Workplace Wellness Program Ideas
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.
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
- Weight-loss solutions for the workplace
A video and instructions on how to bring Weight Watchers to your office.
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.
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."
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.
Do you have a workplace wellness program already?
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.
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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