Motivating employees to lose weight is a delicate matter, but the health of employees can be a serious concern for business owners and managers. Obese and overweight people incur more health care costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- costs that may be passed on to their employers. Workplace weight loss can involve complicated and expensive corporate wellness programs, but you can also start with small steps and incentives that may motivate employees and colleagues to lose weight.
Encourage good habits by modeling them yourself, advises Seattle's West Sound Workforce. If employees see their bosses eating unhealthy food at their desks, they may find it acceptable to eat unhealthily as well. Show your employees you care about your own health by bringing healthy lunches, taking time to eat them away from your desk, and using active transportation such as bicycling or walking to work.
Start an exercise group that meets over the lunch hour, and make it fun for people to participate. Choose activities that are easy to do within just an hour, such as walking or cycling, and then keep track of the miles or minutes you exercised in a group exercise journal or bulletin board. Even if you start with a small group, you may encourage others to join when they see how much fun your group is having. If you live close enough, you could also start a walking or bicycling commuter club that meets to walk or cycle to work. Also encourage more activity around the office, such as skipping the elevator for the stairs, parking cars further from the office door, or getting up for an "activity break" every couple hours.
Put healthy snacks in your vending machine. If you want workers to cut weight, don't encourage them to put on more pounds by providing chips, candy bars and soda in the break room. Instead, provide low-calorie, nutritious snacks and drinks. The same goes for treats that get brought in to the office; encourage workers to bring something healthy, such as veggies and dip, instead of cookies and cake, to share with other office workers.
Talk with local businesses and ask them to offer your employees corporate discounts on bicycles, running shoes, fitness gear, personal trainer sessions or gym memberships. Those businesses may see it as an opportunity to advertise their business, and may even offer free sessions or donate fitness items to give away as prizes at your next company event. Consider bringing in a nutritionist or fitness center representative to do Body Mass Index (BMI) testing, and ask them to help you create a contest for setting and meeting fitness goals.
Make your company events active. Forego the standard company picnic for a 5K run or walk, bowling, batting cages or any other activity that gets your workers moving.
Shop around for corporate wellness programs. Insurance companies, health care offices and private entities all offer programs designed to help workers stay healthy -- and they're all a bit different. If you decide to go this route, select one that seems the most accessible for your type of business and provides the type of support your workers will need. You may get a tax break, too, just for signing up and implementing a corporate wellness program.
- Like anything you do in your office, you'll typically get better results when you stick to positive reinforcement and encouragement. As such, avoid belittling employees who choose not to participate in your activities, and recognize those who do with only positive praise and rewards.
- Be careful about how you approach weight loss in the office, as you don't want to appear discriminatory or violate people's privacy. Any program you implement should be accessible to all workers, despite disabilities or special needs. Never force employees to participate. If you're not sure what's acceptable and what's not, consult the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's website for guidelines.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.