With health costs skyrocketing, there is considerable interest in employee wellness programs to change health outcomes and reduce costs. However, owners and office managers have concerns about the effectiveness and financial benefits of such programs. They may wonder if they are worth the investment (they are!) and the best course of action to take to ensure successful returns. Of course the benefits of wellbeing and a positive company culture are also key factors to making any business work.
In designing your own employee health and wellness program, it’s vital to understand…
- the potential benefits of employee wellness
- what makes those benefits more likely and
- the importance of creative employee & workplace wellness ideas to hit your goals
Employees Are Healthier
One comprehensive study found that for every dollar a business spends on health care and wellness programs, their medical costs reduce by over three dollars. In other words, employees involved in wellness programs are healthier and don’t have to visit the doctor as often. This means better employee engagement thanks to fewer sick days. Employees are less likely to call in sick which reduces absenteeism costs by just under three dollars for every dollar spent on wellness programs. This not only saves money, but a healthy workplace can increase productivity overall too.
Employees Are More Productive
The other main benefit to these types of programs is that employees become more productive in their work environment. This could be because people who exercise on a regular basis have improved cognition, are able to remember things better, and they have a greater ability to focus. One study found that their employee wellness program participants increased productivity by an average of over 10 hours annually and saved nearly $350 in productivity costs for each employee when compared to those who didn’t participate. So, once you decide to have a program, the primary objective should be increasing involvement among all employees to gain the most benefit. This also helps with team building as the staff are together more often, and in many cases exercise and sport incentives can be offered to company employees.
Incentives Increase Participation
One of the ways employers gain buy-in or engagement from their employees is to use incentives. When employers use incentives, participation rates increase significantly. Programs without incentives can expect about 20% of employees to participate, while those offering incentives can obtain from 40% up to 52% participation. So, it’s certainly worthwhile to spend some time thinking about the incentives you can offer to get your employees involved.
To help you begin, here are several employee wellness ideas you can use to get your workplace active and engaged in health.
This one might bring some groans through the office halls, but once you create the right environment for workplace health, the positive results will follow. Consider swapping soda vending machines for healthier drinks like flavored seltzers… or at least offering healthier choices in addition to your normal refreshment and food option lineup. Order some koozies or custom water bottles keep beverages cold at their desks.
Make sure to promote water above everything else. This means providing access to clean, cool water that is easily accessible. Offer hot water for making herbal teas for breakfast. Give away custom insulated thermoses or mugs with healthy motivational sayings as rewards for making positive choices that promote workplace wellness.
To get through a long afternoon, instead of candy bars and high sugar snacks, offer fresh fruits and vegetables, granola, or nuts. Make it easy for employees to bring healthy choices from home, too. Giving out free totes that can go from the farmer’s market or produce section to their desks can help make it easier and encourage team members to take a break to visit the farmer’s market or fruit stand for healthy food options.
Especially if you have employees who spend a lot of time either sitting or standing in one place all day, providing exercise breaks throughout the day is critical in avoiding potential health problems. Even just a few minutes to stop, move around, and stretch reduces the sedentary risks to health. Build some dedicated time into the workday to remind workers that their health is a priority.
It would be ideal if every business could outfit a full gym onsite, but that isn’t always possible. You can purchase or reimburse for gym memberships or offer some smaller-scale options such as yoga classes.
Yoga balls for offices and cubicles are easy for quick exercises or to use as desk chairs throughout the day. Exercise stretch bands, stress balls, under-the-desk mini cycles or pedal exercisers, and small hand weights are good items to give as rewards or incentives for meeting certain goals.
Make it Fun and Take Time to Take it Easy
More than anything, make the changes and activities you want to implement fun. Get some employee leaders involved and create teams for friendly competition and team building days. Ring bells, give out stickers, or toss custom t-shirts (think concerts and games but without the t-shirt launcher!) when you see someone making healthy choices. Have a board to track successes and reference the wellness program in newsletters, emails, on conference calls, and other communications every week. Organize a company walk for a favorite charity or have meetups at a local park for group fitness. Have a break-room that employees can de-stress with.
Once you and your team start thinking about employee wellness, ideas for making positive changes should flow not only from the top down, but also from the bottom up. Allow everyone to be involved and to take ownership. The main keys are to get the ball rolling by choosing a start date, getting input, building momentum, and setting the example. This benefits the business and employee with lower health care costs, cheaper health insurance overall, and as any positive office dynamic can attest to, happier employees equal a lower employee turnover and even helps when it comes to making new hires.