Employers are becoming more and more conscious of the fact that a crucial part of a company’s success is its employees’ overall wellness. Healthy employees will be more productive, take fewer sick days, and likely have a more positive outlook on their lives and jobs. Certainly, from a human resources perspective, most employers love to see healthy and happy employees, as it can beget a more cost-effective workforce.
First, you should determine what you think the best way to motivate your workforce will be. Workplace wellness programs can either be activity-driven or results-driven. This means that you can either plan for specific events or activities that are geared toward increasing the overall health of your employees, or you can provide incentives for employees to increase wellness on their own and then report back based on certain benchmarks of success. The method you choose likely depends on the type of business you operate, whether your employees are full- or part-time, in-house or in various locations, and whether they’re first-, second-, or third shift, or a combination of the three.
Whether you have a specific “program” for wellness or you’re simply trying to encourage a healthy workplace, the ultimate goal should be to help employees establish behaviors for both work and home that contribute to healthier lifestyles.
Here are a few tips for boosting wellness in your workplace:
Some workers feel that their sick time is so sacred that they don’t want to stay home unless they’re really sick. However, a worker who comes in with just the start of the flu, a bad cold, or a stomach virus is likely the most contagious in the days just before the illness worsens. Let your employees know that it’s OK to stay home if they’re sick; likewise, make your sick day policies ample enough that workers can take the time they need without jeopardizing their jobs or losing pay. Also, encourage managers to send workers home if the workers appear to be ill.
In an office environment, there are some places that everyone touches all the time, so those spots are where the most germs are spread. Have your cleaning staff include doorknobs, copy machines, elevator buttons, conference tables, stairwell railings, water coolers, the reception area, any phones used by more than one person, and high-traffic areas in their daily routine. A quick wipe-down with an antibacterial agent can be enough, but the more frequently they can be thoroughly cleaned, the better. While you can never completely sanitize an office environment, you can help prevent the transmission of cold and flu germs.
Along those same lines, have hand sanitizer available at all entry points and in places where people eat. Encourage them to use it, and hang signs in bathrooms reminding employees about proper hand-washing techniques.
You might not have the space or resources to build an on-site gym, but you can encourage your employees to take walking breaks. This can mean walks in or outdoors or even up and down stairs. Even a short walk can increase heart rate, which will clear an employee’s head and allow for better concentration the rest of the day. You can encourage this through friendly competition — set up a walking log where employees can enter their times or distances, hopefully motivating them to walk more and faster. Even include a prize for the employee who takes the most logged steps per month. Alternately, purchase inexpensive pedometers for your staff, schedule afternoon check-ins where you keep a list of how many steps each person took during the day, and select a weekly or monthly “winner.” This can help people get up from their desks and walk to each other rather than using email, or to take the “long way” back from the restroom or park farther away in the parking lot, all of which are encouraging more moving and a less sedentary way of life.
You might also be able to find a trainer or exercise class that will come to the workplace. Plan a time that’s right before or after work (or even at lunch if you have a shower available) and set aside an area large enough for employees to take an aerobic exercise class. It doesn’t have to be fancy; simply moving a table out of the way in the conference room can do the trick as long as each person has enough space so they don’t bump into one another.
Because of time and space restrictions, it might not be feasible to have actual exercise programs within your work environment. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways for your employees to work their bodies while they work their minds.
For space and financial reasons, it might not be feasible to bring a gym or exercise regimen into your office environment. However, you can encourage healthy lifestyles by helping your employees with the push they need to join a gym or enroll in fitness classes. While gym memberships can be expensive, you might be able to cut a deal with one to offer lower rates as an incentive to get healthier.
In today’s now-now-now corporate world, lots of employees are eating lunch fast, which often means take-out at their desks (i.e., fast food). If your office building includes a cafeteria, try to ensure that it has a good selection of healthy options. If not, offer a consultation with a nutritionist. This can be a one-time or multiple-time seminar where a nutritionist comes to your office to talk with your staff about healthy food choices and how to make them. How will you get your people to take a break from their busy day? Easy. Offer a free healthy box lunch for all who attend the seminar. It’s a one-time expense, but one that might encourage people to make smarter choices about their diets.
Ultimately, you can’t completely change someone’s habits or lifestyle. However, you can do things that will make it easier for them to make subtle adjustments and stick to them. The healthier your workforce becomes, the more productive they will be and the more impact it will have on your bottom line. If your company can spend some money promoting wellness now, you could earn it back in spades later.