Looming deadlines, doing more with less, and a sluggish economy are all reasons why employees may be feeling more anxious and stressed than ever before in the workplace.

Employers can have a major impact on workplace health by making stress reduction a priority in 2012. Helping employees manage stress is critical because stress can cause a variety of emotional and physical health problems for an individual, not to mention lost productivity. In fact, a recent study published in the journal BMC Public Health found that employees with high-stress jobs visited their general practitioners 26 percent more often compared to those with low-stress jobs.

The good news is there are many ways to help employees manage their stress. Simple measures employers can encourage include walking, eating healthy and stress-reduction breathing techniques. Research shows that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week can prevent the onset or help manage chronic diseases. Yet 70 percent of Americans lead sedentary lifestyles, which is a big reason why many experts say America is in the midst of a health crisis.

So why isn’t everybody walking? Kaiser Permanente is doing its part to make that happen with Every Body Walk!, a new public awareness project aimed at starting a national conversation about the health benefits of walking. Every Body Walk! is an online educational campaign centered around the website www.everybodywalk.org. It contains news and resources on walking, health information, walking maps, how to find walking groups in communities, a personal pledge to start walking, and a place to share stories about walking experiences.

Employees can also access healthy eating right at their finger tips. Kaiser Permanente has launched a new online nutrition program designed for employers to help their employees improve their daily eating habits by including more fruits and vegetables. The Mix It Up program, from HealthWorks by Kaiser Permanente, emphasizes a varied selection of colorful produce and introduces participants to healthy eating patterns anyone can readily and easily adopt. There’s no calorie counting, fat-gram measuring or food weighing involved.

Employees sign up online with the goal of eating at least five servings of produce each day. Easy-to-remember daily food selections include more than 120 possible fruits and vegetables. Participants click on images of the foods they’ve eaten, drag them to a virtual blender and process their choices. Mix It Up does the rest by totaling numbers of fruits and vegetables consumed and tracking progress over time.

At Kaiser Permanente, employees have the option to download stretch-break reminders on their computer. These reminders appear throughout the day and provide employees with a different stretch each time, reminding them of the importance to step away from their desks throughout the day.

Kaiser Permanente offers a lot of information about ways to reduce stress. Many can be found on Kaiser Permanente’s BusinessNet website (https://businessnet.kp.org). In addition, HealthWorks provides several customized workforce health programs, such as Thrive Across America, to help businesses reduce absenteeism, presenteeism and other hidden costs that can add to the bottom line. Kaiser Permanente’s integrated care and groundbreaking electronic health records and other online tools help create effective employee wellness programs with measurable results.

Submitted by Kaiser Permanente