Healthy Choices
5 min

Wellness at Work: How to Establish a Successful Wellness Program in the Office

For Walking Meetings & Remote Work

According to the CDC, over 60% of adults in the United States aren’t active enough, and 25% don’t get the recommended amount of activity at all. Many jobs expect people to sit at their desks for hours on end, and by the time the work day is done, they don’t have time for physical exercise. It’s not just in the United States, either — people live sedentary lifestyles all around the world. 

If you’re in an executive or management role at your company, you’re in a position to change this. Many companies like yours have implemented wellness programs to promote exercise during the workday. However, too many organizations don’t put in as much thought or effort as they should, so their programs end up failing. What’s the trick? Here’s how to establish a successful wellness program at your company, even if you work remotely: 

Make Sure Your Desire for Wellness at Work is Genuine 

First, your desire to create a wellness program should be genuine. Employees will be able to tell if it isn’t, and they’ll either rebel or decline participation. While increased productivity is a benefit of physical exercise, it should be a secondary positive consequence compared to your genuine interest in helping your employees make healthier habits that lead to healthier lifestyles. A wellness program is not just a half-hearted “perk” to throw into your company’s benefits package; you should want it to make a real, positive difference. The more the latter is true, the better the program itself will be. 

Lead By Example 

If you want to implement wellness at work successfully, one of the most important things you can do is participate in it. Not just casually, either — it helps if you’re dedicated. Why should your employees participate in a program if their boss is disinterested? Refusing to engage makes it seem like you’re placing yourself above everyone else and as if you aren’t invested in the program’s success (or you just want people to be more productive). The more commitment you demonstrate, the more everyone else will follow suit. 

Embed Wellness into Your Culture 

Your program will be more effective if it’s not something tangential to everyone’s lives. It shouldn’t look like team members showing up to work, doing their tasks, getting a mediocre lunch, maybe working out in the afternoon, and moving on until the next day. Try to integrate wellness at work into your overall company culture:

  • Cater healthy lunches,
  • Incentivize people to exercise,
  • Help them make time for it (if you don’t already, now is the time to offer flexible work schedules so people can exercise in the middle of the day if that’s what works best for them),
  • Host health-related classes, 

And more. 

Something else you can do is make walking meetings commonplace in your company. You don’t have to meet with your colleagues in a conference room; it’s healthier for everyone to converse while walking through your neighborhood or nearby park. Remote organizations can use an app like Spot to facilitate long-distance walking meetings that not only get everyone outside more throughout the day (which supports mental health) but get everyone’s blood flowing to boost their creativity, too.  

Offer Incentives 

People might not feel motivated to participate in your wellness program from the get-go. Maybe they’re not sure where to begin exercising, how to do it properly, don’t enjoy it, or various other reasons. Try offering incentives to encourage program participation. Many companies provide financial compensation to employees who reach their wellness goals, organization-wide recognition, gifts, or other rewards. 

Another effective incentive that many organizations utilize is connecting your wellness program to a cause. Perhaps for every 10,000 steps your employees walk, you’ll donate a dollar amount to a nonprofit of their choice. This way, you’re doing double the good: encouraging your employees to be healthy while contributing to charities in need. 

Don’t Include Negative Consequences 

However, it’s important not to include disincentives from participating. Don’t penalize or punish people if they genuinely don’t want to, have reasons not to, or don’t meet the program’s goals or expectations. You’ll only rub people the wrong way if you threaten them with negative consequences if they don’t hit their recommended number of steps or minutes at the gym. 

Make it Inclusive 

Make your wellness program as inclusive as possible by accounting for people’s various abilities or health statuses. Someone in a wheelchair can’t walk 10,000 steps a day like some of their colleagues, and someone with a respiratory condition might not be able to run 20 minutes on a treadmill. Allow your employees plenty of flexibility and support so they can get the kind of exercise that works best for them. 

Include More than Exercise 

Wellness at work doesn’t have to solely focus on physical exercise. You can encourage people to eat healthier by educating them about nutrition and catering healthy meals, assist employees with smoking cessation, help them acquire essential vaccinations (someone can travel to your office, or you can give people time off and transportation compensation for clinic visits), or pay for sessions with a therapist. Wellness is a wide-ranging concept, so help your employees achieve whatever their goals are. 

Ask Employees for Feedback 

As with any company-sponsored endeavor, ask your employees for feedback. Are the program’s guidelines or incentives motivating them to be healthier? Are there any barriers you’re not accounting for? Is your messaging encouraging, ineffective, or condescending? Listening to your employee’s opinions about the program will help you shape it into something better. 

Everyone can benefit from company health programs that emphasize wellness at work if executed wisely and with employees’ wishes in mind. To make wellness a more significant part of your work culture, check out Spot’s blog for more information on walking meetings and how they benefit teams of all kinds. 

Men walking with Spot's mascot


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