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Running head: SOCIAL ECOLOGICAL MODEL IN PRACTICE

Increasing Physical Activity Among Overstock Employees

Lauren A. Jones

HEA 601

University of North Carolina at Greensboro


SOCIAL ECOLOGICAL MODEL IN PRACTICE 2

Increasing Physical Activity Among Overstock Employees

Recently lifestyle diseases have become an issue in the U.S. This includes behaviors

such as poor nutrition, tobacco/alcohol use and limited physical activity (Mattke, Liu, Caloyeras,

Huang, Van Busum, Khodyakov, & Shier, 2013). Afflictions caused by these behaviors may lead

to issues at work such as loss of productivity, and absenteeism. To improve the productivity of

Overstock employees, the CEO has suggested, as a starting point, to encourage physical activity.

Physically active employees are least likely to get sick and have better attitudes (DHHS. 2014).

An analysis of the Overstock employees revealed that only 22% of employees have met the 2020

objective of engaging in moderate aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes a week. This could be

because the tasks of employees at Overstock, require little labor. To construct the best strategy to

promote physical activity, I have used the Social Ecological Model (SEM) to describe the factors

affecting physical activity among employees and developed a future intervention. The model

takes into account the relationships between an individual, their peers, their community, and

public policys influence. The SEM is constructed with overlapping layers, indicating how

factors of an individuals daily life influences factors on multiple levels.

The first level describes relationships built on the interpersonal level. This includes peers,

family and employees. A peer is someone who may have similar interests and habits as you. The

behaviors an individual observes from peers may also influence their own health behaviors. For

example, if an individuals peers are not physically active, then that individual may not be

physically active either because they wont have the support to practice a fit lifestyle. If an

individuals peers are physically active, that individual may also choose to be active as well

because fitness is encouraged among their peers. This example demonstrates how immediate

relationships may influence health.


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The next level is organizational. This level consists of groups that have been assembled

from interpersonal relationships (National Cancer Institute, 2005). A full-time employee may

spend most of their time at work with their clique of peers. These groups operate under a general

set of rules which can either promote or restrict behaviors (National Cancer Institute, 2005). A

setting or group of peers that discourage or ignore physical activity may negatively influence an

individuals perception of their own health. If employees are not encouraged to be physically

active by their social groups, the standards of the community may also suffer.

Overstock, as a company, and its employees make up the community. The community

level of the SEM examines the relationships and the social norms among organizations (National

Cancer Institute, 2005). At this level, questions should be asked such as: Are there physical-

activity policies for employees to follow? And, are resources or recreation facilities offered?

These factors may influence how willing employees will be to engage in physical activity.

Availability and location can also be key factors for working individuals, because convenience

may influence extracurricular activities. Factors of these levels contribute to barriers that

attribute to the physical activity of employees, and are linked to public policy.

Lastly, public policy describes the local, state, and federal laws that directly influence a

behavior (National Cancer Institute, 2005). Funding and accessible resources may be a key factor

to this level. If an employee does not have the finances or amenities to practice a healthy

lifestyle, it may make it difficult to be physically active. Also, if public policy does not

encourage employees to be physically active, they may not consider it as a primary concern.

Outside of Overstock, employees may also have other responsibilities. Therefore, public policy

would be beneficial with encouraging employees to split sedentary time at their desk with

opportunities for physical activity and fitness.


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After reviewing the SEM, I believe that an incentive program that aims to increase

physical activity through promoting walking among employees would be most beneficial to

increase the physical activity of employees. The objective of the program should be for

employees to take as many steps as possible every day. To measure this, a public policy could be

implemented to supply each employee with a pedometer. Employees may be encouraged to take

the stairs rather than the elevator, or walk a few laps on their lunch break to increase their step

count. Employees may choose to exercise in groups, and this will promote interpersonal and

community relationships through collaboration. Those who take the most steps in a given time

will receive an incentive such as access to higher-value health plans or time off and monetary

rewards. The incentives will lead to higher participation rates by 20% (Rand Corporation, 2015).

The program makes the goal of increasing physical activity easily attainable, because all the

materials needed have been supplied and the activity can be completed anywhere. Support on the

organizational level may involve changes to the work environment that allows employees to

practice active lifestyle during work hours such as scheduling meetings where employees can

walk and talk outside or reserving board rooms for group exercise sessions.

To understand the behaviors of an individual it is necessary that all factors of their life are

evaluated. The topic of physical activity among Overstock employees should not be placed only

on an individuals choices, but also the resources they are offered and the relationships they

encounter on a daily basis. Encouraging relationships between employees will provide social

support and encourage team building. Therefore, implementing an incentive program with a

range of options and limited materials will be most affective among Overstock employees to

improve physical activity.


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References

Mattke, S., Liu, H., Caloyeras, J., Huang, C., Van Busum, K., Khodyakov, D., & Shier, V.

(2013). Workplace wellness programs study. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/

ebsa/pdf/workplacewellnessstudyfinal.pdf

National Cancer Institute (2005). Theory at a glance: A guide for health promotion practice.

Retrieved from http://www.sneb.org/2014/Theory%20at%20a%20Glance.pdf

Rand Corporation. (2015). Incentives for workplace wellness programs. Retrieved from http://

www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_briefs/RB9800/RR9842/RAND_RB9842.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. Office of Disease Prevention and Health

Promotion. (2014). Healthy people 2020: Physical activity. Retrieved from http://www.

healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/physical-activity