Some illnesses and injuries can’t be avoided, but many sources of health problems can: One out of every four dollars employers pay for health care is tied to unhealthy lifestyle choices or conditions like smoking, stress and obesity, according to a study from the University of Michigan. So how do you encourage wellness in the workplace? Try one (or more) of the following nine ideas to start getting healthy together.
1) Do yoga together.
Thanks to the many styles and modifications available, yoga can be practised by anyone with any level of fitness experience, from total newbie to workout expert. Yoga has many benefits, from stress relief to boosting circulation and doesn’t require much room, plus the only equipment you really need is a mat, making it the perfect type of exercise for an on-site office workout. Many yoga teachers offer private group classes and, if one of your employees is certified, they may be willing to lead the rest of you in a midday flow.
2) Form exercise clubs.
Not every type of exercise can be done at the office, but that doesn’t mean your employees can’t do them together. Take a survey to see what everyone likes to do, then offer sign-ups for the most popular options. Walking, running and cycling will get a lot of traction, but other studio-based options such as CrossFit will probably have lots of fans too. See if you can lead the way by starting a group for one of your favourite activities.
3) Offer gym discounts.
Not everyone wants to work out in a group, which is totally cool. For those who equate gym time with me time, see if your company can offer discounts to a local gym or fitness studio. Gym memberships can be expensive, and your fitness fanatic employees will definitely appreciate getting a discount on monthly fees. On the flip side, if someone is curious about signing up for their first membership, the high cost of signup fees can discourage them from doing so—but a company discount can do away with that barrier to entry.
4) Start challenges for health goals.
Setting achievable health goals that everyone in the company works toward is a great way to encourage healthy behaviour and bond as a group at the same time. Steps per day is an excellent goal to choose, as are minutes of activity, workouts per week, glasses of water per day and hours of sleep at night. While lots of workplaces also sponsor weight loss challenges, not everyone can participate in these to the same extent, so try to choose a challenge that everyone can do together.
5) Incentivise them to stop smoking.
We all know that smoking is bad for us, but the addictive nature of nicotine makes it hard to quit. However, companies can play an important role in helping employees quit smoking by incentivizing them. Some organizations offer discounts on health insurance premiums for employees who don’t smoke or plan to quit in the near future, while others offer the discount for enrolling in a program specifically designed to help smokers quit. Still others, such as General Electric, offer straight up cash incentives, which can encourage as many as three times more employees to successfully quit.
6) Create an office cookbook.
Grocery shopping and cooking are time-consuming activities, but before you even think about making a meal you have to decide what to cook. Meal planning is equally time-consuming, and it can be mentally draining to sift through the hundreds of thousands of available recipes when you just want to eat dinner. Make meal planning easy on your employees by asking everyone to submit their tried-and-true healthy recipes for a company cookbook. If you want to keep things simple, compile the links in a shared Google doc or create a classy end-of-year gift by printing custom cookbooks for everyone on the team.
7) Provide healthy snacks and beverages.
Most offices provide some sort of food and drink option, whether it’s the standard coffee machine or weekly catered lunches. Make sure that the snacks and beverages you’re providing for your workers are healthy and balanced, and that they accommodate any dietary restrictions or food allergies your employees might have. If your office is already health conscious, odds are that at least one person already follows a speciality diet such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, paleo and Whole 30, so ask before you order an entire meal.
8) Give them the right gear.
Instead of cluttering up employees’ closets with more useless corporate items, give the gift of wellness when it comes time for the quarterly or annual giveaway. Branded yoga mats, nice running shoes, stainless steel water bottles, fitness trackers and subscriptions to healthy cooking or snacking boxes are all out-of-the-box ideas that employees are sure to love and use. These unique gifts will make an impact on their memories and their health in the best way possible.
9) Encourage breaks.
It’s not good for your physical, mental or emotional health to keep working non-stop without a break. Encourage employees to take breaks by setting an example yourself; walking around once an hour is a good goal to aim for. Sometimes longer breaks are necessary, too, so tell employees to maximize their paid time off and sick leave and take it when they need to. If employees don’t see senior leadership taking breaks, they will feel like they can’t either, so set the example and go for a walk or take a day of PTO.
Corporate wellness programs shouldn’t be boring or feel like yet another to-do item. Employing creative strategies like the nine ideas listed here will encourage employees to make healthy changes without feeling overly pressured and will turn wellness into a group effort that everyone can bond over.