benefitexpress February 28, 2020 9 min read

Four Tips to Keep Your Employees Heart Healthy

Heart health at work

Sponsored by the American Heart Association, February's Heart Month celebration was the perfect time for employers to pause and reflect on how heart healthy their employees are, and implement a plan of action to support healthy habits throughout the year.  

Whether you’re just starting an employee wellness program or you want to expand current efforts, there are plenty of initiatives that can promote heart health for employees—and they don't have to be time-consuming or expensive. We're sharing simple things you can do to improve employee heart health. Keep reading to learn more. 

Why heart health?

Cardiovascular disease is your employee's No. 1 health threat, and is a leading cause of death in the United States for men and women alike. When faced with a cardiovascular illness such as stroke, heart attack and hypertension, employees are impacted by more than just morbidity, but also factors like individual finances, changes in mental health and even the ability to work. By providing your employees with the education and resources they need to get heart healthy, you are helping them live longer and more enjoyable lives. Here are four simple ways to get started. 

1. Offer healthy office snacks

The workplace is notorious for hosting treats like donuts, pizza parties and celebration cakes. That said, it's no secret that a poor diet can aid in the development of many health conditions, including heart disease and stroke. While these items are okay (and even encouraged) in moderation, offering these types of foods on a regular basis makes it hard for employees to make healthy choices at work. Instead, make the healthy option the only option and opt for whole grains and fruit for your next office celebration. 

Special occasions aren't the only way for employees to get their hands on low-nutrient foods. The vending machine is another place employees turn to for that pre-lunch craving or afternoon fix. However, these machines are often filled with foods and drinks that are high in fat, calories and sugar. Ask your vendor to replace these items with heart-healthy choices like trail mix, nut butters and whole grain crackers, and limit beverages to water, tea and coffee. Providing healthy vending machine options can assist with leading a healthier lifestyle.

2. Encourage movement

Being active is extremely important in preventing heart disease and stroke. And, according to The Heart Foundation, time (or lack thereof) is cited as one of the most common reasons to neglect exercise. The solution? Not all businesses can have an onsite gym, so instead of trying to find time to work out, consider ways to help employees make time. For example, help your employees get more active during the day by introducing walking clubs or hosting a competition to see which departments can get the most steps per week. Better yet - take walking meetings: a 15-minute standup meeting can easily become a 15-minute walking meeting. Other things to consider (as budget and space permit) include standing desks, exercise balls or a designated exercise space. 

3. Communicate benefits offerings often

Regular check-ups are the key to successfully detecting, treating and preventing heart disease. But believe it or not, many of your team members don't get regular check ups. This can be hard to wrap your head around—especially if your organization's benefit plans cover annual physicals. The problem is that many employees don't have a clear understanding of their benefits offerings. In fact, nearly half of employees who are offered health insurance find the process stressful and another 41 percent feel the open enrollment process is confusing. Yikes! To really engage your employees—and be an advocate for their overall health and wellness—develop an ongoing, year-round communication strategy and have a plan in place for fielding questions. 

Tip: From open enrollment reminders, to plan enhancements and company-wide announcements, the benefits experts and communication specialists at benefitexpress can create a custom benefits communication experience for your organization. Learn more.

4. Implement a flex-time policy

Finding time for medical appointments isn't always easy when you're employed—especially when most medical offices operate on daytime schedules, or offer limited availability on nights and weekends. This is where the idea of a flex-time policy comes into play—a system of working a set number of hours with the starting and finishing times chosen within agreed limits by the employee. One of the advantages of a flex-time policy is that it gives employees more flexibility to schedule check ups or make appointments for existing health conditions without taking time off work. 

Next steps

Today's modern workforce has begun to rely on their employer to be an advocate for more than just their professional development, but their overall health and well-being outside of the office. Consider incorporating at least one of these changes into your workplace wellness program to see a positive impact on your employee's health, and ultimately, performance. 

Benefitexpress supports a comprehensive benefits strategy for enhanced employee retention, engagement and satisfaction. Learn how our platform and service solution are designed to enable plan sponsor goals when you connect with a consultant. For more tips on wellness programs, and everything HR and benefits, subscribe to our blog!