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5 tips for a heart-healthy workplace

Posted on Feb. 4, 2021 ( comments)

February is Heart Health Month, the perfect time to boost cardiovascular health awareness in your workplace. With the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, heart health is more important than ever as employees balance lockdowns, childcare, finances and worries around contracting the coronavirus.

What’s the pulse of your workforce?

Employees are the heartbeat of your company. But how well are they taking care of their own cardiovascular health? Recent studies show that nearly half of Americans have some type of cardiovascular condition, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, heart rhythm disorders, peripheral artery disease, heart failure and others. For employers, that can translate to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and a spike in workers’ compensation claims.

According to the American Heart Association, direct medical costs of cardiovascular disease are higher than those of any other disease, and they’re expected to hit $749 billion by 2035. An employee with cardiovascular conditions costs his or her employer nearly 60 hours and $1,100 more in lost productivity than a heart-healthy employee.  

Whether employees are on-site or working from home, there are simple ways to help lower their cardiovascular disease risks. Here are five tips for promoting a heart-healthy workplace.

1. Make heart health a part of the company culture.

Show employees you’re invested in their health and well-being by finding ways to help them eat well, maintain a healthy weight, lower stress levels and quit smoking.

  • Offer healthy food options. For employees working on-site, nix the weekly donuts and offer healthier snack options in break rooms and vending machines. Think fruit, nuts and low-fat popcorn.
  • Provide educational materials. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a plethora of materials on cholesterol, heart attacks, high blood pressure and more. To keep heart health top of mind, email employees a health tip of the day.
  • Connect with tech. In-person health fairs may not be an option right now. For remote and on-site employees, offer virtual programs focused on heart-healthy lifestyles and education featuring dietitians, exercise and medical professionals and others.
  • Provide smoking cessation programs. Smoking increases the risk of developing heart disease. Give your employees the resources and support they need to quit.

2. Make sure employees understand their health benefits. 

Often, benefits that could help employees go unused. Take time to remind them, and do it often. That includes educating employees on the benefits available through their employee assistance program (EAP). A sharp rise in substance abuse has been reported during COVID-19. Make sure struggling employees know help is available.

3. Encourage routine medical care.

With COVID-19, employees may be more reluctant to seek non-urgent medical care. But routine checkups are the best way to detect, treat and prevent heart disease. Send out quarterly health reminders that stress the importance of regular checkups and routine screenings to check blood pressure, cholesterol levels and glucose. Implement a flex-time policy to give employees more options to schedule check-ups or make appointments without taking time off work. A flexible schedule also allows employees to deal with family issues, find time for exercise and shop for healthy food options.

4. Make mental health a priority.

Stress and anxiety are on the rise as employees cope with social isolation, job disruption and at-home learning challenges. That can take a toll on their mental health and put heart health at risk. Provide support to ease the strain.

  • Offer regular reminders about the company’s mental health resources. Now is also a good time to review those resources to ensure employees have the tools they need.
  • Provide training and support for supervisors and managers as the first line of contact for mental health-related conversations. Encourage one-on-one check-ins with employees, especially those who are working remotely.  
  • Provide employees with external resources that support mental health.

5. Promote exercise – at and away from work.

Regular physical activity can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, control body weight and decrease bad cholesterol. Help employees them find time to fit it into their day.

  • For on-site employees, encourage walking meetings and exercise breaks, especially for sedentary workers.
  • Let work-from-home folks know it’s ok to take time out during the workday for exercise.
  • Provide discounted gym memberships. Many facilities are reopening or offering virtual exercise options, from yoga and tai chi to tamp down stress, to interval training and Zumba to get the heart pumping.
  • Encourage fitness challenges that promote team bonding and allow for socialization, whether workers are in the office or working remotely. 

The American Heart Association offers loads of helpful workplace health resources to help build a healthy workplace, including Life’s Simple 7 – lifestyle and behavior factors that can have a big impact on your bottom line.

Helping employees stay on track

Healthy employees are the foundation of a healthy business. That’s why MultiCare Occupational Medicine offers a comprehensive suite of services to meet your needs, from employment physicals and screenings to injury and return-to-work care.

When you partner with us, employees have access to any of our Occupational Medicine clinics, as well as our Indigo Urgent Care locations, so that they don’t have to visit the ER for minor illnesses or injuries. And when additional care is needed, MultiCare Occupational Medicine is connected to all the resources of MultiCare Health System, including its renowned team of heart and cardiovascular specialists across Washington state.

Contact MultiCare Occupational Medicine

Puget Sound: 888-280-5513

Inland Northwest: 833-602-8027

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About The Author

MultiCare Occupational Medicine
MultiCare Occupational Medicine provides comprehensive occupational medicine services for employers and employees, including employment physicals and screenings to injury and return to work care.  More stories by this author
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