I recently read about a US University workplace that ran a study to determine if offering health promotion in a group support model made a difference, rather than offering individual support.  They targeted type 2 diabetes risk factors and offered group support education and treatment to one group, and individual education and treatment to the other group.  The results show that the group that met weekly to support each other had much better results in reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes.

With this in mind, I want you to think about the opportunity that the workplace presents for group health promotion. Full-time workers spend the majority of their time at ‘the workplace.’ Possibly more time there than anywhere else (not including sleeping) (read how sleep matters). If the workplace can provide a positive influence, opportunity, and motivation for health promotion, think how much impact that can have employees who participate in health promoting activities along with their coworkers.

Did you know that simply by supporting and improving health for your workforce, you can: improve productivity, reduce sick time and long term absence, and help your employees feel better; thus allowing them to work more efficiently.

All of this seems pretty sensible, but it can become complicated when people (employers) don’t fully understand how to efficiently and cost effectively deliver useful interventions. There are literally thousands of information sources for workplace health promotion, which can easily make it overwhelming to figure out where to start. So what’s my professional, experienced advice? Start simple and start smart!

I am often impressed by organizations that use simple, inexpensive interventions and engage their own employees to help decide priorities.  Here’s a great example: A local company in Langley, BC asked their employees how they could improve their workplace.  The employees told them they found it difficult to make time to exercise, especially during high production cycles and frequent overtime work.  With this information, the company set up a small gym on site and offered a certified trainer for use, before or after work shifts.

This simple addition provoked other initiatives led by the employees.  They encouraged each other, exercised together, organized classes at lunch time, and much more.  The results included profound reductions in workplace injuries and much happier employees.  By making exercise accessible, affordable, and easy, they created the right environment for the employees to work together for their health benefits.  For this employer, the solution was not expensive, especially when offset by savings in lost time claims.

The key to their success was to involve their employees and leverage the momentum and support that comes from a group effort.

What are the health risks in your work population?  Can you help your employees help each other to improve their health? What small changes could you integrate to reduce injury, illness, sick days and long term absences?

Diana Vissers is the Founder and Director of Corporate Services at Work to Wellness Rehabilitation Inc. – a Canadian company providing expert disability management services to Canadian customers. She is in the business of making your place of business healthy, safe and productive. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest news and updates on health, wellness and integrated disability management.