“There is nothing more important than our good health - this is our main capital investment”.

Arlen Specter

Despite increasing health awareness, so-called lifestyle diseases continue to increase. Today there are more overweight and obese people around the world than there are underweight. The combination of physical inactivity and poor diet increase the risk of diabetes, coronary artery disease, strokes and cancer.

The workplace is a crucial factor for a healthy work-life balance and lifestyle. Full-time employees spend a third of their everyday life at work. Therefore, a balanced diet, both at work and at home, in combination with sport and exercise, is essential to stay fit and healthy - or to get back to it. Malnutrition is associated with poor concentration, poor performance, health problems and fatigue, which are reflected in absenteeism and costs for the company.

Entrepreneurs should not leave their employees alone, but actively support them in order to prevent deterioration in performance or illness (physical or mental). It's not just a question of responsibility as a good employer. Rather, it makes good business sense and is an important sign of appreciation.

Employees are more productive and motivated, and identification with the company increases. Sickness and absenteeism are minimized, which leads to cost savings. The productivity as well as the quality of the work increase due to the increased motivation of the employees. The company benefits from an improved image (employer branding) and an increase in competitiveness.

All over Europe, SMEs are the backbone of the economy - they provide more than 65 percent of jobs. It is therefore crucial to support them in creating the right conditions so that employees can show more initiative with regard to their health. And of course, entrepreneurs should also take care of themselves in the same way - because your employees need you.


 

01 Nutrition

In Germany, two out of three men (67 percent) and every second woman (53 percent) are overweight. The resulting costs for society and companies are immense. Direct treatment and drug costs as well as indirect costs (loss of production or early retirement) already account for an estimated 5 to 15 percent of the total health costs in western industrialized countries.

In theory, we all know that eating healthy increases our productivity and concentration. But in working life, especially in stressful situations, we often pay too little attention to our eating habits. Of course, (healthy) eating is a private matter for the employees. Nevertheless, it makes sense for employers to get involved here. A balanced diet is an essential prerequisite for being able to work productively and with concentration.

Companies have a multitude of options to support employees with healthy eating - even without their own canteen. Companies can use financial support to do good for their employees when it comes to healthy eating - and even free of tax and social security contributions.

The most important thing, however, is: as a boss, set a good example and rely on motivation and education without being instructive.

02 Exercise and sport

Whether in the home office or at work - we spend most of our time sitting in front of a computer. Employees who work at a desk spend around 73 percent of their working hours sitting down.

A lack of physical activity is the leading cause of diseases such as coronary artery disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancer, costing 60 billion euros to the health care system and costing more than 12 billion euros in productivity.

Physical activity not only promotes physical, but also mental health. During exercise, the messenger substances serotonin and dopamine, known as happiness hormones, are released, stress hormones are broken down and anxiety is reduced. Exercise helps clear your mind. This promotes better sleep and thus makes a decisive contribution to general well-being and health and helps in the prevention and treatment of depression and other mental health problems.

So physical activity has a positive impact on physical and mental health. It improves quality of life and health. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day lead to an increase in performance of 12 percent. The promotion of exercise, for example through cooperation with fitness studios and sports clubs, own running meetings or yoga courses for employees is also worthwhile for small and medium-sized companies.

03 Balance and mental health

Work is an essential part of our life. Especially in times of lockdowns and home offices, the boundaries of work-life balance are becoming increasingly blurred. Due to the lack of separation of the areas of life, the balance can easily be lost. It is all the more important to counteract this. Attention to mental health in the workplace is therefore even more important.

There are good reasons why executives are attaching increasing importance to this. The number of days absent due to incapacity for work with a psychological background have more than doubled in the last ten years and, even before Covid-19, caused annual production losses of 20 billion euros in the EU alone.

What about the working atmosphere, do the employees feel that they are being taken seriously, are valued and are being informed? The lived culture in a company is essential in the prevention of psychological problems of employees. Illnesses or their fluctuation rate can be important clues. Good leadership, communication and employee participation are essential not only in times of crisis in order to create a trusting atmosphere in which it is easier to talk about psychological stress.
 

04 Effects of the pandemic on the world of work

Employees often suffer from greater psychological stress in the home office than in the company. Almost three quarters (73.4%) of those surveyed who frequently work from home feel exhausted. According to a recent survey, other health problems include sleep disorders, exhaustion and difficulty concentrating.

Exercise and diet can also be affected by the new work conditions. For example, a DAK study carried out by Forsa from 2021 shows that 44 percent of those surveyed move "significantly less" than before in the home office. Over 30% gained at least three kilograms and seven percent of those surveyed even more than five kilograms. 32% also complain of more frequent back pain.

It is all the more important that we learn not to let ourselves drift, but to shape this new daily routine positively. In order for this to succeed, a healthy diet and exercise are just as important as the careful use of our internal resources.