Workplace efforts help employees get fit

Mary Cornforth Cawood
Mary Cornforth Cawood

January has arrived. The hustle and bustle of the holidays have been replaced with resolutions for a new year. Many of these resolutions involve health and fitness.

But all too often we’ve given up on these resolutions by February. We leave for work in the dark. We drive home from work in the dark. It’s cold outside. How can we stay motivated to achieve our health goals during these short winter days?

One of the best ways to stay on track is to incorporate health and wellness into your daily routine.  Since most of us spend the majority of our day at work, it’s important to find ways to incorporate activity into the workday.

At the Mesa County Health Department, Health Promotion Specialist Chelsea Wells keeps employees on track. Wells holds certifications in health education and ergonomics. She helps employees optimize their work spaces by focusing on their body position throughout the day, the equipment used and surroundings. Having a good work space also is important to reduce injury.

When Wells evaluates a workstation, she focuses on the reach to the telephone, keyboard and computer mouse. If the reach is too far, it can cause back and neck strain. She tells employees to keep both feet on the ground and when sitting to be sure their thighs are somewhat parallel to the ground.

Since a majority of employees spend their days sitting at desks looking at computers, it’s important for them to get up at least once an hour. “Sitting is becoming the new smoking,” Wells said. “Less physical activity throughout our days is causing an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

To promote ergonomically sound workstations and physical activity, the Mesa County Health Department purchased more than 25 standing desks. “By doing so, MCHD staff is encouraged to stand and work. This burns significantly more calories than sitting down,” Wells said.

Asked how employees have adapted to the standing desks, Wells said, “Employees are sore at first because they are standing more throughout the day. But overall, they love it. What is nice about the ergonomic standing desk is that most come with a sitting down option. Therefore, employees have the option to stand for half their day and sit for the remainder.”

Fran Parker, a health promotions specialist with the department, was fitted with a standing workstation a few months ago.

“I like my standing workstation,” Parker said. “I alternate between standing and sitting throughout the day, and it’s really nice to have that option. I particularly like the little steppy platform that I stand on.  It enables me to rock back and forth, shifting my weight from side to side so I don’t get as tired.”

Parker said she’s noticed other changes as well. “The main difference is that I can stand longer now that I’ve had it awhile. Also, my feet were swelling initially and that has gone away.”

A healthy workplace increases productivity, reduces absenteeism and promotes happiness throughout the workforce.

While standing workstations are great, there are many other ways to incorporate wellness into the workday. Here are four suggestions:

Try having a walking meeting.

Bring healthy snacks to meetings.

Encourage employees to drink more water.

Go outside for some fresh air at lunch.

For more worksite wellness ideas, visit Healthy Mesa County on Pinterest on the Web site located at www.pinterest.com/healthymesacoun/healthy-workplace/.

If your company would like information on implementing a more comprehensive worksite wellness program, contact Rebecca Weitzel at Hilltop Community Resources in Grand Junction at 244-0698.