Starting from the Inside-Out: How Workplace Culture Can Lead the Way to Better Health

Desk area with a laptop and a green apple sitting on it along with other office supplies.

Aramark and the American Heart Association call on companies and organizations to invest in employees’ health and wellbeing

by Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization fighting cardiovascular diseases, including stroke. Eric Foss, CEO of Aramark

For more than half of today’s workforce, lunch is defined as something you quickly fit in while working at your desk. Commonly referred to as “desktop dining,” this growing trend leads to a disconnect with coworkers, poor dietary choices and more time spent sitting down when most jobs already require too much of it.

In recent years, the boundary between work and life has become increasingly blurred. While companies comply with regulations that mandate time off for a lunch break, many employees still don’t take full advantage of this benefit. There is also a perception that leaving your desk to take a leisurely lunch is viewed as being idle.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth. We need fuel for optimal performance. The World Health Organization found that meals with the right ingredients can help boost brain power as much as 20%, allowing workers to accomplish more after they eat.

Seeking out healthy food options is another obstacle—especially if the workplace surrounding area lacks access to nutritious choices. As organizational leaders, the health of our employees should be a top priority. That is why Aramark and the American Heart Association (AHA) have partnered to create a culture of health that is focused on engaging employees and improving health and wellbeing through employee engagement activities. Both organizations, as members of the AHA CEO Roundtable, inspire organizations to join us in building a healthier future.

Companies play an important role in integrating a healthy mindset into the very fabric of their organization and it starts with leading by example.

Today, approximately 38% of U.S. adults over the age of 20 are classified as obese, nearly 10% of the population has diabetes and cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death, expected to account for more than 24 million deaths and over $1 trillion in global medical costs per year by 2030.

Combating this challenge requires a wholesale change in behavior, since 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases and stroke are preventable. Approximately 87% of employers offer some type of wellness program, with more looking to expand their efforts. The leading reason why employees don’t participate is lack of awareness which is why walking the walk is vital. Employees who know their CEO participates in company health programs are more likely to report better productivity (60% vs 34%), work quality (56% vs. 29%) and job satisfaction (54% vs 23%).

Millennials now make up the largest segment of the total workforce and prefer fresh and healthy foods like substituting sugary drinks in favor of kombucha and plant-based milks. They would even sacrifice salary for a happier work environment. These are important insights for companies to prioritize for current and prospective employees.

We understand the importance of wellbeing. At Aramark, we have implemented programs to encourage employees to eat healthier at work which ideally will be adopted outside the office as well. Approximately 30% of Aramark’s more than 7,000 salaried associates take part in screenings and health challenges—a figure we hope will continue to rise; and early results indicate higher engagement and better health risk scores within the organization.

At the Association headquarters in Dallas, we replaced a vending machine area with a customized micromarket featuring healthier choices for breakfast, lunch and snacks.

The Association encourages every organization to evaluate their health culture and determine where they can make improvements. The AHA Workplace Health Achievement Index is a great tool to help companies stay on track.

Building a culture of health from the inside out that spreads to the broader society has great promise. We urge organizations everywhere to take important steps to build a culture that emphasizes health, and ultimately leads to a healthier future for everyone.

Read Article