3 Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season

yogaWe’re in the thick of the holidays, a tricky time to keep our well-being in check. Whether we’re making extra grocery runs for holiday parties (who else always forgets something?), balancing budgets after buying a few extra gifts (one for you, one for me… ok, not the best way to stay within my budget), or hitting the hay too late each night, one thing’s clear: we’re stressed. In fact, 80 percent of employees say they’re significantly more stressed during the holidays, according to a recent survey.

In my last post, I shared how our healthy routines can fall by the wayside during the holidays, which can be a wonderful yet tough time of year. If you’d like to make sure your workforce is able to be as healthy and productive as possible, be sure to help them keep their stress and health under control.

In the spirit of spreading good health and cheer, here are three easy things you can do in your workplace, plus three tips you can share with your employees to help them stay healthy and well, and inspire their loved ones to do the same.

  1. Don’t make the office a danger zone!

186755156At work:
Sixty-seven percent of adults don’t get enough fruits and 73 percent don’t get enough veggies, according to the CDC. Consider making some swaps to your office orders. Fill up those snack bins, vending machines and lunch orders you so kindly offer with plenty of fruit and veggie-based options. Encourage employees to bring in any healthy holiday party leftovers for others to enjoy, and create an environment where making the healthy choice is easy.

Tip for your team:
With holiday parties and gatherings galore, there’s likely no shortage of goodies and treats. Encourage employees to try out a few new healthy recipes this holiday season (maybe ones they’ve swapped with co-workers) and get the kids in on the fun! Or suggest they peruse Pinterest for lots of great healthy ideas on how to add a little more healthy, and fun, to their holiday dishes. For example, making a crudité platter? Help the kids arrange the veggies in the shape of a festive holiday tree or wreath!

  1. Give the gift of good health

At work:
It’s easy to skip exercise during the holidays, but why wait until the New Year to set a new fitness goal? Encourage colleagues to motivate one another and stay on track with a little healthy competition. Sponsor an activity challenge in your workplace during the season and give away some coveted healthy prizes – sleek new wearable fitness tracking devices, stylish new water bottles or gym bags, health club memberships, and more.

Tip for your team:
Consumer interest in wearable fitness devices is growing like crazy. Give your employees some ideas on how to spread the health themselves and give healthy gifts this season – the latest activity trackers, wireless smart scales, blenders for healthy smoothies, DVDs for home workouts, memberships to fitness classes they can take together (gifts of fitness and quality time!), moisture-wicking socks, etc. For the kids, classics like skates, bicycles, basketballs, footballs, activity-based video games and more will never go out of style.

  1. Get up, stand up!

At work:
Is a normal workday chock full of meetings? If so, take them beyond the boardroom. If the weather’s fine, hit the streets and walk around the block. If it’s frightful, walk around your office, up and down the stairs, or simply move around a conference room instead of sitting at a table if you can swing it. Or try creating areas where employees can plug in and stand up, or better yet move, while working. Consider how a few small environmental changes could help boost creativity and productivity, and relieve stress in your workplace.

Tip for your team:
Amp up the fun at your holiday parties! Make a festive playlist and encourage everyone to get up and dance. If that’s not your thing, think about taking a stroll through your neighborhood to go caroling or see all of the holiday décor (especially if you live near a house like this and have some Frozen fans in the family). Are any of your neighbors on their own or a bit lonely (those at work or those who live in your community)? Ask them to join your gatherings! Or to add a little more activity into your festive fetes, consider hosting a friendly game of kickball or touch football for all to enjoy.

Want more tips? Download and share this poster series featuring 12 easy tips your employees can feel great about following. Print them out, post them up and remind your people that their well-being’s important, both to them and to you, this holiday season and all year long.

Katie Tierney is Director of Marketing at Virgin Pulse where she leads marketing communications and public relations. One of Virgin Pulse’s original employees, Katie led efforts to create National Employee Wellness Month, a campaign that helps business leaders learn how companies are successfully engaging employees in healthy lifestyles. A pop culture champ and dance buff, Katie can usually be found busting a move in a Zumba class (or anywhere, really). Follow Katie on twitter: @k_tierney

(One of) the Most Stressful Times of the Year

holidays_escalatorsWhen the holidays hit, most of us find it pretty hard to keep our healthy habits in check. The pace picks up (and so does the stress) as we head off to parties, scramble to finish shopping, and plan out indulgent dinner party menus. Suddenly – whoops! – there goes that workout/diet/sleep regimen/[insert whatever healthy habit you tend to push off here].

And, let’s be honest, occasionally skipping a run or staying up late to celebrate the season won’t kill ya. But when unhealthy habits start to become your norm, it can do a number to your well-being, making it that much harder to manage seasonal stress.

In fact, Virgin Pulse’s recent report, “‘Tis the Season for Stress: The Holidays’ Impact on Employees’ Health & Happiness (& What it Means for Employers),” surveyed more than 1,000 full-time employees in the U.S. and Canada (not our members) and found that 70 percent of employees are over 21 percent more stressed during the holidays. What’s more, over 30 percent are feeling somewhat or a lot more stressed this year, in comparison to years past. Yikes.

