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Healthy Holiday Habits

Posted 11/28/2017 by UHBlog

It takes extra effort for employees to stay healthy amid the holiday hoopla. Ask us for ideas to keep your team’s wellness on track.

Group of coworkers. smiling

When it comes to the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, internal medicine specialist Roy Buchinsky, MD is reminded of the opening line of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

“It’s truly a happy time of year, but it can also be the most stressful time of year for many people,” says Dr. Buchinsky, who is the director of wellness at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

Distracted employees may ponder the shopping, baking or decorating they could be doing if they weren’t at work. Others may dread spending the holidays alone or with trying relatives. And many may feel sluggish from skimping on sleep and exercise in favor of overindulging on cocktails and rich foods at seasonal soirees.

The best holiday present you can give employees – and your company’s bottom line – is the gift of promoting wellness.

“It’s good business and good medicine,” Dr. Buchinsky says.

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Labor indicates workplace wellness initiatives reduce the number of chronic illnesses employees incur and the days they call in sick. That means productivity goes up and health insurance claims go down.

To help your workplace maintain its equilibrium during the hectic holiday season, Dr. Buchinksy recommends:

  • Encouraging nourishing noshes. “The biggest culprit this time of year is food,” he says. “Celebrate, but in moderation.”
    You can do this by stocking waiting rooms, boardrooms and lunch areas with fruit, nuts or other low-sugar snacks instead of – or at least alongside – holiday cookies and candies. Or, plan an employee potluck lunch and urge participants to create nutritious versions of their favorite holiday dishes by, for example, replacing whole milk with skim milk or white noodles with whole wheat pasta.
  • Chilling out. Encourage PTO days to tend to holiday obligations, so employees can return to work ready to focus on their jobs rather than stressing about preparing the guest room for the in-laws. When feasible, adjust workloads and ease deadlines so employees aren’t feeling overwhelmed.
    “Be realistic about what can be done within this time period and prioritize,” he says.
  • Reaching out. “Make people aware of their value to your corporation,” Dr. Buchinsky says. “Find out, on a personal level, what their likes are. Thanking them with a personal touch goes a long way.”
  • Permitting playtime. Give employees a chance to unwind without penalty. Scatter jigsaw puzzle pieces in a common area and allow folks to tinker with it when they need a break. Offer onsite yoga or chair massages as non-caloric holiday treats. Schedule an all-company recess at an escape room, bowling alley or roller rink so employees can bond and blow off steam.
  • Holding walk-and-talks. Conduct walking meetings around the office or warehouse (assuming all participants are mobile).This gives everyone a chance to saunter off holiday stress and strudel. Afterward, encourage workers to stand while talking on the phone. If your budget permits, invest in treadmill desks that allow employees to walk slowly at their workstations.
  • Making technology taboo. Implement a cut-off time for non-essential emails or texts – say 9 p.m. – and enforce it.
  • Establishing a healthy haven. Supply tissues and hand sanitizers. Provide vouchers for free or discounted flu shots or offer them onsite. Insist that legitimately ill workers stay home.
    “If employees call off sick, say, ‘Thank you for not coming in,’” Dr. Buchinsky says. “The last thing you want is for them to spread illness.”
  • Promoting volunteerism. Participate in a Turkey Trot, hold a canned-food drive or sing carols to nursing-home residents. Doing good will make employees feel good about themselves and your company.
  • Maintaining momentum. Continue these efforts and others in January and beyond. Add employee wellness contests or incentives for workers to quit smoking or drinking, lose weight or exercise more.
    “Lead by example,” Dr. Buchinsky says. “You need to be a cheerleader and get employees on track.”

If you're interested in UH's wellness programs, connect with University Hospitals Employer Solutions for more information.

Roy Buchinsky, MD is an internal medicine specialist and the director of wellness at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Buchinsky or any other doctor online.

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