Does Your Office Have A Healthy Break Room?

You’ve found the perfect corporate wellness consultant. You’ve gone through all of the wellness program vendors and carefully chosen the best program for your business. You’ve promoted, engaged and even tackled the small stuff. So why doesn’t anyone seem to think the wellness plan is working? What else could you possibly do to help encourage the improvement of health and wellness for your employees? Sometimes the answer is so simple, you walk passed it every day and don’t even notice it’s there. In short, wellness at work starts with the environment you are asking your employees to spend their days in.

In long, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have vending machines? What can you buy from them?
  • Do you have a pantry stocked with coffee creamers, sugar packets and biscotti?
  • Do you have a refrigerator meant to reward employees filled with sodas and other sugary drinks?
  • How about a candy dish at the reception desk (your first point of contact for clients and outsiders, but sometimes also the main entrance into the office)?
  • Does any of this sound like a healthy place for employees to hang out? Does any of this communicate to employees and clients that you are committed to a higher level of excellence when it comes to wellness?

You guessed it, the answer is a big fat NOPE.

The fact is, what’s lurking in your break room and office hallways could be killing your wellness program success. If your vending machines are offering an array of chocolate bars, chips and other fattening snacks, you’re not only sending the message that you support unhealthy eating habits, you’re actually encouraging your employees to consume what’s there. For most, the rule of “out of sight, out of mind” applies to food, so by merely removing the vending machine (if you can’t afford healthy vending options) is removing the temptation as well. If your company can afford healthy vending, there are plenty of options – from coconut water to healthy granola bars – that can be offered.

Next, check your coffee supplies. There’s a big trap here that you may not even recognize. Powdered, liquid, processed and flavored creamers are notoriously bad for your health. The chemicals used to preserve these often unrefrigerated coffee additives are hurting your employees’ health every day that they are consumed. For many, that means once or twice a day, 252 working days out of the year. Not to mention sweeteners. No need for explanation, refined sugar says it all. Try trading out these traditional office mainstays with almond milk, nonfat milk and honey as an alternative to give your coffee breaks some extra flavor. As an added kick, slap a wellness related poster on the front of the refrigerator to remind employees of their wellness program goals.

Finally, let’s tackle the candy dish. Yes, the candy dish has been proven to invite co-workers to your desk to chat, increased likability of certain employees and even given many the chance to indulge in the “just one more” mentality. However, this lovely sweets filled bowl is also setting up many for failure. Consider the individual who is sitting at the desk that the candy dish calls home. No matter how many attempts at wellness program strategies you can dole out, it will win every time. Consider the person that sits next to the person with the candy dish; they didn’t even ask for that temptation! To combat the problem, consider supplying candy dish holders with healthy snacks such as boxes of raisins or controlled calorie packs of crackers (think of the houses you didn’t want to visit on Halloween as a kid). Not only will you see less consumption in general, you’ll lower the sugar intake of everyone in the office in fell swoop.

The moral of the story is that all of the work you have done to make your wellness program successful shouldn’t be undermined by the culture and environment your company has never thought to change. Next time you walk through your office evaluate all the places that have wellness traps. Make change by being an advocate for healthy habits in the break room and hallways of your office. These changes will not only have a physical effect on your employees, but also a mental effect on the perception of your wellness program and its success.