Corporate wellness programs can lead to better employee engagement, greater productivity, and fewer long-term health care costs. However, you don’t need enterprise-level resources to support your employees in leading a healthier lifestyle. Even small and mid-sized businesses can introduce changes that will support a culture of health and wellness, and many of them don’t cost anything.
“The workplace is too often an overlooked but important part of the employee well-being equation. With people spending so much time on the job, it’s key for companies to recognize their influence on people’s health, well-being, and productivity,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, the habits-focused well-being company. “Ultimately, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to improving employee well-being, and successfully changing habits goes way beyond a person’s individual willpower. As an organization, anything you can do to support your people’s health will make a difference. It’s all about helping them by making small tweaks to the environment and culture so that healthy choices and changes are easier.”
1. Promote exercise
Physical activity is one important key to better health. Depending on the size and nature of your workplace, you have many options for encouraging your workers to be active. Secure bike parking and employee showers are great options if your facilities allow for those, but simpler innovations can also be effective. Establish and incentivize a lunch hour walking club, or subsidize gym memberships and give points for hours attended. Fitness trackers are also increasing in popularity, and they allow employees to track their steps and other relevant health data. Holding friendly competitions, such as steps challenges, using these devices is a great way to integrate technology into your wellness programs.
2. Get everyone on their feet
Numerous research studies indicate that prolonged periods of sitting result in unique health problems, and that “exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting,” according to one biomedical researcher. Provide your staff with standing desk options and encourage hourly stand-and-stretch breaks. Walk-and-talk meetings are another great option, because they simultaneously allow for physical activity while also keeping meetings from running too long.
3. Offer healthy snacks
Good nutrition will give your employees the stamina they need to stay sharp throughout the workday. While special occasions still warrant cookies and cake, you should support your workers’ daily nutrition with healthier options. Stock vegetable snack trays, fresh fruit baskets, and plenty of low-calorie snacks that people can grab when they’re in a rush. Be sure to position healthy options right within eyesight, and consider hiding less healthy options in cabinets or in opaque containers to reduce temptation. Laszlo Bock, the SVP of People Operations at Google, refers to these easy techniques as “nudges,” and they’re extremely powerful. Google employees were able to cut 3 million calories from their diets as a result of nudges, and your employees could see similar results.
4. Support mental health
Stress, anxiety, and depression are destructive forces in your employees’ lives. Linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and immune disorders, these mental health issues also lead to sleep deprivation, family problems, and poor performance at work. Your company and employees both will benefit from any programs you put in place to address these common issues. In addition to providing support resources for employees in need, review your health benefits to ensure that you’re providing adequate mental health care coverage, and encourage or require employees to use all of their allotted vacation days.
5. Prevent illness
Flu season takes its toll each year on productivity, as employees and their family members succumb to long spells of illness. Furthermore, a hard bout of flu weakens the immune system, leaving the person vulnerable to whatever ambient infections cross their path. If possible, provide on-site flu vaccines to your entire staff. If this isn’t feasible, consider subsidizing your employees’ share of vaccine costs and provide paid time to go and get the shots. Additionally, managers should always encourage sick employees to stay home—not only will they recover more quickly, but they won’t spread their illness to colleagues. Ensure that your managers are trained to prioritize employee health over face time.
The health of your business cannot be separated from the individual health of your employees. When your organization becomes an ally in supporting each member’s wellness, you’re committing to better engagement, improved productivity, and increased loyalty.