Whether you are looking to add new life to an existing, lackluster wellness program or you are thinking about starting from scratch, there are plenty of good reasons why you should invest resources in creating a successful employee wellness program. In fact, it is hard to argue against launching a program. Happy and healthy employees translate into better productivity, less turnover, lower healthcare costs and optimal performance on the job.
You are practically guaranteed to see a return on your investment. In fact, the average return on investment for wellness programs is 3:1. All you need to do is get started.
Ultimate Guide to Employee Wellness Programs
How to Get Started
Wellness programs vary widely in size and scope. While some companies may be able to offer an on-campus gym, others are looking for more manageable solutions to help their employees make better decisions and take advantage of resources. Either way, the success of any program relies on participation. Starting small can help get people engaged and be willing to make bigger commitments down the line.
You can begin by offering biometric screenings, nutrition seminars, flu shots, etc. Make it easy for employees to attend and participate and if you really want to see attendance go through the roof, offer cash incentives. Most people are already well aware that they need to lose weight and get in shape. If they have yet to find the motivation to make a change, money may be the only thing that will do the trick.
Studies show that much of the success of a program falls on the shoulders of company managers. People in leadership roles need to actively educate employees about available resources and work to support engagement. Managers also need to be willing to participate themselves. If management can’t walk the walk, employees tend to feel like they are being forced into something, which only serves to widen a perceived gap between employees and upper management.
It is also important to think of well-being in terms that go beyond diet and exercise. Wellness also has mental and social elements that are important to recognize and cultivate. Researchers have identified 5 main areas of wellness:
- Purpose: liking what you do each day and feeling motivated to work towards goals
- Social: enjoying supportive and loving relationships
- Financial: being able to manage economic needs and enjoy a certain level of financial security
- Community: feeling safe and actually feeling proud of your community
- Physical: enjoying good health and having the energy to effectively tackle daily tasks
Look for ways that you can create a company culture that helps support employees in all five areas so that wellness doesn’t fixate solely on weight loss.
How to Eat Healthy at Work and Improve Your Diet
The typical office environment makes it even more challenging to follow a healthy diet. You may find yourself making extra trips to the front desk just to dip into the candy bowl or grabbing a quick bite at a fast food restaurant between meetings. A busy, stressful work environment doesn’t exactly lend itself to mindful eating and healthy choices.
When it comes to eating healthy at work, there are two major actions you can take to avoid diet pitfalls that can leave you feeling sluggish and pack on the pounds:
- Eat breakfast. Better yet, eat a breakfast that is high in protein and contains a portion of healthy fats. It is the perfect way to trigger your metabolism into action, create a feeling of satiation and avoid grabbing a sugary muffin when you are struggling to make it through the morning.
- Bring your own lunch. Do not wait until 11:58 a.m. to begin thinking about what you are going to eat on your lunch break. Prepare a healthy lunch and take the time to enjoy it without checking emails. Savor each bite and be mindful about your eating habits.
If you turn these two tips into daily habits, you will notice an increase in energy and productivity. Remember that food is fuel, so you won’t be doing yourself any favors by trying to make it through your day running on fumes.
Once you have established some good habits surrounding your main meals, you should start examining your snacking habits. When it comes to avoiding office treats and freebies, there is no quick fix. You just have to learn to say no. Having healthy snacks on hand will soften the blow of having to ignore the candy bowl and help keep your energy and metabolism in top-form. Click here for some simple snack recipes to get you inspired.
If you are like most Americans, “work” consists of sitting in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day. This sedentary lifestyle can lead to a variety of health issues that range from weight gain and poor posture to sitting disease. The good news is that it is incredibly easy to get your body moving at work and prevent your metabolism from going into hibernation. In fact, a little exercise is a great alternative to grabbing a snack when you begin to feel that mid-afternoon lull in energy.
Here are some simple steps you are your co-workers can take in order to combat a sedentary work life:
- Stretching: if you are a little self-conscious about pumping a set of push-ups in your semi-private cubicle, some simple stretches are enough to get your blood moving and activate your muscles. Start with some neck and arm circles and toe touches.
- Water Fountain Laps: your co-workers might start to wonder if you are severely dehydrated, but don’t mind them. Get up every hour and fill up your cup at the water fountain. In fact, why not walk to the fountain on the other side of the building? It will only take a minute of your time and help you retain focus.
