8 Ways to Promote Wellness in the Workplace

Wellness programs are linked to greater productivity, less absenteeism, and a reduction of long-term health care costs.  Are you doing enough to ensure the health of your workforce?  Even if you don’t have the resources to implement a complete wellness program, there are several things you can do that show your employees you value their health.

8 Ways to Promote Wellness in the Workplace:  What Is Workplace Wellness?

Workplace wellness is any program that aims to improve the health of your employees and their families while reducing your health-related costs as an employer. Many companies implement comprehensive wellness programs that focus on preventive health and lifestyle modification. This means encouraging employees to focus on key health behaviors such as increasing physical activity, improving eating habits, reducing stress, and ceasing tobacco use.
The rationale behind wellness programs is that encouraging healthy habits now can prevent or lower the risk of serious health conditions later. Similarly, adopting these same habits can help those with an existing health condition manage it.

Why Implement a Workplace Wellness program?

Before what may seem like another costly employee benefit program scares you off, consider the savings. For many companies, wellness programs actually save money in the long run. In fact, in a 2008 survey of 628 employer groups conducted by Buck Consultants, 74% of U.S. companies cited reducing health care costs as their number-one motivator. But there are many other reasons. Other motivators identified in the survey included improving employee productivity, reducing health-related absences, improving employee morale, and retaining employees. Health and efficiency have a clear relationship—healthy employees take fewer sick days and are more productive at work—and businesses are starting to take notice.

What if You Don’t Have the Resources to Implement a Wellness Program?

The good news is that even if you aren’t in a position to implement a comprehensive program, there are many small steps you can take to promote wellness. In fact, a gesture as small as providing fresh fruit once a week can be a very simple way to show your employees that their health is important to the company. Trying out just one small component of a wellness program can act like a trial run—it gives you a chance to see how your employees respond and whether a more comprehensive program might work in the future.  Here are eight ideas to bring your company closer to wellness:

1. Promote preventive care.
Bring vaccination to the workplace for flu season. Encouraging and even funding vaccinations for employees has one of the clearest returns on investment.  When your employees avoid the flu, they avoid missing out on days, if not weeks, of work. Consider offering on-site flu vaccines to employees. Or if your health insurance doesn’t cover it already, consider reimbursing employees for vaccination fees.

2. Encourage exercise.
Turn your office into an active campus. If you can make changes at your facility, consider offering covered, secure bike parking for commuters. Or provide showering facilities and locker rooms for employees who wish to workout at lunch. Can’t make structural changes? Implement and promote a lunch hour walking club and offer incentives for employees who participate. Encourage the entire office to use the stairs. And offer discounts or partially subsidize memberships to a local gym or exercise club.

3. Emphasize education.
Brown bag luncheons or break-time seminars are prime opportunities for helping employees learn more about healthy habits. Recruit speakers to lead sessions on cooking healthy meals, staying healthy while travelling, or quick stress management skills.  If you have the space, consider bringing in yoga, tai chi, or aerobics instructors for lunchtime classes. Keep sessions entertaining but informative, and offer incentives for employees who attend.

4. Bring the doctor in.
One of the most innovative trends in workplace wellness has been that of the office doctor’s office. On-site health clinics give employees the opportunity to schedule office visits for routine care without taking time off work. And they seem to be successful. A recent survey from the Center for Studying Health System Change found that on-site clinics increase productivity, reduce medical costs, and enhance a company’s reputation as being a desirable place to work.

5. Invest in incentives.
Employee incentive programs offer rewards—financial or otherwise—for employees who engage in healthy behavior. A growing trend is to cover an additional percentage of the cost of health insurance premiums for employees who pass certain biometric markers – such as having a healthy body mass index, blood pressure, or blood sugar reading.

6. Hone hunger options.
Everyone knows when you’re hard at work it can be easy—or necessary—to quickly grab a bite from what’s at hand. Offer your employees healthy meal and snack options that help fuel their performance while also meeting their nutritional needs. Consider replacing sodas with milk, juice, or sparkling water, and stocking snack machines with nuts, dried fruit, and other healthy options. If you can take it a step further, stock lunchrooms with fresh fruit baskets once a week, and be sure the office cafeteria has plenty of healthy meal options.

7. Be mindful of mental health.
Unmanaged stress has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep trouble. At the workplace, it can lead to inefficiency, job dissatisfaction, and absence from work for related health conditions. Consider offering an employee assistance program for employees who have financial troubles, excess stress, or depression symptoms. And encourage employees to take simple steps to reduce stress, like taking several breaks a day to go for a walk, chat with a co-worker, or just get outside for a breath of fresh air.

8. Recommend behavioral resources.
For some employees, a few work-based activities may not be enough to make lasting change. In these cases, coaching and disease management programs may be the way to go. These programs pair employees with online, phone-based, or face-to-face health professionals who can guide them through the steps of behavior change. Consider offering tobacco cessation, weight loss, or stress management programs to help empower your employees make lasting, noticeable change.


By Lauren Lastowka | Jan 11, 2011

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