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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

How Your Job Can Help You Be a Happier, Healthier Human

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Taxing commutes, long days slouched over a keyboard, and lunch breaks barely long enough to shove a sandwich down—let's face it: Even the most dedicated among us find it hard to stay healthy in the office.

And for those of us who travel for work, there's a host of other challenges, from finding something healthy to eat during a 30-minute layover to dragging your jet-lagged body out of bed at 6 AM to hit the hotel gym.

Stephen Wood, Hub Head of Procurement at GSK, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, knows the struggle well. He's on the road much of the year, traveling around Sub-Saharan Africa to work with his various teams at GSK offices in Kenya, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast.

Despite his best efforts, Stephen didn't feel like he was keeping up with his health goals. “You don't realize how inactive you become in your day-to-day- activities," he says.

And with a family history of health problems, Stephen was worried about falling into the same situation as his elder family members. “My parents and grandparents had high blood pressure and type II diabetes. I have to be more proactive so I don't end up in a similar situation."

Making a Change

When Stephen's company, GSK, launched its comprehensive health-care program, The Partnership for Prevention, or P4P, in South Africa, Stephen immediately signed himself and his family up. The program provides people who work for GSK, and their dependents, 40 different healthcare services, including preventative cancer screenings, vaccines, check-ups, cholesterol screenings, and wellness challenges.

The program inspired Stephen, and after receiving the results from his preventative screenings, he used the information to spark a lifestyle change to better himself.

“I went out and bought a mountain bike and took up cycling," he says. “I've met a number of new people with similar views on health and fitness. We ride every weekend."

Both Stephen and his wife have committed to being more active, and are using the information provided at each screening to continue to evaluate their fitness goals.

Through P4P, Stephen also has access to a host of other programs that encourage employees to stay healthy and fit, like weekly fitness classes and employee wellness challenges. Recently, the program hosted a fun FitBit challenge, where staffers across Sub-Saharan Africa competed for overall monthly steps, something Stephen could participate in during his travels around the continent.

Bringing Health to Your Workplace

The good news is, more and more companies are offering programs like P4P, in an effort to bring awareness to the importance of preventative healthcare and overall fitness. Both of those things mean healthier employees with lower out-of-pocket healthcare costs, and reduced benefits expenses for employers—a win all around, right?

Not sure if your company has a similar program? Ask around or speak to your HR department to see what resources might be available. And if there's not a program yet, that's OK too—there are plenty of other things you can do to inspire your co-workers (and yourself) to make wellness a bigger part of your workday. For example:

  • Join a league: Community organizations often offer leagues in a variety of sports for a small joining fee. Get a group together and play soccer or kickball once a week.

  • Set up a challenge: Smartphones can track just about anything, including your steps. Have your team track their steps for a week or a month, and offer a prize for the person with the most steps. Bonus: This will definitely encourage you to take a walk at lunchtime (and maybe bring along a colleague for some out of office bonding?) versus eating at your desk.

  • Offer classes: Many yoga studios or recreational centers offer community classes. If your office has the space, see if it'd be willing to host a class for employees before work. You could discover a new favorite activity—or simply how good a stretch feels after sitting all week.

  • Negotiate with your gym: If you travel frequently for work, consider joining a national gym with a rate that includes all locations. That way, no matter where you are, you can get in a sweat session.

Whether you get your whole team together, or its just you and a co-worker, being held accountable is a great motivator to keep up with your fitness goals. Even if you don't have access to regular screenings that judge your fitness, take stock of how you feel after a few weeks of your new wellness commitment. Often times, you're your best judge.