Many companies are realizing the value of internal wellness initiatives. If done correctly, they can be an incredibly positive part of your organization’s culture that promotes everyone’s physical and mental health. And, as a manager, executive, or business owner, it’s your responsibility to do so.
That said, executing a successful employee wellness program can be hard to get right. How do you get everyone to participate? What can you implement that excites and motivates people instead of making them feel like it’s an obligation? Employee wellness initiatives can take many shapes and forms, so here are a few ideas to get you started.
Before you start brainstorming wellness ideas, the first thing you should do is ask your employees what they want. Don’t launch a program no one wants to partake in because you didn’t account for their wishes. Instead, let their answers guide how you design the program. Survey your employees with questions like:
Once you have insight into what they’re looking for, you can orient your program toward their goals. You don’t have to create one program, either — you can implement as many as your employees say would benefit them!
An easy idea is a step challenge. Have your employees set personal goals or set a collective one together, like walking 8,000 steps per day for a month. You can also increase the step count as time goes on, such as 11,000 steps per day in your fourth month of the challenge. Whoever maintains this amount wins a prize or special recognition. Using incentives like these encourage participation and motivate people to keep up their pace instead of giving up before the challenge is over.
One way to incorporate steps throughout the workday is to host walking meetings. Sitting still for meetings isn’t fun — instead, you can use an app like Spot to connect with your remote employees and explore your neighborhood while you have a discussion. Walking boosts creativity, so your meetings themselves will benefit, too. [Join Spot’s Step Challenge.]
A similar challenge is overall fitness. Instead of counting steps, you and your employees can log minutes you spend in the gym or workouts at home. Document your progress, such as with weights, time running on the treadmill, or a number of pushups you’re capable of. Reward your employees (and yourself, it’s always wise to participate in your company’s wellness programs to set a good example) for meeting their goals, even if it’s not a competition.
Nutrition is an essential part of physical health. It’s important mentally, too — the foods we put in our bodies make a difference in our cognitive functions and how well we feel. A nutrition challenge at work could encourage your employees to cut out junk food and be more mindful about what they consume. Individuals could make personal goals to eat more protein or omega-3 fatty acids, or as a group, you can decide to ingest less processed sugar or alcohol.
As an employer, you’re in a prime spot to help your team members eat better. Consider catering healthy lunches if you work in the office or provide employees a meal budget to purchase healthy groceries if they work from home (include nutritious snacks, too!).
There’s nothing that motivates people to get up and moving like a bit of healthy competition. Company co-ed sports teams, like softball or basketball, are an excellent way to encourage physical exercise with an added dose of fun and low stakes. Ask your employees what sports they’d be most interested in participating in for casual practice and games, or see if there’s a local league you could join with other companies!
If you don’t have an in-office gym, give your employees a gym budget or stipend so they can work out how they want, when they want. Whether they choose local recreation centers or branded fitness classes, gym memberships provide extra accountability and motivation to form long-term healthy habits. Many people don’t go to the gym because of the expense, or they feel like they don’t have time, but if they have free access to one and a flexible schedule, they’re much more likely to attend.
This idea may not fall under a typical health program, but it’s an essential part of employee wellness, it’s critical not to overlook it. What’s the first thing you should do when you notice something wrong with your body? Go to the doctor to get it checked out. Unfortunately, far too many people in the United States can’t afford doctor visits even for minor ailments, which puts them in danger and can prolong or exacerbate their pain. You can make a tremendous impact in your employees’ lives by offering top-notch health insurance so that they can quickly and easily access the care they need without suffering financial distress.
Make sure your insurance plan covers mental health, too. Therapists and psychologists are also expensive, so helping your employees take care of their minds is just as important as helping them take care of their bodies.
One of the best things you can do to support employee wellness is to offer flexible working schedules. Strict nine-to-five or six schedules, even when workers have completed their tasks, severely limit what people can do with their free time outside of work and cause severe stress.
Allow your employees to work in a way that’s best for them. As long as they complete their assignments, what’s wrong with giving them the freedom to pick up their kids from school in the afternoon or do some yoga in the middle of the day? Your employees will actually be more productive when they have opportunities to refresh their focus and will enjoy better work-life balances.
Work stood in the way of many people getting their COVID-19 vaccine when they wanted to. Give your employees some time to get the shots they need, including COVID-19 boosters, flu shots, and other vaccinations that prevent illnesses (and remember not to make people come to work when they’re ill! They’ll be miserable and could get everyone else sick, too). This is a small and easy element to include in any robust employee wellness program.
Emphasizing employee wellness is the right thing to do. Your employees are people, and they deserve your support in this area of their lives. Check out Spot’s blog for more information on how you can incorporate simple exercise throughout your workday to complement any comprehensive company wellness program.
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