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by Zara
22 Sep

How To Encourage Workplace Wellness And Boost Your Business

80% of Americans don't get the recommended amount of exercise each week, and it doesn't help that many adults' days are spent in an office building practically glued to their chairs in front of a computer. Workplace wellness programs are seeking to address these issues.

According to UnitedHealth, nearly 75% of workers are interested in having a workplace wellness program and 59% of those who have one credited it with helping them live healthier lives.

But what about the company's perspective? According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, more than half of companies measuring their programs' effectiveness have found that absenteeism has decreased, their organization is experiencing growth, and employees are more satisfied.

And if your company is one of the innovative ones, also considering to implement a corporate wellness program or simply find creative ways to encourage employees to incorporate more movement into their day, here are ten ideas you can get inspiration from.


1. Healthy Office Equipment

Invest in office equipment that encourages exercise. Standingstationary bike and treadmill desks don't always burn as many calories as some would have you believe, but they do encourage workers to walk around the office more than if they were constantly sitting and can increase productivity for tasks that don't require a lot of fine motor skills. 

New office equipment can be expensive, especially if it includes bike and treadmills, but there are ways you can begin to incorporate it into your space without breaking the bank. Get one or two bikes and/or treadmill desks for the office and use a calendar function to let staff book them for an hour or so at a time. If your company has laptops, they can easily transfer their computer to the new station, or, instead, the stations can be used when people have non-computer-related tasks to complete. 


2. Time Off for Exercise

No matter how "healthy" your office equipment is, it will never come close to the beneficial effects of taking time to exercise. To give your employees the full effect of exercise, allow them to take an hour off every day as Cliff Bar's does. Whether they take that time all at once or divide it into half-hour or quarter-hour sessions, your employees will come back refreshed, healthier, and more focused. 

One study that followed a company that reduced work hours to allow for exercise found that productivity remained at the same level or higher than those with longer work hours and no exercise, so there was no loss in work ethic. Also, those who exercised felt better about themselves and found themselves to be more productive and ill less often.

Creating an office-wide step challenges and competitions will keep your staff motivated to get more active on a daily basis.


3. Movement Reminders

The most important way to increase productivity and energy levels among your employees is to encourage movement throughout the day. A small study conducted to test the effects on workers of more extended 30-minute morning exercise routine vs five-minute walks throughout the day found that both types of exercise worked to improve energy levels, but the five-minute walks had additional benefits. Participants who completed these micro-exercise sessions reported improved moods, decreased levels of fatigue, and reduced food cravings.  

Encourage your employees to set a calendar or email reminder or simply provide them with fitness trackers that gently remind to get up and move around for five minutes every hour. The movement can be anything from going to the kitchen to get a drink, getting up to stretch at their desk, jogging in place, or taking a short stroll outside. 


4. Before and After Exercise Programs

If your company has the budget to book trainers to run classes before or after (or even during) the work day, it can be a convenient way for your employees to get their exercise in without having to pay for a gym membership or worry about being late for work after a gym visit. But there are other benefits as well. Working out with colleagues (and friends) adds a sense of camaraderie that encourages employees to continuously exercise and gives your employees people with whom they can share achievements. That camaraderie leaks over into the workday and can create a stronger teamwork atmosphere among your employees.


5. Stress Management

Stress is one of the biggest challenges facing the workforce today. It can lead to lower productivity, missed days, high staff turnover, and higher medical related expenses. Your office should invest in activities that encourage movement, exercise, and mental wellness to tackle the problem head-on. Offer personal development classes or consultation sessions, mindfulness training, quiet time, and flexible deadlines and schedules. 

Aetna created a wellness initiative with meditation and yoga programs that has had amazing results. More than 25% of their workforce has participated in at least one wellness class and have reported a reduction in their stress levels and pain, and improvement in their sleep quality. Aetna also reports that their employees have also become more efficient, averaging 62 minutes of productivity gain per week. 


6. Nutritionist Presentations and Consultations

A lot of companies overlook an important factor in encouraging workplace wellness—healthy eating. Not only should your company offer healthy food alternatives at meetings and events, but there should be a concerted effort to educate your employees on what constitutes balanced and healthy eating habits.

Not all of your employees are at a place where they can jump right into exercising, but all of your employees have to eat, so it's a great place to start your wellness program. Today there's a lot of concern about what we're putting into our bodies, so having regular lunch-time presentations or even one-on-one consultations with nutritionists and food experts can help build your employee's knowledge and confidence to make better choices when planning and preparing meals. 


7. Subsidized Gym Membership

If your company doesn't have the resources to create its own company gym on-site, a popular option to encourage your employees to take time to exercise is to subsidize their gym membership. You don't always have to reimburse your employees for the whole membership, but helping them pay for the cost allows more of your employees to have access to equipment and classes that will allow them to meet their wellness goals.

When creating your subsidy program, you should remember to give your employees as much choice in how they exercise as possible. Don't limit them to national gym memberships because they may have a local gym down the road that's more accessible. You should also keep employees who don't like working out at gyms in mind. Consider reimbursing your employees (up to a certain amount) for exercise classes, trainer fees, bike share programs, marathon fees, or entrance fees to unconventional workout locations like rock climbing gyms or trampoline centers.


8. Online Health Promotion Program

With the online platform such as inKin, you can try gamifying wellness at your company through various challenges and competitions. Whether employees can set their own goals or there are company-wide difficulty levels, you can offer employees cash rewards when they meet milestones in the program. No two people are alike, so it's important to have attainable goals and a variety of qualifying activities for all employees no matter where they are on the health spectrum.

The Affordable Care Act allows companies to offer incentives up to 30% of the cost of health insurance premiums that act as an encouragement to employees for meeting biometric goals. Whether that money is used to help reduce employee's health care premiums, as cash incentives, or in the form of other benefits is up to each company to decide.

USAA has created a tiered incentive program where employees earn "healthy points" by using the on-site fitness center, taking yoga classes, participating in community exercise activities, and eating healthily in the cafeteria. They are also points and cash bonuses when they reach certain health-related goals that are tailored to their starting metrics. Once employees earn a certain number of points, they save on their health insurance premiums.


9. Active Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer programs are an important part of many company's Corporate Social Responsibility programs. Why not incorporate them into the wellness initiative? A UnitedHealth survey found that 76% of volunteers felt healthier, 78% said volunteering reduced their stress levels, and 94% said volunteering improved their mood.  

When coordinating company-wide volunteer opportunities, look for a mix of low-effort jobs and more strenuous activities, so everyone in your office has a chance to participate no matter what their abilities. If your office doesn't have the capacity to coordinate volunteer work, offer your employees paid time off to participate in their own volunteer opportunities. 


10. Promote Walking Meetings

Who says meetings have to be held in an office? Encourage your employees to take their small meetings on the road. Many small meetings between two or even three people can easily happen while they are walking around the neighborhood during winter months. If they need to have access to a computer or some sitting time, encourage employees to take a laptop down to the local coffee shop, library, or other public space, so they get some movement in before and after the meeting.

Changing up their scenery, taking time away from the office, and moving around will help reinvigorate your employees and can have other benefits like increased creativity. And walking side-by-side while talking helps eliminate the corporate feel of a meeting and can break down hierarchical barriers. It just feels more personable and more fun.

Hopefully, these ten ideas have given you inspiration for your company's corporate wellness programs and will lead to happier and healthier employees.


Photo Credit: Depositphotos


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