Employers can help workforce stick to resolutions

Tuesday , 6 January 2015 by Aimee Bourke

New Year’s resolutions more often than not involve losing weight, eating better and exercising more - and these resolutions look likely to top the list again.

Although results from Southern Cross Health Society’s annual health survey showed that:

  • 70% of New Zealanders exercise twice or more a week and
  • 29% said they have tried dieting in the past five years, with the rate amongst females (38%) being twice as high as amongst males (19%)

70% of New Zealanders still believe they should be healthier. And this is where employers can play an important role.

Vicki Caisley, Southern Cross Health Society’s Head of People and Talent, says we all know resolutions tend to flag after a couple of months of concerted effort, particularly once the holidays are over and work restarts.

“However, it’s reasonably easy for employers and managers to take a proactive approach to workplace wellness - regardless of the organisation size. And if you want a fit, healthy and productive workforce it’s certainly something that needs to be a top priority.”

The research of over 2,000 New Zealanders, carried out by TNS on behalf of Southern Cross, also found that:

  • the top two dietary changes people used were cutting down portion sizes (46%) and following a low calorie diet (26%). Jenny Craig was the least favoured (2%) of the options favoured followed by Paleo, Atkins, and juice cleanses (4%).
  • the main reason people exercised was to improve their health. However, perhaps not unsurprisingly, there was a female bias towards appearances, with 68% of females saying they exercised to reduce weight or improve their appearance, compared with 47% of males.
  • the top two reasons people gave for not exercising more were that they didn’t feel they needed to exercise or that they didn’t have enough time.

Caisley says employers need to work closely with their workforce to find out what workplace wellness options would work best for them.

“These days wellness packages come in a variety of shapes and forms; the trick is to find what will resonate with the people in your organisation.

For example, the research showed that males and those under 40 are more likely to play sports whereas women and those over 40 are more likely to limit consumption of unhealthy food to stay healthy. If your workforce is predominantly male you might look at organising workplace sports teams, whereas if you have an older workforce, they may get more benefit out of workplace nutrition seminars.

Talk to your people and find out what they want,” she says.

Caisley says, for all workplaces there are simple, low cost initiatives that can be put in place, such as lunchtime walking groups or swapping out high-sugar contents in the snack box.

“From our research we know that about almost a third of workplaces have a snack box or vending machine, and a quarter of people purchase snacks from a nearby shop.

At Southern Cross Health Society, we took a stand on this by removing vending machines from our offices and providing fruit boxes that are regularly replenished. We believe it’s important that we help facilitate healthy purchases. If our people choose to walk out of the building and purchase from somewhere else, that is their choice, but we do all we can to encourage a healthy lifestyle,” Caisley says.


Editor note: Conducted by TNS the online survey of around 2,000 randomly selected New Zealanders was carried out in September 2014. Responses were weighted to be representative of the New Zealand over 15 population by age, gender and region.