- Desk exercises: your chair provides the perfect squat platform and your desk can help you do assisted push-ups and dips. Get creative and use the furniture around you to work in some bodyweight exercises.
If you are truly concerned about your health and want to do away with the office chair altogether, standing and treadmill desks can significantly increase the amount of time you spend on your feet every day. While new furniture does require an investment, the benefits can be well worth the money.
Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation
Mental health is a big part of overall wellness. How you and your employees handle stress can impact happiness and job satisfaction. Some jobs are just inherently stressful. There are deadlines, high stakes and a million tasks that need to be completed all at once. If you work in this type of environment, a certain part of you must like the adrenaline rush, but that doesn’t mean that the constant stress won’t begin to fray nerves and show signs of wear.
Instead of waiting until you feel like pulling your hair out or marching right out of the office, practice mindfulness on a daily basis to reduce stress and better manage conflict. All it can take is a few minutes to reset your day and prevent stress from reaching a boiling point.
- Listen to music. Choose something soft and soothing that will help quiet your mind.
- Massage your temples. This will also help you relax your eyes, which have probably been fixated on a computer screen for hours.
- Take a few moments to go through a series of stretches. Try and match your breath to your movements and clear your mind.
- A lot of people are intimidated by the idea of meditating because they don’t want to do it incorrectly, but that is the beauty of meditation! Just focus on breathing and try to clear your mind of any thoughts. If you are having trouble, don’t be hard on yourself. Just do your best.
Create the Perfect Workspace
It probably doesn’t take an expert to tell you that working in a cubicle surrounded by gray walls is enough to kill productivity and sap any enthusiasm you have for your job although there are plenty of studies to prove this hypothesis. While you may not have the budget to make major overhauls to your office, there are some simple things you can do to create a happier work environment.
- Maximize natural light. Limited exposure to light can not only affect productivity at work, but also disrupts sleep patterns and leaves workers feeling more tired.
- Provide work destinations. Turn a conference room into a workspace where employees can go for a change of scenery. This will require them to get up and do some walking and might also be enough to give them a fresh perspective.
- Bring nature inside. There is a profound connection between humans and nature. Simply incorporating some colorful plants can significantly boost your mood.
Optimize Your Workspace for Comfort
Ergonomics is more than just a buzzword. Making sure that your chair, desk, monitors and other devices are all at the correct height will prevent repetitive injuries, improve posture and increase your productivity. It is yet another essential piece of creating a workspace that promotes wellness.
If you aren’t sure about the best ways to configure your workspace, here are some simple guidelines to get you started:
- You should be able to firmly plant your feet on the ground.
- Your desk and chair height should allow you to place your elbows at a 90 degree angle.
- Your monitor should be at a height and angle that prevents neck strain.
Remember that even if you take the time to perfectly align the different components of your office, proper ergonomics also relies on you making a certain amount of effort. There is no chair on the market that will prevent you from slouching if you aren’t paying attention to your posture.
How to Increase Wellness Program Participation
Promoting office wellness can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. People love to stick to their routine even if it leaves them feeling tired and drained of energy. Providing education and space and time for employees to make positive changes is an important first step, but it still doesn’t guarantee that people will participate in your wellness program.
As mentioned above, leadership is an important component to driving participation. Sometimes all it takes is one person to get onboard for others to follow suit. If your program is having trouble gaining momentum, think about recruiting some wellness champions. These people are probably already working to incorporate some of the wellness tips previously discussed into their daily lives. They can set a good example and work to get others involved.
Creating a network of communication tools for those participating in the wellness program can also help connect participants and create a support community that incorporates an element of accountability. Trying to adopt new habits and make significant lifestyle changes in isolation is almost impossible. Facebook groups, newsletters, chat channels and other communication channels can help people get started and stay motivated.
Some of the world’s largest companies have launched successful wellness programs by combining competition and financial incentives. Being part of a team who is working to accumulate points and crush the competition, can be a great source of motivation. Employees can encourage their teammates and hold them accountable for attending events or reporting progress. No one wants to be the weakest link on the team. Add a prize of a half-day and you might just be amazed to see how many people are jumping onboard.
How you structure your wellness program, which areas of wellness you choose to focus on and the scope of your program will depend a lot on your resources and goals. Keep in mind that a wellness program doesn’t mean having to add a gym. There are a lot of more manageable steps you can take to help workers nurture all aspects of their wellness. Ultimately, any step you take towards improving wellness will yield a valuable ROI in the form of lower healthcare costs and higher productivity.