By Melissa Fontaine
Parents who eat vegetables have children who eat vegetables. Any questions?
Many adults spend more than forty hours per week at work. There, we develop lifestyle habits that we model for our children, whether we realize it or not, when we get back home: How we eat, communicate, exercise, stress, unwind, react to conflicts, and celebrate. Unfortunately, the modern workplace lends itself to unhealthy habits, such as the consumption of junk food and tendency toward sedentariness.
Instead of encouraging these negative habits, some employers offer “workplace wellness” programs to support employees who wish to take charge of their health. Programs often include nutrition education, fitness competitions, or on-site physical activities, such as yoga. Employers initiate these programs because they are likely to save money on health care programs, avoid lost productivity due to illness, and above all, have healthier, more engaged employees.
The Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health (SBCDPH) recently hired Seth Nickinson with a grant from the Orfalea Foundation to develop a workplace wellness program called “Project ACT.” The purpose is to encourage people to “activate” all aspects of their life: health, workplace, mind, family, meals, and body.
Nickinson, who has worked with Walmart, WellPoint, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, says, “the goal is to demonstrate a flexible workplace wellness model that can be adapted by almost any organization to promote employee health, within the constraints many businesses are facing. We encourage proven practices, but let the employees take the lead. And we want to carry the cultural change a little further to promote health at home with kids and other family members.”
Project ACT will begin as a pilot program at three sites to “uncover best practices in workplace wellness in Santa Barbara County, and to share them widely,” according to the website. The three participating employers are the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health, and the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. This initiative has already encouraged SBCPHD to host onsite yoga classes, Fruity Fridays, Spa Water Wednesdays, and Healthy Family Picnics.
One visit to the Project ACT website may inspire you to change a simple behavior in your own work life. Perhaps you will take the stairs instead of the elevator, bring lunch to work, or stand up from your computer every hour to stretch. Whatever the change may be, its impact will not only improve your personal wellbeing and your productivity at work, but also the health of your children.