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Take Steps to Offer Healthy Options in the Workplace

In July of this year, MBGH sponsored the “Believe in a Healthy Memphis: 2011 Let’s CHANGE Summit” in collaboration with the Shelby County Health Department and Healthy Memphis Common Table. Ham Smythe, President of Yellow Cab and Checker Cab, was an active participant in the  “Where We Work” group, which detailed the options employers could explore to stimulate healthy lifestyles in employees.

This was not the first time Smythe had explored the options he had to encourage healthy in his employees. In March, he met with Cristie Upshaw Travis, CEO of MBGH, to get some specific advice about steps he could take to create a culture of health at his company. Travis suggested three areas for focus: healthy eating, active living, and tobacco cessation. Smythe explains the motives behind his actions toward a healthy workplace: “It’s an act of self-interest. Healthier employees will take fewer sick days and have a happier outlook. Customer service will improve, along with general morale around the office.”

Smythe goes on to explain: “MBGH enlightened me regarding how I could approach providing healthier options for my employees. When these changes are implemented, I realize that it’ll be up to me to lead by example. MBGH assisted me in realizing that not every solution is necessarily an expensive one, and helped me to approach the dilemma creatively rather than to simply throw money at the issue.“

Smythe certainly has been creative in his healthy solutions. “I sit on a stability ball when I’m at my desk,” he says with a chuckle. “Obviously I can’t force people to take the steps I’ve taken toward being more conscientious of my health, but I can show them how. MBGH made me aware that top-down leadership is required when making changes like this.”   

At the Summit, the “Where We Work” group decided to recruit employers to offer healthy choices in their vending machines, cafeterias, and meetings. Since attending the Summit, Smythe has illustrated the relative ease with which healthy changes can be implemented in the workplace. Early in the Fall, he contacted Travis, asking for the name of a healthy vending machine company, and starting in November, the old machine is out and the new, healthy one is in. The process took only a few months.

In addition to utilizing healthy vending machines at the workplace, Smythe has cut out all unhealthy snacks from work gatherings. “No more donuts – we eat granola snacks instead,” he says. “We’re also trying to explore healthy options regarding what employees can do when they’re on their own time. I’ve also created a program in which employees are reimbursed a percentage of any tools they may utilize to quit smoking. The options are out there. You just have to grab them.”

Travis expressed excitement about the steps Smythe has taken: “Ham followed our advice to the letter! He addressed all three important areas that we pointed out to him at our first visit: healthy eating, active living, and tobacco cessation. The changes he made were simple, accomplished quickly, and weren’t costly. Other employers can make these changes as well.”  

For information on how you too can make these changes at your workplace, contact Cristie Travis at ctravis@memphisbusinessgroup.org.

Posted by Cristie Travis at 7:07 PM

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