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5 Ways Veterans Can Remain Healthy on the Job | Getting Hired
It can be an exciting experience for veterans to return to the civilian workforce. After their service, it’s beneficial for the mind and body to stay active throughout the day. Employers should encourage their veteran employees to live healthily and take advantage of company resources to keep them safe while at work. Here’s some tips that every veteran employee should know when returning to the workforce.
Enroll in Employer-Provided Health Benefits
With physical and mental health a priority for veterans, there’s a great opportunity to supplement existing VA benefits with employer health insurance. This will provide coverage to health issues that are not related to military service. The VA PCP and the private PCP will communicate to ensure the health issue is being resolved and billed to the proper provider.
Another great health benefit is to take advantage of discounts at gyms or fitness facilities if offered by your employer. Sometimes these fitness discounts can also be applied to at-home gym equipment or health devices like fitness tracking watches. Review your employee benefits manual to know which areas may be discounted and how to receive reimbursement if needed.
Most larger workplaces now offer EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs), which usually don’t require enrollment but are still valuable assets to keep in mind. An EAP’s purpose is to confidentially help employees through troubling situations in their personal life, which can be a priceless resource for veterans. Talk with your human resources representative to find out how to contact the workplace’s EAP group.
Avoiding Common Workplace Hazards
When veterans browse jobs within the civilian workforce, they’re looking to apply the skills they developed during their service. Typically, veterans will leverage their experiences to land in fields like information technology, land trade, and labor-based jobs. These professions require skilled and determined workers but have a higher risk of exposure to hazardous materials such as PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls), PVC (Polyvinyl chloride), lead, and asbestos.
If any of these hazardous materials are on the property or involved in day-to-day operations, the workers must adhere to proper safety precautions to avoid long-term health issues. One of the more common hazardous materials veterans may encounter is asbestos. Avoiding asbestos in the workplace is especially important since veterans were exposed to asbestos during military service, which can lead to mesothelioma cancer. In order to prevent further exposure, veterans should be aware of asbestos involved in their civilian work and follow the proper procedures to preserve their health.
Follow On-The-Job Safety Protocols
Every workplace should have safety regulations in place to protect its workers, which vary depending on the job. Each year, millions of people are injured at work with slips and falls being the leading cause. With safety being of the utmost importance during military service, that same caution should be adhered to during the workday.
One of the most common ways workers are injured is by attempting to lift heavy objects without proper posture or assistance. To avoid injury when lifting heavy objects alone, first, make sure your path is clear and stretch your muscles. Next, firmly grab the object while keeping your back straight and your knees bent, then stand. This will ensure your knees are managing the weight of the object and not your back. Neglecting these steps or attempting to lift something too heavy by yourself can provoke serious back injury.
An easy way to avoid slips and falls is to wear non-slip work footwear. Whether it's shoes or boots, they’ll have a better grip on wet and oily floors. They’re made in a variety of styles and budget-friendly pairs are available in retail stores.
Maintain Good Physical and Mental Shape
While this may seem like common knowledge, it’s easy for months to pass without strengthening your body’s muscles and making them vulnerable to injury. Veterans were expected to stay physically fit and be mentally ready for anything during their service. That same mindset can be utilized in the civilian workforce to keep one's self physically in shape with a sharp mind.
By staying in good physical shape, you can reduce the risk of body strains at work, especially if the job is more sedentary like deskwork. A good routine to incorporate is exercising for two days, 30 minutes each day, followed by a rest day. The exercises can be as simple as lifting weights at home, walking or running on the treadmill, swimming, etc., as long as it's raising your heart rate.
Staying in good mental shape can be more challenging, especially for veterans, as there’s no uniformed solution for mental health. Some common mental health exercises, known as mindfulness, can be meditating, organizing and overall asking yourself “how am I doing?”. With depression and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) the most common mental health issues among veterans, regular visits with an experienced therapist or psychiatrist is recommended to keep all aspects of your life safe, including work.
Bring a Healthy Lunch and Hydrate Regularly
Another commonly overlooked but essential value to staying safe at work is eating a proper meal on your scheduled lunch break. Throughout the workday, your body is burning calories that it needs for physical exertion and mental focus. Eating fast food or skipping your lunch break entirely will have adverse effects on your body, as it's lacking the proper fuel for the second half of the day.
An easy routine to set yourself up for success is meal planning. Set some time aside a few times a week to plan your lunches for the next couple of days. It can be as simple as packaging dinner leftovers in tupperware or preparing some sandwiches and veggies in a ziploc bag. Either way, your lunch will be ready to grab in the morning when you head out the door.
For hydration, keep a water bottle with you on your desk or anywhere easily accessible at work. It’s easy to get caught up in tasks and let hours pass by without hydrating, which is easily solved by setting a timer on a computer, phone or watch to drink water every 30 minutes.
Our workplaces are where we spend a large portion of our lives and should also encourage us to stay safe while on the shift. Keeping our veterans safe at work should be a priority for employers, along with assisting them wherever possible to live their healthiest lives. For more resources, check out our article on How to Support Veterans in the Workplace.