• Jo Surkitt

How to make Healthy Habits in the Workplace and at Home STICK?

We’ve all been there: wake up one Monday, ready to kick off a new exercise program, eat healthier, start meditating, go to bed earlier - or a range of healthy changes. The first couple of days the momentum is high. But then maybe the weather is bad or we are unwell or other priorities get in the way and it feels like all our efforts have gone down the drain. “There’s always tomorrow or next week,” we tell ourselves. Sound familiar?

That’s because it’s an all-too-common story that many of us — our employees included — face when trying to make healthy behavioural changes. As an employer you’re in the perfect position to support your employees’ healthy habits. Why? Because today’s workplaces are so connected, habits spread like wildfire.

What motivates employees and how can we inspire them to make positive behavioural changes?

When looking at creating healthy habits for our workteam we firstly need to find what’s really relevant to each individual. What are their interests? Whatever the outcome you’re hoping to drive within your workforce, it’s important to match the right behaviours with the right people so they can form habits that stick.

If Sarah in HR is training for her triathlon, she probably isn’t interested in walking as exercise – but getting good quality sleep would be a high priority. And because research shows that when people make a positive change in one area of their well-being it impacts other areas, Sarah, may even notice an improvement in her running/swimming ability when she sleeps more deep and peacefully. Find a match! You may mention a meditation class or listening to relaxing music going to bed or suggest that she doesn’t use TV, Laptops, smartphones an hour before bed and this will allow for better sleep.

A walking group at lunch time though may be a great suggestion for the Call centre team or various other employees.

Therefore DON’T force-fit certain habits or practices across your entire population. Behaviour change needs to align with each individual’s needs to be effective.

DO offer an array of programs that support all aspects of wellbeing so employees can tailor their approach and focus on their individual goals

Start Small with Realistic Goals

Many things can trip someone up when it comes to healthy behaviours, but it’s often the case that the flaw lies within the approach. It is important to make these changes achievable and not too big otherwise employees will lose enthusiasm and motivation when it gets too tough.

When it comes to real, long-term habit formation, the key is to start small. Hoping to help employees eat healthier? Rather than ditching all desserts in the staff cafeteria, maybe have free fruit available in the staff room for snacks and lunch and provide healthy juices, filtered water and or herbal teas.

As an employer or manager you could ask staff if they would like their Organic Fruit and vegetables delivered to the workplace free of charge (Several awesome organic Fruit and vegetable suppliers offer free delivery in Geelong, Surf Coast, Bellarine and of course Melbourne). You could also ask staff to share recipes with each other.

Make it simple and easy for people to be healthier. The above suggestions also helps with team building and staff morale.

DON’T: Assume employees will give up their desserts cold turkey. Removing all indulgences at work will backfire, and employees could easily go overboard on the sweets once they head home.

DO: Understand your employees’ health goals and find small ways to tailor your company culture and workplace to support them.

To really make a new healthy habit stick, people need to do it everyday – or as often as possible. Most of employees have projects commitments and priorities at work and beyond, so relying solely on their memory each day might not set them up for success. Encourage your employees to set triggers that remind them to stay on pace with the new healthy habits they’re working to adopt. Include triggers like activity tracking devices in your employee well-being program to help give your people the visual reminder to get moving. Encourage employees to set their own, too. There are particular Exercise, Goal, Motivational, Meditation or Healthy eating APPS that they may find helpful. Or they may start a walking/running/cycling group or scheduling a mid-day walk on the calendar with a reminder alert.

DON’T: Consider triggers as universal. Give several solutions to help them achieve these new healthy habits. Not everyone has a dog at home to walk, and for others a calendar alert will be easily ignored.

DO: Support employees in making their healthy habits work with some workplace triggers.

Maybe encourage management to set aside a time each week for some mid-day activity or hold walking meetings. This could include a team meeting walk rather than in the board room, or having a board meeting while doing some stretching.

Have daily triggers in the staff room, on their computers or work desks that remind staff of their individual goals.

SUPPORT and ENCOURAGEMENT are of prime importance.

When your people are working hard to make healthy habits stick, even the smallest wins deserve a round of applause. Celebrate the small goals which will motivate people to reach their bigger goals. Encourage them to do their happy dance when they take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or give them a high five when you see them choose carrots over a chocolate muffin. Once they achieve a major milestone – like losing weight or running their first 10km race – amp up the celebration factor. The more successful your people feel, the more motivated they’ll be to maintain their healthy new habits and work toward more healthy behaviour changes.

DON’T Forget to celebrate the small stuff. Taking the stairs just once is better than never taking them at all! Park further from work and walk or ride to work.

DO: Help employees feel successful in hitting their goals. Consider celebrating with some company-wide recognition, a reward, or even an incentive.

No one’s perfect, and it’s only natural for people to fall off the bandwagon now and again. Remember our Tri-athlete, Sarah from HR? Maybe a busy schedule meant she missed her training runs this week, or had a late night with a fussy child made running impossible the next morning. Whatever the reason they stray off course, keep your people motivated to hop right back into their healthy habits as soon as possible (no waiting for Monday!) The key is to create a culture of well-being that offers employees a little wiggle room when things don’t go according to plan. Make healthy habits easy and help people revise as needed to get back in the game.

DON’T: Focus on the negative. Whether it was one slice or the whole cake, focusing on where employees slipped up won’t help people get back on track.

DO: Remind employees that, when it comes to their healthy habits, what worked last week may not work this week – and make it easy for them to jump back in right away.

To have a Workplace with an ongoing Positive Culture we need to foster these positive daily habits and sustainable behaviour changes that help people thrive at work and across all aspects of life. It can often be difficult to build new habit that are important and helpful , and achieving these can take a lot of willpower. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where employees start. It’s all about helping staff identify what behaviours matter most, and outlining the small steps that’ll help them feel successful. Practice makes perfect, so remind your people to start small with habits that are right for them, and keep at it by putting the right triggers in place. Then, be sure to celebrate their wins and achievements, and help them revise their approach if they trip up or need adjusting as what they’re doing no longer is working.

This will ultimately show in an enhanced motivation at work, increased productivity and healthy staff, leading to less people off work sick and higher staff retention.

References from Virgin Pulse website 2015

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