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Workplace Wellness Program Ideas

Updated on June 28, 2013

Managing people is hard work. You want to create an environment where relationships, creativity, and productivity flourish. Unfortunately, a lot of employers focus solely on the workplace environment, as well as rules, protocols, and ways to make the office run more efficiently. Why all this is good and necessary, people are more than the sum of their workday.

Offering a workplace wellness program helps employees to remember that life is about balance. You will ultimately see that people are more productive and loyal when a company acknowledges the emotional, physical, and mental well being of its employees.

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Initiatives that focus on physical health

Physical health is usually the first thing to go in people's busy lives. When you acknowledge your employee's needs for exercise, it is more likely the hours at the desk will be more productive. Your staff will have more energy, less stress about getting in on time or leaving on time, and better overall health.

Offer a reduced rate membership to a nearby gym
See if you can find a fitness center nearby that will offer your employee's a discounted membership. If you can manage the cost of putting a fitness center right in your office, this is fantastic! Your employees will be able to do their workout right before or after work. Remember though, if you do not have showers available, employees will only be able to use the facilities after work.

"Biggest Loser" challenge
NBC's hit show Biggest Loser, is a popular primetime reality TV program that follows the journey of people who are trying to lose weight. The show has sparked hundreds of groups to form their own biggest loser challenge. You can set up a contest at work with a bonus as a reward. Here is how you can do it:

1. Since women and men lose weight so differently, it might be beneficial to separate your contest so there are two winners- a male and a female.
2. Set a reasonable time frame like 12 weeks for the challenge.
3. Have people sign up for the challenge and commit to a monthly weigh in. You can offer weekly weigh-ins as well, but some employees might not want to check that frequently.
4. The weigh-in numbers should be confidential, so assign each employee an anonymous number.
5. You can post the current rank of employees by assessing who has lost the most percentage of body weight. Do not do it by simple pounds since it is easier for a morbidly obese person to lose more pounds quickly.
6. At the end of the three months, offer a reward for the biggest loser! Here are some ideas for rewards:

  • A premium parking spot for a year
  • A monetary bonus ($500, $1000, or even $3000)
  • A new computer, desk, or other equipment that will dress up his/her cubicle
  • A one year membership to a nearby gym

Lunchtime walk
Organize a daily lunchtime walk for your employees. If a typical lunch break was 30 minutes, extend it to an hour so your staff does not have to choose between food and exercise.

A food overhaul at the cafeteria
If your workplace has its own cafe, consider changing the selection of foods offered. Typically, cafe's offer fried or heavily salted foods that are cheap and easy to make for the masses. Replace your fryers with an extensive salad bar, offer sandwiches with whole wheat bread or wraps rather than grinder rolls, have fresh iced tea available instead of soda, and instead of desserts, offer fresh fruit or smoothies.

Weight loss meetings in the workplace
Rather than a challenge, offer your employees a free workshop for those interested in losing weight. Weight Watchers has a workplace program where employers can bring the support meetings right to the office. Your employees spend so much time with their co-workers each week, they may benefit from the support and motivation of their co-workers. As an employer, you can subsidize some or all of the cost.

Get involved with club sports
If there is a local softball or basketball team, have your office sign up as a group. You will not only benefit from the physical exercise, but also from the friendships that are formed.

Paid time off for screenings
Many employees do not want to use their sick time to go to the dentist, get a mammogram, or schedule the dreaded colonoscopy. Offer several hours of "health" time for each staff member each year, so they can get in these important checkups.

Flu shots
See if you can't get a shipment of flu shots for your staff. By offering this to them for free, you save money throughout the winter because your employees won't get sick!

Public health workshops
If you are in an area where there are public health issues (such as a high incidence of alcoholism, smoking, unwanted pregnancy, etc.), offer to host a monthly workshop that gives your employees the education and tools to combat these issues.

Initiatives that focus on mental health

The mental health of an individual is as important as their physical health. Workers who are depressed and anxious, do not perform well or help a workplace environment. It is in the best interest of your company to make sure your employees are given opportunities to boost their mental health so they can work well together as a team.

Personality assessments and workplace dynamics
Hire a professional to come in and do a workshop on personality temperaments. Have each staff member take an inventory test (like Myers Briggs) and then get educated on how different personalities see the world and work together. This is a great opportunity to bond as a team, as well as shed some light on relational dynamics that can cause stress.

