Healthier meetings lead to a healthier workplace

Meetings are a necessary part of our workday. We often talk about making our meetings more productive and less time-consuming, but have we ever thought about making our meetings healthier? Our Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition Institute is working on that.

MSU Extension educator Dawn Earnesty has been recently trained as a Work@Health certified trainer through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. Dawn is piloting the CDC’s new comprehensive program that uses the CDC health scorecard to assess the health of a worksite. The scorecard includes 125 questions focused on health topics such as organizational supports, tobacco control, nutrition, physical activity, weight management and stress management. Based on a business’s scorecard results, Dawn works with health committee members made up of its employees, training them to work with leadership to make healthy program, policy and environmental changes within the worksite. Through the CDC program, Dawn will be engaging five local businesses to become trained in September. She’ll work with additional businesses in the future.

One way to improve overall worksite health is to improve the health of our meetings – both at internal and external sites. We spend nearly half of our waking hours at work with many of those hours spent in meetings and conferences. By adopting healthy meeting guidelines, MSU Extension can help to create an environment that supports employees’ and stakeholders’ efforts to eat well and be physically active.

The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) in the Center for Science in the Public Interest provided recommendations to improve the health of in-person and virtual meetings. The guidelines include general recommendations and specifics related to beverages, food, physical activity and sustainability as well as tobacco-free guidelines. They also include recommendations for a standard healthy meeting or a superior healthy meeting. Meeting hosts can make gradual improvements to reach the higher standard.

NANA provided the Healthy Meeting Toolkit that you can also share with partners that may host meetings. Organizations, institutions and companies have the opportunity to take the NANA Healthy Meeting Pledge to adopt healthy meeting practices through the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Having healthy meetings, conferences and events helps to create an environment that supports employees and members in their efforts to eat well and be physically active. As we make gradual changes as an organization, in the future we can look at the opportunity of taking the pledge ourselves.

In the meantime, let’s watch for opportunities to incorporate these healthy practices in our meetings. It’s a great model for us to recognize that when we’re doing educational programming, we’re telling others what they should do and how they should do it. Yet, if we’re not demonstrating the same good practices that we’re suggesting others follow, it cuts into our credibility with them. Let’s look for those occasions not only with our dietary choices but also with programming in physical activities that make for a healthy lifestyle.

If you know of a business that’s interested in a healthier worksite or just want to know more about promoting healthier worksites, contact Dawn at wilcoxd4@msu.edu.

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