No matter how large or small your organization is, you can help your team develop healthy habits that will lead to better attitudes, increased efficiencies, and happier employees. That starts with building a culture of health that permeates your organization. And as with most important organizational missions, that requires someone in the corner office making fitness, health and wellness and organizational priority. A good workplace wellness program that includes coaching and counseling is a firm foundation for any serious health initiative, but there are a lot of things you can do right in the workplace.
Here are some steps you can take to help your employees lead healthier lives.
Make health & wellness an organizational goal. Put it in your annual planning, budget for it, and communicate the goal to managers, supervisors and the workforce at large. Leadership matters – your president or CEO should be the chief spokesperson for wellness initiatives. This is also an area where that maxim “be the change you want to see” applies: organizational leaders should model healthy behaviors.
Incorporate health & wellness themes throughout your employee communications. Include wellness themes on company Intranets, in your newsletters, your bulletin boards, and your email messages. Most importantly, reinforce it at organizational meetings. Plan monthly, quarterly or seasonal health themes. Hold lunch & learns. When it comes to messaging, take a lesson from advertisers – aim for reach and frequency.
Make Health Risk Appraisals available. Many people just don’t understand their health risks, and Health Risk Appraisals (HRAs) offer a snapshot. They can provide baseline for employees to set targets for improvement and measure results. Make them available through your wellness program or at annual benefit fairs. Consider incentivizing employees to participate, they are that important.
Get people moving to promote fitness. Many studies document the serious health risks of being sedentary, yet for many or us, work is a big part of the problem. Adults should engage in a minimum of 150 minutes a week in fitness activities to maintain good health. That’s a little more than 20 minutes a day, and research shows that short spurts of activity can be effective. Employers can help by reminding employees to get up and stretch periodically – provide examples of “deskercizes” or yoga stretches. Institute walking meetings and walking groups; offer discounts to gyms; become a bike-friendly employer to encourage bicycle commuting. Encourage employees to participate in organized charity walks, runs, or bikeathons as a group or by sponsoring or matching donations.
Promote healthy eating. Learning healthy nutrition and balanced diet habits can help your employees to maintain a healthy weight and lower their risk of life-limiting illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. A balanced diet can also boost energy by keeping blood sugar levels on an even keel. Provide employees with nutrition information through lunch & learns. Add healthy snack options to your vending machines or cafeteria offerings. Make fresh fruit available. Make it easy for people to make simple breakfasts of lunches on premises by providing the space and basic equipment.
Promote stress management. Stress is an inevitable part of daily life, so learning how to manage it is important – particularly in work situations. Encourage use of wellness program and EAP resources for stress management. Offer stress management lunch and learns. Offer discounts to meditation or yoga classes, or allow on groups to be held on premise before or after work or during lunch.
Offer help for tobacco, drug and alcohol cessation. While tobacco use has dropped dramatically, about one in every five workers still smokes. The dangers of smoking and substance abuse are clear. Plan frequent messaging to remind your employees that smoking cessation and substance abuse help is available through your wellness and employee assistance programs. If you don’t have these programs, source smoking cessation programs through government or heath providers, and work with a local health provider to access drug and alcohol treatment programs.