Here we are again, the start of another year, and the start of another 365 days of new year’s resolutions which we may or may not keep. What’s at the top of that well-intentioned list? For most of us, it’s exercising more and eating healthy.
And with good reason. David Agus, professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California, reports that “86% of employees today are above their normal weight or have a chronic condition, according to a Gallup survey a few years ago. They miss an estimated 450 million extra days of work a year compared with healthy workers, which a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says annually costs American businesses from $150 billion to a little more than $225 billion in lost productivity.” On a more personal level, prescription drug and medical care costs continue to rise at a much faster rate than personal income and can erode your financial security.
These are staggering figures, and they should scare us into being more proactive – both employers and employees. But most of us in the IT industry have sedentary jobs that require long hours sitting in front of a computer screen. Unfortunately, those strong, sitting muscles only make us more susceptible to health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
To combat the problem, David Agus proposes that companies create a new job position – a Chief Health Officer, who would take on the responsibilities of helping our workforce to be healthier without all the guilt strings attached. Some of the Chief Health Officer’s duties might be creating health and wellness programs that encourage employees to participate instead of alienating them (in other words, forget about the weight loss contests), redesigning the workplace so that it supports optimal health and productivity (think wireless headsets so that employees can move around while on calls or treadmill desks for those who are desk bound), and creating age-appropriate exercise and healthy cooking classes during lunch break.
While some of his ideas are not feasible for smaller companies or those on a tight budget, I believe that even little steps can make a difference. You probably don't work for a company that will ever have a CHO, but feel free to at least set an alarm to remind yourself to stretch or walk around, or invest in some wearable technology like activity trackers. If you’re motivated by money, consider bringing a healthier sack lunch to work and tracking how much less you’re spending on fast food.
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