Making Workplace Wellness a Priority

Policies for sick time are important considerations, but the trend for HR directors in most organizations now is toward helping employees stay well in the first place. When people stay healthy, they stay productive, so it’s in your company’s best interest to institute workplace wellness programs. The key to successful implementation is rewarding participation; the program should feel like an opportunity to make a positive change, not like an intrusive or burdensome new set of regulations.

Here’s how to turn workplace wellness into one of your organization’s top priorities while encouraging employees to participate fully.

Establish Baselines

You can’t show your personnel how far they’ve come without knowing where they’ve been. A baseline survey reveals how healthy your office is and what you can do to improve it. In conducting the survey, welcome honesty, but realize that employees may be reticent to share too much information outside of a doctor’s office. Under-reporting weight and overestimating exercise times are common, but individual fudging shouldn’t affect the aggregate data too much. The point here is to learn how you can best help your employees work toward wellness, not punish them for past behaviors.

Customize Wellness Programs

Group programs let you reach the largest number of people at once, but personalized wellness solutions have a greater impact. The answer here is to create multiple focused wellness programs that employees can participate in on an a la carte basis. To help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, for example, you might offer diet-based support and an exercise program. Those who participate in both will see the greatest benefits, but those who find exercise or diet a challenge still benefit from choosing one or the other. Smoking cessation, mental wellness, women’s health, and men’s health are some other possibilities for targeted wellness programs.

Involve Management

When senior members of your organization are enthusiastic participants in wellness programs, overall interest rises. Watching C-level executives spend their afternoon break walking instead of sipping coffee encourages employees to follow suit. As many senior executives spend a good deal of time sitting at their desks, they benefit more than most from workplace wellness initiatives, so impress on them the importance of being a part of the program.

Give Employees the Right Tools

Wellness programs don’t have to be costly to implement, but offering some kind of material support for your wellness goals can make a major difference in their overall success. Inexpensive standing desk adapters or mobile devices that let formerly desk-bound personnel move more freely can help people meet their exercise and weight maintenance goals. Add filters to faucets or install a water cooler to encourage more water drinking and reduce soda consumption. If you have the space, creating a weight room is a major perk and can even attract health-conscious candidates during the hiring process. Some cost-free possibilities include giving employees a five-minute stretch break at the beginning of every hour, clearing brush from around the office to create a walking path, and removing smoking areas to make the office a fully smoke-free zone.

Reward Success

Verbal recognition of someone’s successes is good, but tangible rewards are even more exciting. Hand out gift cards – even small ones – each quarter for active participation, and you’ll see sign-up rates soar. Some workplaces do well with friendly competitions that involve small prizes, but use your best judgment here; everyone should feel as though participation is rewarding, not just those who lose the most weight or eat the most vegetables. To achieve the highest participation rates, give employees the option to earn discounts on insurance or contributions toward health savings accounts.

Healthy employees miss fewer days, but the bigger reward might be knowing that your efforts make a real difference in your staff members’ quality of life.

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