After a Christmas season of indulgence and excess, the start of a new year can provide a welcome opportunity for some reflection and restraint.
Having been fuelled on a festive philosophy of ‘eat, drink and be merry’ for an extended period of time, there is often a renewed appetite for adopting healthier habits and behaviours, whether that’s giving up meat in the name of Veganuary or ditching alcohol and going ‘dry’ for a month.
Such promises are often made in the form of New Year’s Resolutions, and many workplace water-cooler conversations in early 2023 will involve comparing personal objectives and discussing how well they are being adhered to – or not.
Research from YouGov found that one in seven people made resolutions for the year ahead in 2022, up from one in nine the previous year. Goal setting was most common among younger generations, with a third (32%) of those aged 18 – 24 doing so compared with just 10% of those aged 55 and over. Furthermore, health-related resolutions occupied all three top spots.
Given the heightened interest in this subject around this time of year, employers can play a valuable role in supporting their workforce as they work towards these well-being goals.
Finding the time to exercise regularly can be difficult, so it’s no surprise that many employees aim to hit the reset button on this area of their lives – particularly if they have spent a comparatively sedentary couple of weeks enjoying Christmas TV and festive food.
Various employee benefits can help support workers in their drive to improve fitness. Health assessments can be a sensible initial step on this journey, and some company private medical insurance policies might include checks or screening services that can highlight any potential health risks. From this platform of knowledge, individuals can embark on an appropriate physical activity regime, perhaps even taking advantage of access to other health benefits, such as discounted gym membership.
Losing weight is a popular New Year resolution for many, but experts are keen to point out that this objective should be pursued with caution. In particular, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) warns against following fad diets that claim to deliver a quick fix, since they are often unsustainable and can have an adverse impact in the long term.
Far better, says the BDA, is to adopt a ‘small and slow’ approach that approaches weight in the holistic context of overall health. Employers can help their staff make positive choices by providing access to whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and encouraging regular refreshment breaks to keep up their fluid intake.
Providing staff with access to specialist nutritional services can also empower them to adopt healthy eating habits. Testing for food intolerances and allergies, for example, can provide valuable insight into the kinds of foods to avoid, and even those that might be unknowingly triggering problems.
While New Year Resolutions are commonly associated with improving physical health, increasing emphasis is being place on mental health. Indeed, a survey conducted by Forbes Health in the United States found that improving mental health was the top resolution for Millennials (those aged between 26 and 41) and members of Generation Z (those aged between 18 and 25).
This continues a trend that gained momentum during the pandemic, with employees increasingly welcoming of support for issues such as stress and anxiety at work, and increasingly appreciative of employers who help them achieve a positive work-life balance.
Research shows how this can be achieved through employee benefits, with the top well-being benefits identified as counselling (49%), hybrid working support (48%), and mindfulness training (47%).
Sustaining support throughout the year
Whether workers are focused on raising their physical fitness levels, improving their mental health or enhancing their overall well-being, employers can help them achieve their goals through a variety of means. This includes specific benefits, such as private medical insurance, whose value is only amplified by ongoing communication and encouragement.
Because while the New Year provides a convenient hook upon which healthier ambitions can be hung, keeping those promises can prove difficult. Indeed, only around a third of those who made commitments last year said they kept to them. Through a combination of benefits and positive encouragement, employers can help workers not only stick to their ambitions throughout January but to make changes that benefit their well-being for the long-term.
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