As employees return to the workplace, employers have more opportunities to address wellness needs holistically. Hydration is a clear example. Often requiring environmental solutions that increase awareness, access, and motivation, remote arrangements put employers at a disadvantage when implementing strategies that encourage healthy drinking behaviors.
Though hydration may seem like an unimportant area of focus, the truth is that an alarming number of adults are not drinking enough water. According to some experts, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Moreover, dehydration can directly inhibit performance and productivity via its impact on intellectual wellness (i.e., the cognitive processes, abilities, desires, and tendencies one needs to achieve their goals and thrive). For example, studies have found that dehydration can negatively affect processing speed, working memory, short-term memory, and attention.
Companies beginning to transition back to the office should utilize the following strategies for keeping employees hydrated.
- Use hydration stations: If employees are going to stay hydrated during the workday, they need easy access to clean water. Hydration stations (e.g., water coolers) placed in high-traffic office spaces are a great way to meet these needs. They also serve as a strong cue to hydrate, helping employees who otherwise would have forgotten to get a drink to fill their cups.
- Invest in a water carbonator: According to Ronald Maughan, professor of medicine and biological sciences at the University of St. Andrews, some individuals are prone to drink more water when it’s bubbly. To serve these cravings for carbonation, add a water carbonator to the office kitchen or break room.
- Offer edible water: Drinking water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated, as some foods are primarily composed of water (e.g., grapefruits, which are more than 90% water). As a result, employees who prefer a tasty treat to flavorless water may have an easier time staying adequately hydrated if their company provides them with water-rich foods.
- Hand out branded reusable water bottles: Everyone loves company swag. By providing employees with branded, reusable water bottles, organizations can satisfy this desire while simultaneously encouraging employees to drink up. They may attract a few new customers in the process, as intrigued passerbys look up the maker of the cool canteen they just saw!
- Break down hydration myths: Employees will drink more when they have a clearer understanding of the importance of staying hydrated and what they can do to meet their daily hydration needs. A good place to start is with common hydrations myths. For example, though many believe that the average person can stay hydrated by drinking 64 ounces of water per day, this rule has no scientific basis. The actual recommendation is even higher. The S. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) tables recommend that women and men have 91 and 125 ounces, respectively, of water daily, including water from beverages and foods.
- Start a hydration competition: Employees who don’t feel they need to adjust their water intake may still be encouraged to optimize their hydration through hydration competitions. Ask employees to track their daily water intake and offer prizes to those who meet their recommended daily intake.