Many of us spend most of our waking hours at work. These hours are increasingly filled with pressure to be more productive and add to the company’s bottom line, and other work-related stressors. But if all we ever focus on is the demands of work and we allow stress to take over, we could experience a significant negative impact on our health and well-being—which can ultimately affect the business itself.
At the end of the day, if we are healthy employees, we are happier and are more likely to work harder, increasing the company’s productivity and profit. It’s a win-win situation for both the employee and employer. That’s why companies around the country are embracing a culture of wellness, which can help decrease absenteeism, increase employee retention, lower healthcare costs and improve productivity and work quality.
If you’re interested in developing a wellness program at your employer — or just encouraging healthier habits among your colleagues — here’s how to get started:
Talk About the Collective Needs
First, encourage conversations about the current state of wellness in the office with coworkers as well as management. Consider not just physical health of your coworkers, but also happiness, stress management, opportunities for career and personal growth, office environment and interpersonal relationships between coworkers.
Have an open discussion with management during review times or other regular check-ins, and offer constructive suggestions about what could be changed in the work environment to optimize the staff’s ability to be healthier, happier and more productive. Consider mentioning policies, initiatives, or office changes that would help employees be healthier overall, and how these changes could also have positive effects on the business.
Encourage and Facilitate Physical Activity
One of the most important ways to stay healthy and stress-free is to remain active. That’s hard to do when you sit at a desk all day. You may be surprised how willing management will be to support employees’ efforts to organize a more active office environment. Encourage physical activity within the office in creative ways by requesting the following:
- Space in the office for exercise equipment such as treadmills
- The ability to have “walking meetings”
- Employee-led, lunchtime group exercise classes
- Team contests where employees set common fitness goals (such as tracking their steps)
- Standing desks
Create an Environment of Healthy Eating Habits
Employees often eat one, two or even three meals a day at the office, not to mention snacks. Creating an environment that inspires healthy eating can help improve wellness. Here are some tips.
- Encourage each other to take lunch breaks
- Request that healthy snacks/fresh fruit be made available in the office kitchen
- Organize a healthy potluck lunch each week
- Challenge each other to pack a healthy lunch and request that management incentivize participation
Find Workplace Stress-Relievers
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Finding a way to relieve stress during the workday can help create an overall culture of well-being.
- Use common areas for stress-reliever games like trivia or darts
- Request that “mental health days” be a part of your sick-day policy
- Take meetings outside of the office, at coffee shops or nearby parks
Establish Leadership and Stick to the Plan
To stay on track, talk to management about assigning an individual or team to be the “wellness coordinator” who initiates changes in a few of the focus areas identified. Assigning a strong leader to coordinate with management, set measurable goals, and track progress can help ensure that a culture of wellness becomes an enjoyable and integral part of the work environment.
To make sure the new health initiatives don’t just fall to the wayside when work gets busy, consider talking to management about official policies and procedures around wellness initiatives and well-being. Suggest that incentives be provided for employees who are participating in wellness programs regularly, such as financial bonuses, paid time off or other benefits. These incentives don’t always have to cost money — even public recognition can be motivating and can help show employees that wellness is a priority.
Keep communication open between management, employees and the wellness coordinator or team. One employee’s efforts can set off a wave of changes. Healthy habits can be contagious and can lead to a better environment for all.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you started a wellness program at your company? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.