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Healthy workers: Catch them being good
Challenge them to continue good habits
Occupational health nurses tend to be "cheerleaders" for employees with chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma, says Judy A. Garrett, health services manager at Syngenta Crop Protection in Greensboro, NC, but the same enthusiasm should be directed to healthy workers.
"Remind them that what they are doing today can affect what happens years from now," she urges.
It is a mistake to focus solely on employees with chronic medical conditions, says Garrett. "Don't just focus on people who already have problems. Keep the well people well!" she says. "Challenge them to continue with their good habits."
Find out what is important to a particular worker, advises Garrett, then focus your efforts in that direction. Instead of telling them that losing 25 pounds is the right thing to do, ask them what they hope to do when they leave the company, she says.
"If they thought that losing 25 pounds would help them to enjoy some activities with their family, they might be more likely to make the attempt," she says.
If an employee has several chronic conditions, Garrett says to make small steps and keep checking back. "If the employee knows somebody out there is cheering for them, they are more likely to continue with those changes and stay on track," she says.
Learn this first
Tracey L. Yap, RN, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati (OH)'s College of Nursing, says your first step should be to consider which of the five stages of change that an employee is in.1
She explains that during the first stage, the worker isn't even aware of the need to change their behavior. During the second stage, she says, the worker is aware that they need to change, but puts it off.
The third stage is preparation, when the employee vacillates between trying to change their behavior, and many times fails, says Yap. "The fourth stage is action, when they have made a behavior change. They may have stopped smoking for a certain amount of time," she says. "The fifth stage is maintenance they made the behavior change for longer than six months."
An employee may be weighing the pros and cons of changing, says Yap. "When the pros outweigh the cons, they tip in favor of behavior change and move to the next stage," she explains.
Remember that as you are attempting to get workers to stabilize blood sugar or engage in physical activity, Yap advises. "This is the framework I always start from, regardless of the intervention," she says.
1. Yap TL, Davis LS. Process of behavioral change as it relates to intentional physical activity. AAOHN J 2007; 55(9):372-380.
For more information on meeting the wellness needs of workers, contact:
Tracey L. Yap, RN, PhD, Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, University of Cincinnati, OH. Phone: (513) 558-5305. Fax: (513) 558-2142. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.