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Now that 2013 is underway, many people are committed to their New Year’s resolutions of losing weight by eating healthily and getting fit. But should an employer share the same resolution when it comes to looking after its staff?

At a time when Britain is still basking in the glory of a year of tremendous sporting achievements, there is an increased appetite for workplace wellbeing, according to Aviva’s latest annual ‘Health of the Workplace’ study. Employers are increasingly being expected by staff to take responsibility for their health and wellbeing, but business leaders themselves are waking up to the relationship between productivity and a healthy, happy workforce.

Before what may seem like another costly employee benefit program scares you off, consider the savings. Creating a space that is sympathetic to employees who are making the effort to improve their health has a number of advantages. Health and efficiency have a clear relationship, healthy employees take fewer sick days and are more productive at work and businesses are starting to take notice of this.

Even if your business doesn’t have the resources to implement all of these ideas, there are several things you can do that show your employees you value their health. In fact, a gesture as small as providing fresh fruit once a week can be a very simple way to show your employees that their health is important to the company. Here are a few ideas to encourage a healthy start to the New Year in your office:

Encourage exercise

Turn your office into an active campus. If you can make changes at your office, consider offering covered, secure bike parking for commuters, or provide good showering facilities and locker rooms for employees who wish to workout at lunch. Can’t make structural changes? Implement and promote a lunch hour walking club and offer incentives for employees who participate. Consider offering discounts or partially subsidise memberships to a local gym or exercise club.

Hone hunger options

Everyone knows when you’re hard at work it can be easy to quickly grab a bite from what’s at hand. Ensure that the kitchen is well designed so staff have good facilities to make a healthy lunch in. Offer your employees healthy meal and snack options in the canteen (if you have one) that will help fuel their performance while also meeting their nutritional needs.

Provide break out areas

Provide break-out areas, social hubs and snug areas for staff to relax in during their breaks and escape from their desk. Soft and comfortable ‘Think Tank’ lounges offer the ideal environment for relaxing. Having a pool table, Nintendo Wii and plasma TVs in the office will also help staff unwind.

Amanda Godwin-Jones, Design Director at Area says: “In our London office on Newman Street we have a very active team, so the design incorporates a bike store, changing and shower room, a bank of lockers and many have joined the ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme. We also have a fully-equipped kitchen to make healthy lunches and a fruit basket arrives every Monday morning. All these things make for a happy and healthy workforce!”

Remember, employees live up to their surroundings and the right type of office design can do great things for your business. Providing staff with a space that is sympathetic to those making the effort to improve their health and well-being has many advantages.

- by Guenaelle Watson

How can a workplace encourage a healthy start to the New Year? Tell us on Twitter, you can find @Areasq and send us tweets to talk about this further. What would you like to change about your workspace?

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