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Workplace Overhaul:

Rethinking Attire, Smart Eats, Screentime Detox, Setting Boundaries and more

Undoubtedly, the way we work and live has shifted and, for some, changed significantly during the last several years. While the staples employees expect of the workplace are steady—a paycheck, health benefits, meetings—there are intangibles that have become a priority, such as flexibility and feeling like work is more than just a job.

Also, while your workforce might be back in the office daily, after establishing work-from-home protocols, many employers adopted a semi-hybrid schedule with at least one day when people can work remotely. Not to mention, there’s the challenging labor market, inflation, and an ongoing need to innovate and improve productivity.

How can we manage these pressures differently in the New Year and upgrade the way we live at work? Because the reality is, work is part of life.

Food: Fuel Productivity
Our brains consume 20% of our daily “energy budget,” according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). So, it’s no wonder that a full schedule—even if sedentary at a desk—can physically wear us out. By keeping blood sugar on an even keel and snacking smart to avoid the late-afternoon crash, teams can improve productivity and feel better all around.

Some ideas for the workplace: Fill a breakroom fruit bowl with clementines packed with vitamin C, offer trail mix rich in omega-3 fatty acids from nuts, and stock the fridge with a veggie tray. Consider hosting a lunch-and-learn highlighting brain-healthy foods, such as blueberries, carotenoids (yellow, red and orange) and leafy greens. Mini meals throughout the day that incorporate protein, complex carbs, fiber, and good fats help sustain mental energy, along with preventing common diseases that can eventually drive up the cost of healthcare.

Attire: The New Power ‘Suit’
While settling into a home office wearing pajama pants and a hoodie was Nirvana for some employees, there’s a lot to be said for getting ready so you can show up focused, energized, and inspired. Certainly, the workplace dress code has loosened up over the years. Much like the workweek and paid-time-off, there is greater flexibility.

Allowing employees to show their personality encourages creativity, promotes self-confidence, and shows acceptance for individuals. “Dressed up” can be comfortable, empowering, and professional.

Power dressing today is about how people see you and how you feel. Why not have fun with it by inviting a stylist into your workplace to share ways to piece together practical, budget-friendly work attire?

Time: Setting Healthy Boundaries
As an employer wearing many hats, it’s easy to overcommit by piling more responsibilities and tasks on to your desk. But what essential activities must take place to achieve goals? Setting boundaries fosters effective time management, which reduces stress, improves efficiency, and drives better outcomes.

Manage time more effectively by 1) identifying priorities; 2) politely saying no; 3) empowering your team members to take on projects through delegation; and 4) staying in the present.

When work is overwhelming, this bleeds into personal matters and the whole life continuum suffers. But by learning to prioritize and set boundaries, you set the tone at the top and give employees permission to do the same. This promotes respect, trust, and collaboration among team members.

Another lunch-and-learn opportunity for 2024 is a time management talk that offers tips for structuring a productive workday, limiting distractions, and taking productive breaks—a brisk walk, some deep breaths.

Activity: Move More
One of the most important things to improve health is physical activity. So, promote more movement in the workplace. Regular physical activity improves brain health, helps manage weight, reduces disease risk, strengthens bones and muscles, and improves mental health. Moving makes us feel better, and we can return to work more focused and energized.

During meetings, take breaks to stand up, walk around the room and stretch. Consider offering wellness incentives like discounts on rec center memberships or a fitness “allowance” to use for exercise classes or other movement-motivating expenses like a pedometer to count steps.

Sign up for the no-cost, turn-key Step It Up Challenge and encourage your team to get involved. Form a lunchtime walking club so your employees can connect and stay active.

Screens: Digital Detox
The average American checks their smartphone 352 times per day (Asurion), looking at the screen every two minutes and 43 seconds. Fifty-seven percent of people spend five or more hours per day on their phone (Bank Cell). Given these statistics, consider the level of distraction and noise that is interfering with employees’ productivity.

Many report that taking a break from their smartphones is actually liberating; they engage in more positive social interactions and feel less anxiety. Rather than requesting employees silence smartphones during meetings, ask that they leave them out of the room entirely. Also, gather ideas from your team for incorporating healthy screen-time detox into the day during and after work.

HR: Rethinking People Matters
Human resources is tasked with far more than recruiting and employee engagement in today’s labor market, which is the most challenging since World War II. According to the Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR), there is a shift toward driving value for internal customers—our people. Employees are not shy about sharing their compensation packages, employer incentives, and overall conditions in the work environment. The employee experience shapes the public’s opinion of companies’ brands, for better or worse. Now and moving forward, HR must define and deliver on the employee promise.

Focus, Influence, and Simplify
Gather more insight, discover tools, and find cutting-edge solutions to renew and refresh your employee benefit program at our 2024 In-Value-Able Conference & Expo series virtually on January 25 and in person, February 20 to 21 at Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. Learn from expert speakers who share views to push boundaries and improve outcomes. Network with peers and share best practices. We look forward to seeing you there!

About Health Action Council 
Health Action Council is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization representing mid-and large-size employers that enhance human and economic health through thought leadership, innovative services, and collaboration. It provides value to its members by facilitating projects that improve the quality and moderate the cost of healthcare purchased by its members for their employees, dependents, and retirees. Health Action Council also collaborates with key stakeholders – health plans, physicians, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry – to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare in the community.

Patty Starr bio image

About the author

Patty Starr

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council and is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the organization--build stronger, healthier communities where business can thrive. 

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