Keep Employees Healthy with a Workplace Hydration Program
We know we need to drink plenty of water every day to stay hydrated, yet up to 75 percent of the American population may not be taking in enough water to meet their daily hydration needs.1 This means that most of us are essentially operating in a state of chronic low-level dehydration.
What does this mean for general health and well-being, and what can business owners do to ensure their employees are getting enough H2O every day, at least while at work? We’ll explore these questions and more below.
What Is Dehydration?
It may seem like a question with an obvious answer, but dehydration is more than just feeling thirsty. Dehydration happens when a person’s body has lost enough water to prevent it from performing normal functions. It affects every one of the body’s systems, from our skin to our cells.
Mild dehydration is easily treated by drinking more water (note that it can take up 24 hours to fully rehydrate). More serious cases of dehydration can quickly become life-threatening emergencies. A construction worker laboring under the desert sun on a summer day, for example, could easily become dangerously dehydrated after a matter of hours unless he takes special care to stay cool and hydrated.
Water Is You, You Are Water
Adult’s bodies are made up of about 60 percent water (infants and children as much as 75 percent). It’s critical to replace the water we lose each day, as water impacts every single one of our bodily functions. It lubricates our joints and eyes, keeps our skin healthy, eliminates toxins, promotes proper digestion, and helps our cells create and transport energy properly. Dehydration creates an imbalance of salts and sugar in the body that can lead to health problems.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
We lose water in a number of ways—in the bathroom, through sweating, and through respiration. Vomiting, diarrhea, and heavy exercise can cause rapid fluid loss, and drinking alcohol (a diuretic) can quickly deplete our water stores.
Business owners can help employees by ensuring they have a constant supply of bottled water or an on-site water dispenser, and by encouraging employees to watch out for the following signs of dehydration, whether they’re working in an air conditioned office or outdoors:
|· Dry, sticky mouth||· Extreme thirst|
|· Headache||· Rapid breathing|
|· Impaired cognitive function||· Rapid heartbeat|
|· Fatigue or sleepiness||· Fever|
|· Constipation||· Irritability and confusion|
|· Minimal or dark urine||· Little/no urination that is dark in color|
Dehydration Can Negatively Impact Productivity
It probably comes as no surprise to most employers that some of the problems highlighted above, including headaches and sleepiness, can negatively impact worker productivity.
When an employee goes home sick from a screaming headache, or has difficulty concentrating at work, it can create problems that ripple throughout an entire department or organization. In some cases (as in the construction worker example mentioned earlier) it can be downright dangerous.
In fact, short-term and chronic illness has a significant impact on the bottom lines of employers every year in the U.S., as the examples below illustrate:
- In a survey of working age adults, more than 22 percent of respondents reported being impaired by a chronic illness in the prior 30 days; on average, these individuals lost 6.7 days at work. This translates to $2.5 billion in lost productivity every year.2
- A study involving forest workers found that dehydration reduced worker productivity. The workers were separated into two groups; one group was properly hydrated and the other was dehydrated (to approximately 1 percent loss of body weight). When asked to perform a specific task, the productivity of the dehydrated group was 12 percent lower than that of the properly hydrated group.3
- Chronic illness drives up the cost of health insurance, which can make offering health benefits difficult or impossible for some employers, especially small businesses. One survey found that 48 percent of small firms with fewer than 200 employees cited high premiums as the top reason for not offering health benefits.4
Keep Employees Hydrated with a Workplace H20 Program
Instituting a workplace hydration program is an effective way for employers ensure their employees are getting enough water while they’re at work. A workplace hydration component can also be incorporated into an existing workplace wellness program. What makes an effective program?
- H2O: Provide your employees with easily-accessible water, whether from a reverse osmosis system, a bottle delivery service to replenish water coolers, or individual water bottles, to ensure they drink enough water throughout the day.
- Educational Materials: Place posters in visible locations throughout your facility providing information about the importance of staying hydrated and explaining how dehydration can negatively affect health. Visual aids about urine color and hydration can help employees determine when they need to drink more water.
- Hydration Action Committee: A program that has a dedicated person or group managing it is more likely to succeed. Consider creating a committee with a catchy name like “Team H2O” to:
- Ensure your facility always has an adequate supply of water.
- Create an educational program about proper hydration.
- Brainstorm fun ways of making sure employees stay hydrated.
Liven Up Plain Water
A common complaint is that plain water is “boring.” It’s why so many people reach for sports drinks, sodas, energy drinks, and other flavored beverages. This is where having an established hydration committee can help. If your business is in an office setting, here’s what you can do to make water more palatable for employees:
- Keep plenty of trays of ice cubes on hand.
- Make ice cubes out of fruit juice, which can help liven up plain or sparkling water without much added sugar (make sure to choose 100% fruit juice).
- Keep wedges of citrus fruits in break rooms or near water coolers so employees can give their water a “twist.”
- Place clear plastic or glass pitchers infused with fruits like melon, berries, and citrus or veggies like cucumber around the office.
If your employees work outdoors (e.g., construction workers, traffic inspectors, etc.), provide them with plenty of bottled water—they’ll thank you for it, and they’ll likely be more productive.
Potential Benefits of a Workplace Hydration Program
- Increased productivity and output
- Fewer lost work days
- Reduced health care costs
- Boost to ROI and VOI
Another less obvious benefit of implementing a workplace hydration program is improved employee morale. Employers who believe their employer is invested in their well-being are more likely to be productive and express loyalty to the company.
Getting Sodas and Sports Drinks Out of Your Office
Sodas and sports drinks contain empty calories that are a proven contributor to the growing obesity problem in the U.S. and beyond.5,6 Hydration with plain water can help employees manage their weight, and remember—you’re under no obligation to provide your employees with sugary beverages.
Swap out sugary drinks in your vending machines with bottled water and unsweetened seltzer water. Your workers may protest at first, but, if they really want belly-busting sugary beverages, they can bring them into work themselves or consume them outside of work.
Coffee, tea, and plain water are the best choices.
The Problem with Tap Water: Why Water Filtration Is a Must
The quality of tap water varies considerably from one place and one state to the next. Water quality tests have turned up alarming levels of different chemicals and pollutants in municipal water systems.7,8,9,10 In 42 states public water supplies are contaminated with unregulated chemicals. What’s in our water?
- Heavy metals
- Agricultural pesticides and fertilizers
- Pharmaceuticals (such as antidepressants and antibiotics)
Investing in a water delivery service or water filtration system for your employees will help protect them from the dozens of unregulated chemicals and contaminants routinely found in municipal water supplies.
To learn more about getting fresh, clean water delivered to your office or worksite, contact Water Event Pure today.