Wellness programs don’t just promote healthy behaviour, they also reduce absenteeism due to stress and illness, increase productivity and lower healthcare costs. In a stressful world where depression and anxiety are increasingly common, wellness programs aren’t a luxury, they’re necessary. It’s the responsibility of employers to create work environments that support health and wellbeing, and ensure employees have the resources they need to set healthy goals and stick to them.
wellness impacts the bottom line
If having healthier employees isn’t reason enough for you, there’s plenty of evidence that workplace health and wellness also affects your bottom line:
- employee wellness is closely tied to employee performance and productivity
- corporate wellness initiatives attract and engage top performers, reduce staff turnover and contribute to loyalty
- a Forbes article reported, “employers who invested in health and wellness initiatives saw an average of $6 in healthcare savings for every dollar they invested.”
Employee wellness programs are mutually beneficial. From a business perspective, they’re a win-win: they’re good for employees and employers.
Organizations, regardless of size, can incorporate wellness initiatives into their work culture. Create wellness challenges to encourage and inspire employees to carry their healthy pursuits into their personal lives. Here are some suggestions for programs and initiatives you can implement in your workplace to support your employees so they can, in turn, support you.
create opportunities for healthy eating
If your company holds a ‘snack day’ or potluck events, encourage everyone to focus on healthy foods. If you’re providing food for meetings or lunch-and-learns, make sure there are healthy options, keeping in mind food allergies and nutritional requirements. Invite employees to bring their lunch instead of eating out or ordering in. That means you’ll need to provide refrigeration and manage its upkeep and cleanliness. If you do want to get out of the office, invite everyone to bring their lunch to the nearest green space; they’ll benefit from being together and eating healthily in a natural surrounding.
help employees stay active
Research shows a sedentary life is one of the biggest threats to human health. Encourage your employees to move more. If your organization doesn’t have a gym, arrange a corporate membership rate for employees at a nearby gym. Or launch a step or a ‘take the stairs’ competition where employees log the number of steps or stairs they climb in a week. Form a walking club where people don their running shoes and walk the neighbourhood a few times a week.
stop sitting around
Many businesses are installing ergonomic standing desks employees take turns using to reduce the amount of time they’re sitting in one place. Some employees work while sitting (or bouncing) on exercise balls. Not only do they burn calories, but they’re more active and focus better as well. Make sure people are stepping away from their computers – literally – several times during the day.
Initiating opportunities for mindfulness and meditation is one of the most effective ways to help employees manage stress. Provide coaching through workshops or online programs. Invite a yoga instructor to coach your teams over a lunch period or after work. Create a quiet spot in your workplace where people can practice meditative mindfulness, or simply go to when work becomes overwhelming. You’ll be rewarded with a calmer, more focused workforce that will, in turn, be more productive.
deal with weighty issues
Cigarette smoking and excessive body weight contribute to several life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, chronic pain and in some cases, cancer. While both are personal and often frustrating issues, many employees respond to a weight loss challenge or a quit smoking initiative. GE paid employees to quit smoking with surprising results: the employees who were incentivized were more than 3 times as likely to quit. The incentives totalled $750, a relatively minor sum compared to increased insurance costs associated with smokers.
bring in professionals
Consider having a nutrition or health consultant visit the workplace on a regular basis. Some of the more familiar weight or lifestyle companies hold on-site weekly meetings where attendees are guided and supported holistically to eat healthier, increase their exercise levels and practice work-life balance. Consider inviting a health practitioner or counsellor to your workplace to provide practical, manageable tools to help employees cut down their most unhealthy habits.
Where employee health and wellness programs used to be nice-to-haves, they’re now a necessity for organizations that want to attract and retain their best employees, and partner with them in their health initiatives. If you’re still not sure, remember this: healthy employees create healthy businesses.