Mental health day
Offer your employees two paid mental health days a year. These days can be used for whatever the employee wants- a day off to rest, a day off to go hiking on a beautiful day, etc. Why is this different than vacation time? Vacation time is usually planned ahead, sick time is for illness, and personal time is for things like jury duty and funerals. Two mental health days will not break the bank, and it sends the message to your employees, "We realize that once in a while, a person may just need to take a day and focus on themselves. We acknowledge the importance of a spontaneous day off for your mental health and we support you in that."

Workplace counseling
If your employees work in a stressful environment, are subject to a particular crisis or event, or struggle with poverty and other economic issues, consider hiring a counselor to offer free or subsidized counseling to employees who are struggling. This will pay itself back a hundred times over, as happy employees perform better overall.

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Do you have a workplace wellness program already?

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Yoga or meditation classes
Offer a class that benefits the mind, body, and soul. These classes can be expensive, so offering it to your employees is a gift.

A relaxation room
When you design a lunchroom or break room area, think about what makes a space relaxing. Try to have as much natural light as possible, some comfortable chairs, a place to keep drinks and food, and maybe some music or reading material. Try to give your employees a space to just "chill" for a few minutes before returning to work.

Wellness programs cost money yes....

but they return to you a staff that works well individually and together. You will reap the benefits for years to come, as well as earn a reputation in the community as an employer that treats its employees well. This means you will be able to choose carefully who you hire, because people will be knocking down your door for a job.

Start small and see how your employees react. It may be beneficial to form a committee to do the research on what type of wellness program would work best in your office. Getting the input of your staff shows that you care and want to help.

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About the author

Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and a full-time mom to three children. She has her degree in community and clinical psychology, and enjoys researching ways to promote holistic health.

She also has a background in music and technology.

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    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Very good advice. We're actually doing a "Biggest Loser" contest through the end of April at my work. It's a great incentive towards morale and having a commonality among the employees. Thanks for all your ideas, very well presented. Thumbs up.

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 4 years ago from New York City

      I had a health and wellness or fitness program at my Navy job many years back, and it was pretty intense, as well as mandatory, hehe!

      I like your hub here its very detailed and quite useful for those who may be able to influence their work environments, and or who own a business of their own and would like to upgrade it all into a much more conducive, and highly productive cohesive work environment.

      It does indeed make a difference when people are more active, and health conscious as well, awesome hub voted up and out!

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Julie -

      I couldn't agree more! Yet, sadly, many employers don't look at it that way. My last employer loved to preach it, but, there was always something that took priority. They even had a workout facility...that was always empty. It was more for show than anything else.

      Again, very informative. I just wish more employers could see the light!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Useful hub. Great ideas for any business large or small.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      throw in lunchtime sports and it sounds very much like my place.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      Back in the day when I worked a full time job, I wish my bosses had some of your ideas in place. I believe in them and I think the employer would get more production from his employees if he used some of these ideas. Great Hub, I voted it UP, and shared.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Emplyee health is fast becoming an important part of business strategies. Before companies only focus on productivity, compensation and benefits, work efficiency etc. Now, management realizes the importance of employee health on productivity and the long term financial costs associated with poor health. Health insurance is no longer enough. ALthough this is a good benefit, wellness programs must be incorporated.

      I love the sugestions on your hub. I hope we can implement some in our company.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wonderful suggestions Julie! I am seeing more and more large corporations in the Northwest doing this sort of thing, and it is a welcomed sight indeed.

      Luckily, I have my own wellness activities since I'm the boss of this one-man corporation. :)

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Julie,

      Awesome job here, you have mentioned some great ideas for workplace wellness. I liked the idea of having two mental days off. I only wish my boss could agree with it as well! :) Thanks for sharing Julie, I am passing it on as well!

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 4 years ago

      Great information shared, Julie! It is great to share this information and clarify that it is healthy to take a day off from everything. Voted up and sharing this!

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 4 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      I am a firm believer in companies promoting a positive work environment and I think a lot of employers should be looking at ways like you've suggested to include into their company culture. Great job!! :)

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Julie, Michelle and I were just talking about the photo issue. That issue aside you wrote a very informative and interesting article on Wellness Programs in the work place. When I was teaching we had many of these in place including a weight watchers for the teachers and staff too. I also always made it my business to take a walk on either my lunch or prep period whether outside (on a nice day) or inside (on a not so nice day). Have of course voted up and shared too!!

    • Julie DeNeen profile image
      Author

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      This doesn't have any cool photos because there is currently a bug with HP and uploading photos!

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