The root of all this anxiety isn’t exactly shocking: 65 percent of employees saying shopping for gifts and events is the reason for stress. With all the extra buying comes financial worries, and 60 percent say maintaining finances is what stresses them most during the holidays.

Unfortunately, as stress levels rise, employees’ focus and productivity at work plummets. Sixty-four percent say holiday-related stress distracts them at work, causing them to feel 30 percent more anxious than usually cutting into their quality of work by about the same amount.

Stressed out employees also have a harder time maintaining their well-being. Sixty-two percent of our survey’s respondents say eating healthy is the hardest aspect of well-being to maintain during the holidays, with 71 percent saying they eat unhealthily between two and five days a week.

Exercise and sleep often go out the window, too, with 51 percent and 46 percent of employees, respectively, saying these were their hardest habits to keep up. Fifty-nine percent of respondents sleep poorly and 51 percent say they skip exercising between two and five days during the holidays. If everyone’s eating poorly, cutting back on physical activity, and skimping on sleep, it’s only boosting their stress levels, and making it more difficult to cross off all those holiday to-dos at work and home.

There’s a silver lining here, though. As an employer, you’re actually perfectly poised to support your people in feeling their best and brightest – at the holidays and all year long. Support their health and happiness with tools, resources and programs that impact all areas of well-being. You’ll help them keep control over their health and anxiety, and they’ll get the energy and focus they need to power through all the priorities on their plates.

Support your employees through the holidays and beyond. Check out Virgin Pulse’s full survey report, “‘Tis the Season for Stress: The Holidays’ Impact on Employees’ Health & Happiness (& What it Means for Employers)” for three tips you can try today.

Kaite Bonneville is Marketing Communications Manager at Virgin Pulse, where she leverages her personal passion for health and happiness to create compelling content about employee well-being and engagement. Outside of the office, Kaite spends her time mentoring a high school student, and recently trained for and completed her first half marathon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Spread the Health this Holiday Season

528371295It’s officially the holiday season; the most wonderful time of the year, so sang Andy Williams (how’s that for a holiday throwback?). But it can also be one of the most stressful times for your employees, too. For many people, the healthy routines we’ve worked so hard to develop or maintain can get turned upside down with all of the added pressures of decking the halls, hosting parties, giving gifts, and fun festivities with our family and friends. Add those extras on top of our already busy lives and it’s easy to see how seasonal stress can spur some unhealthy habits.

During the holidays, we often spend so much time and attention on others (not a bad thing), that many of us don’t take the best care of ourselves (not a good thing). We skimp on exercise, we make some not-so-healthy food choices (ok, maybe I could’ve passed on those holiday cookies after lunch), we cut into our sleep, and our well-being suffers. And as it turns out, our family, friends, and co-workers may have more to do with this than we realize.

“How so?” you ask. Well, everyone has a network of social influencers. The people we spend the most time with – our family members, friends, and colleagues – they’re some of the first people we turn to for advice, comfort, and support. We often take our social cues from those we love and trust most, but have you ever wondered how these people actually influence our personal health and well-being? Turns out, quite a lot.

Weight gain, which can be common during the holiday season (seriously, someone take away the holiday cookies, please!), can spread within our social networks. Science says so, too. Researchers James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis studied data from over 12,000 individuals and published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine. Here’s what they found: adults with siblings who become obese have a 40 percent increased chance of becoming obese themselves. Those with a spouse who becomes obese have a 37 percent higher likelihood of becoming so, too. And one thing I found really interesting – those with friends who become obese have a 57 percent higher likelihood of following suit, yikes!

HolidayTip7But it’s not all bad news. Researchers actually found the reverse holds true, too. People whose friends lose weight are also likely to lose weight themselves. So while poor health can spread like wildfire, so too can good health. Considering we spend most of our waking hours at work and with colleagues, it’s no wonder why so many employers are turning to innovative employee health and well-being programs to create healthy, engaged, productive people who are able to bring their best selves to work each day. Not long ago, Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, wrote an article about how our social networks influence engagement in our health and at work. It’s a great read, so check it out if you have a chance.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll share three things you can do in your workplace, plus tips to share with your employees to help them stay healthy and well, and inspire their loved ones to do the same.

Meantime, download this poster series (like the gold one above!) featuring 12 easy tips you can share with your employees. Print them out, post them up, and remind your people that their well-being’s important, both to them and to you, this holiday season and all year long.

Katie Tierney is Director of Marketing at Virgin Pulse where she leads marketing communications and public relations. One of Virgin Pulse’s original employees, Katie led efforts to create National Employee Wellness Month, a campaign that helps business leaders learn how companies are successfully engaging employees in healthy lifestyles. A pop culture champ and dance buff, Katie can usually be found busting a move in a Zumba class (or anywhere, really). Follow Katie on twitter: @k_tierney.

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