By Gwen Majette Haynes
While studies show the strong relationship between proper hydration and health, many people are unaware of the serious effects that dehydration can have on work-related performance. Without proper hydration, people experience such health-related effects as lightheadedness, loss of energy, headaches, restlessness, and lapses in concentration. Health and nutrition experts agree that water is an excellent choice for proper hydration.
According to a consumer study on water consumption conducted by the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), 73 percent of respondents know that most nutrition and health experts recommend drinking eight or more eight-ounce servings of water each day to ward off the effects of dehydration. However, more than half (51 percent) of respondents admit to falling short of that recommended daily water intake. “Most people know they aren’t drinking enough water,” says Barbara Levine, R.D., Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Information Center, The New York Hospital-Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. “Many also know their other beverage choices can contribute to dehydration. But they may not fully realize the impact of dehydration on their everyday lives and long-term health – and that’s cause for concern.”
From these research findings, hydration is fast becoming a public health issue, which translates into a business issue for facilities managers across the nation. Lapses in concentration and grogginess all affect productivity and, eventually, a company’s bottom-line.
A first step in addressing this issue is for organizations to adopt a wellness program geared toward proper hydration. The following list outlines simple measures to help ensure that your workplace contributes to your employees’ well-being and productivity.
• In the main lobby, break room, and/or kitchen area, provide a water cooler for employees and office guests. They will appreciate the convenience and easy access to high-quality water and won’t have to go off-site to purchase beverages.
• During conferences, staff meetings, and other gatherings, offer bottled water along with coffee and other beverages. Caffeine may act as a diuretic and can actually cause the body to lose the water needed for proper hydration.
• For employees with long commutes, encourage them to keep bottled water with them in the car or on the train. The body loses water through exhaling and sweating and uses water to moisten oxygen for breathing, convert food into energy, and absorb nutrients.
• Through newsletters, interoffice e-mail, and on office message boards, promote “water breaks” and display facts about proper hydration throughout the year. Bottled water is not just a hot weather drink; winter is prime season for dehydration. The colder it is outside, the harder your body must work to maintain proper body temperature – and that extra energy requires more water.
The greatest benefit of hydration to people in the workplace is a positive contribution to employees’ overall health and wellness. By investing in a water cooler and by supplying smaller size bottled water, businesses can take simple, cost-effective steps to help improve productivity, increase morale, and reduce health-related absences.
Gwen Majette Haynes is manager of communications at the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), Alexandria, VA. For more information on hydration and water safety, visit (www.bottledwater.org).