent a sedentary working life. For example, you can hold walking meetings instead of video calls, encourage employees to visit the gym during their lunch break, organise team lunches away from the office, or launch and support work sports teams.

4. Check your benefits offering

Employee benefits are an extremely effective way to provide more opportunities for a healthier lifestyle. However, employers should only encourage and support healthy habits, not dictate how an employee should approach their health.

Benefits could cover all aspects of wellbeing – physical, mental, social, financial, and digital. Examples of appropriate benefits include National Trust memberships for those who are looking to up their step count, online learning platforms for those who want to develop a skill, mental health first aid training, and regular health screening. You may also want to consider a corporate healthcare trust that enables employers to provide the benefits and support employee’s needs. Healix Corporate Trust, for example, allows employers to create flexible healthcare packages built around your team, while also saving costs for the business in the long term with any unused claims rolled into future years.

5. Get the entire company involved

All departments have a role to play in building an organisation that values wellbeing. It should not be left to one or two members of the team or a single department. Managers can lead the way by openly encouraging breaks throughout the day, making ‘wellbeing check-ins’, asking employees’ about stress levels, and taking preventative action if they notice a problem. This importance of taking leadership by managers on wellbeing is highlighted by research from the CIPD, which found that a quarter (26%) of respondents blamed the management style for work-related stress.

A culture of health

Encouraging positive wellbeing is not the sole responsibility of the employer, but businesses can play a key role in encouraging their teams to make healthier choices. Something as simple as healthy snacks or encouraging a quick break from the computer screen can spark a healthier lifestyle while improving workplace morale and productivity.

Share on social

A new version of this website is available.