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Preparing Your Employees for Thanksgiving Health Risks

When you think about Thanksgiving, you probably don’t immediately think of health risks — other than possibly a food coma. Usually, this holiday conjures images of cozy gatherings with family and friends, turkey, stuffing, football and pumpkin pie. But along with celebrated traditions, turkey day can serve up a fair share of health concerns.

Let’s look at a few of the heavy hitters, along with tips to keep your employees safe and healthy.

Food

Isn’t food what it’s all about?! Though a delicious feast is certainly the main event at most celebrations, a typical Thanksgiving meal can easily amount to 3,000 calories or more. To put that into perspective, the recommended daily intake is about 1,600-2,400 calories for women and roughly 2,000-3,000 calories for men. An extra 3,500 calories above what your body can use or burn each day is all it takes to gain a pound of body fat. Since this time of year typically marks the start of an entire season of eats and treats, holiday weight gain often begins here.

Other food risks stem from how dishes are prepared or stored. Improper cooking techniques, cross-contamination and storing food at unsafe temperatures can lead to salmonella or food poisoning. If you prefer your turkey deep-fried, keep an eye on your cooking, since combustible cooking oil can lead to burns, property damage and even fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly four times as many home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day.

Help your employees start the holiday season with health in mind by promoting exercise, distributing lighter, less carb-heavy versions of classic recipes and encouraging them to avoid making food the focal point of family gatherings. While they’re in the office, host a walking meeting or kick off a step challenge. Encourage employees to research safe cooking techniques before making their meals, and if you do host an office get-together, ensure leftovers are refrigerated within an hour or two of being put out.

Stress

Stress is a prominent health hazard year-round, but during the holiday season it’s easy for high-pressure family obligations and a packed schedule of festivities to kick stress into high gear. For some, just sitting down for dinner next to a particularly raucous or politically minded relative can trigger a fight-or-flight response. Throw in managing travel, hosting a meal, caring for loved ones and sensitive family dynamics, and you’ve got a recipe for added stress.

Even settling in to relax during the holiday can be a stressor. Especially when there is an emotional connection to a team or game, watching football or other sports increases the risk for heart attack. It’s important that you and your employees keep emotions in check, even if your team unfortunately ends up on the losing side.

Loneliness and sadness may also be more prevalent during this time of year. Many people don’t have family or friends to gather with, can’t physically travel, or grieve lost loved ones during the holidays. If your business offers an employee assistance program, remind employees that they have help and support available if needed.

Travel

Though any kind of travel can contribute to stress, be aware that there are also risks related specifically to traveling to Thanksgiving dinner by car. The National Safety Council estimates that over 400 deaths occur on the roads throughout Thanksgiving weekend alone. Alcohol consumption is often a contributing factor; 34% of fatalities during this time involve an alcohol-impaired driver.

Be mindful of employees’ schedules. If possible, allow a bit more flexibility so your staff can arrange their travel or hosting duties. Your team will appreciate it more than you may realize. Send out reminders about safe driving, encourage ride-sharing and limit alcohol at company events.

Thanksgiving can be a time of joy, togetherness and celebration — both personally and professionally. Being aware of the health risks that may come with this time of year allows your employees to make the most of the holiday and sidestep avoidable accidents and injuries. This year, foster workplace well-being to express gratitude to the employees who give back to your business all year long.

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