You know it, I know it, we all know it: water is not only important, it is necessary. While there have been reports of people going up to 73 days without food, it’s only because they were properly hydrated—the human body can only survive approximately 3 days without water. While your office is most likely not in danger of anyone waiting 3 days between drinks, Medical Daily does report that up to 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration. Well-hydrated employees are not only healthier, but also have sharper focus and are more productive. With the majority of people spending most of their waking hours at the office, employers have a big opportunity, and economic incentive, to help the average American make a change in their water consumption habits. As summer temperatures soar, here are a few practical strategies to keep your coworkers and employees happy, healthy, and well-hydrated.
Spread the word
The key to getting your team to hydrate? Make sure they know why it’s so important. The benefits of staying properly hydrated for individuals are manifold: better digestion, improved kidney function, decrease in headaches, enhanced skin elasticity, increased energy, temperature regulation, and even a reduction in the risk of some chronic diseases according to the US National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health. Another report from One Medical expands the ever-growing list by adding that drinking enough water can also sharpen memory, stabilize moods, increase motivation, and prevent dry mouth, all while promoting cardiovascular, joint, and muscle health. There’s really no downside: drinking enough water makes you a healthier person, period.
And it’s important from a business standpoint too: there’s overwhelming evidence that drinking a sufficient amount of water helps people stay clear-headed and productive. One Medical reported that study by the British Psychological Society Annual Conference “found that college students who brought water with them into an exam scored higher marks than their counterparts who didn’t have water” and “that drinking water could improve students’ thinking and/or help students stay calm and quell their anxiety.” Similarly, Dr. Tony Ronay reported on Medium that “proper hydration can increase employee productivity up to 14%.” Not only can having hydrated employees mean you have healthier employees, it can mean you have happier and more productive employees, as well.
Make it easy
But how much water is enough? Reports differ wildly on that front due to factors as varying as climate, body type, physical activity, and consumption of other food and drink, so it’s best to simply make sure that you’re making hydrating options available and easily accessible for your employees. While the easy answer is making sure a water cooler is available in the main office area, the British Heart Foundation also suggests making sure there’s water available in each and every room (even if just a pitcher). Or, you can upgrade for what often comes down to a negligible price difference to smart, sustainable water cooler that connects to your waterline like a Bevi or similar product—and they may even include natural flavor and carbonation choices. Giving your workers a reason to get up and try something new will encourage them to hydrate more and more often.
And remember, though it is the best source, water isn’t the only beverage that provides hydration. Take an office-wide survey to see what other options people would be interested in and then stock that communal fridge with non-sugary options like naturally flavored seltzer, fresh fruits and other foods that contain a high water content. Many of these options are not only healthy snacking choices, but can be added to water to make it more palatable and interesting to consume. If the options in your kitchen go beyond coffee and donuts, your employees will be better able to make healthier choices without disrupting the productivity of their day.
Make it fun
But still, encouraging your employees to stay healthy and hydrated can be a challenge (after all, you can lead them to your new beverage machine, but you can’t make them drink). While the average employee will still reach for coffee or tea first which, contrary to popular belief, are sources of hydration, although possibly less effective because of diuretic qualities, providing them with a large water bottle that’s distinguishable as their own will encourage a different kind of habit. Not only will this make your office more sustainable, but also help set a clear goal for water consumption throughout their day. Dr. Tony Ronay suggests: personalized water bottles, mugs, and glasses “are fun and almost a form of personal expression. Having a unique drinking vessel not only encourages people to fill up their glass, but also helps to lessen the occurrence of anonymous dirty cups in the sink.”
And, of course, there’s an app for that. In fact, there is a whole list of hydration tracking apps for that. You can encourage your staff to download any of them to help remind people to drink more water throughout the day. You even foster a healthy competition in an office-wide contest, as suggested by the British Heart Foundation. The prize could be the opportunity to pick out the next Bevi flavor, design a custom water bottle, or whatever will best fit your company culture and resources. When employees have a tangible way to keep track of their health and hydration, and see others doing the same, you can encourage greater mindfulness throughout the office.
At the end of the day, providing your employees with both the knowledge and ability to stay well-hydrated is the key to making your way to a healthier, happier staff. Not only will this attention make everyone see how invested you are in the wellbeing of your employees, but create a more productive and focused space. Just like drinking enough water, there’s no downside here: having a well-hydrated office will make your office a better place to be, period.
Photography by Mel Walbridge