Obesity results in a loss of productivity of $3.6 billion a year* with the total loss of wellbeing costing $49.9 billion a year*.

With around 68% of Australians currently overweight or obese, and this figure expected to pass 70% by 2025, the cost to employers is rising as fast as the numbers on the scales.

Sick days, and diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoarthritis, impact the bottom line through redundancies and staff loss as well as poor performance.

Here’s a few easy action plans to maximise health and productivity.

1. Encourage or compel staff to take regular breaks to stretch, walk, or have a healthy drink or snack and not remain at their desks eight hours a day, including during their lunch break. Research shows the brain requires these time-outs to function more efficiently and that the body also suffers from lack of movement. Yes, long periods sitting at the desk is the new health hazard that medical researchers warn can lead not just to obesity but to other disease. For ideas about how to stay fit in your lunch hour, go to http://www.afr.com/lifestyle/get-fit-and-fabulous-in-your-lunch-hour-20160112-gm42cm

2. Make healthy refreshments easily available to employees. This may include filtered water, herbal teas and decaffeinated drinks as well as fresh fruit. Ditch the junk food machine and discourage reliance on caffeine for a pep up rather that high fibre, low-GI foods that will sustain energy and wellness. Check out services such as www.fruitatwork.com.au

3. Give your building a health check. Successful companies like Google and Landlease are already reaping the benefits of a workplace that is environmentally superior.  www.intheblack.com/articles/2018/05/01/green-offices-boost-productivity Does your building have good ventilation and light as well as greenery to help purify the air, or do employees work in poor quality air conditioning under artificial lighting with machines such as printers clustered around the office? Have natural materials been used in both construction and office furniture or are employees subjected to off-gassing from low quality materials?

4. Care for mental health as well as physical health as the two are inextricably linked. Are employees supported in their work by a management that proactively supports and encourages workers, to reduce toxic stress levels, or is it every man, or woman, for themselves? https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/about-our-work/workplace-mental-health

5. Offer perks or benefits such as a gymnasium membership, or discounted massages, to help employees practice self-care. https://www.careerattraction.com/got-millennials-workplace-perks-attract-next-generation-bright-workers/

*Access Economics 2008

Helen Hawkes

Helen Hawkes is a journalist who writes compelling print and digital content across business and finance, health and lifestyle, real estate and interiors. Her content clients have ranged from American Express and the University of NSW to Maserati and 9Honey. She is fluent in cross-platform storytelling, brand tone of voice, content strategy and stakeholder management.