By JOHN HEISS
Even if you haven’t heard the term “millennial”, there’s a strong chance you are one – belonging to the group of people born between 1980–2000. By 2020, one in three adults around the globe will be millennials, forming half the workforce, with 60% of them living in Asia.
If you are indeed a millennial, you’re a member of an influential generation, set to have more spending power than any generation that has come before. You are also at the forefront of workplace changes: seeking more choice, mobility, and work-life balance.
While these may seem impressive, there are downsides, notably as employees are spending more time in the office than ever, making it more challenging to maintain health.
Surveys like Aon Hewitt’s Consumer Health Mindset Study 2016 indicate millennials see being healthy as important, notably to “help me look and feel my best”. Yet they also struggle more than other generations to stay active at work.
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The case with Malaysian millennials
Herbalife’s Asia Pacific Nutrition at Work Survey, which was conducted in March 2016, with 500 Malaysian respondents out of 5,500 aged 18 and above, found that 61% of Malaysian millennials find it difficult to stay active during work day – compared to only 46% of non-millennials who think it’s tough to stay active in the office.
In fact, 8 in 10 Malaysian millennials spend more than six hours at their work desk each day, and nearly three-quarter of them typically get less than 30 minutes of physical activity at work in a day. This is in spite of 6 in 10 of Malaysian millennials saying they strive to live a healthy, active life, and having a strong understanding of the health risks that can arise from sedentary lifestyles, including weight gain, poor digestive health and stress.
Clearly, there is a great room for improvement in the workplace, and employers can play a pivotal role in achieving this, i.e. through setting the right tone and helping employees achieve healthy, active lives.
This can be especially effective in the Asia Pacific region, where workers tend to be more open to workplace changes, and Herbalife’s survey showed that 66% of Malaysian millennials would be more encouraged to stay active if this was part of their company’s culture.
How organisations can cultivate a culture of health
There are several ways companies can foster an overall culture of health. For instance, they might provide convenient internal fitness facilities, organise regular group workout sessions, and plan team-building activities with active lifestyle themes, such as sports days or hiking.
Companies may also hold friendly competitions, such as to make use of fitness apps to see which department’s staff walked the most steps in a month. Social media can help, too, perhaps by sharing information on the intranet about how to get moving at work, along with inspiring stories of employees who manage to combine work with getting in motion and in shape.
Of course, nutrition is important too, and companies can encourage healthy snacking by stocking the pantry with food such as products with dietary fiber, which better support weight management.
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How individuals can advocate wellness at work
Even if your company shows little interest in promoting a healthy workplace, there is still much you can do to ensure you maximise wellness during office hours. This is especially true if you’re like the half of millennial respondents to the Herbalife survey who said they exercise just once a week or less.
One of the most basic and yet important things you can do is avoid sitting for long periods. Take short breaks, when you might simply stand up and stretch at your desk. Walk within your office – maybe to the pantry, or even to talk with colleagues rather than messaging via the smartphones or computers. Rather than eating at your desk often, try to head out for lunch, maybe taking time for a walk in a nearby park.
You can check your progress by sticking a workout calendar or plan to your office cubicle. For added encouragement, see if you can enlist colleagues to join your quest for better health, such as by exploring new lunch places that are just a few blocks away.
Even if your workday office routine is gentle, sports nutrition can help you achieve your fitness goals. Even if you aim to lose weight, you have to eat enough to maintain energy levels, including for your workout.
Avoid junk food, and choose bananas and other fruits instead. You might also adopt “smart snacking” – eating smaller, healthier potions, which is convenient yet not detrimental to your waistline.
Better health, better work
It’s not just your waistline that will benefit from pursuing a healthy active lifestyle, even while at work. Exercising and eating well will help you look better, and will boost your energy levels so you can also work better.