When it comes to workplace wellness programs, the consensus is clear: Most employers — big and small — think they’re a good thing … in theory. According to a Small Business Majority survey among California businesses, for example, more than 7 in 10 large employers, and nearly 5 in 10 small employers, believe a wellness program would be beneficial to their business.
Despite that enthusiasm, the decision to implement them is a different story: Only 23 percent of large employers and 18 percent of small employers offered a wellness program at the time of the survey, with most saying that the programs “cost too much” or that the business was “too small” to make it work. But workplace wellness programs don’t have to cost an arm and a leg to get going — especially for small businesses on limited budgets.
With a few adjustments and a genuine desire to help employees get healthier, anyone can ready their workplace for a wellness program. Here’s what you’ll need.
1. Nutrition Upgrades
You don’t have to offer free healthy lunches or stock the break room with healthy snacks if your budget doesn’t allow it. Instead, consider these easy upgrades to encourage better nutrition:
- Replace the snack and drink vending machines with healthier choices, such as light popcorn, whole grain crackers and natural fruit juice.
- Add a watercooler to the office kitchen to encourage employees to hydrate all day long.
- When catering meetings, choose local restaurant menus that have nutrition information readily available.
2. Physical Activity Upgrades
Offering an on-site gym — or subsidizing an off-site membership — might not always be a cost-effective option, especially for small businesses. If that’s the case for you, consider these alternative solutions to encourage physical activity among employees:
- Create active workspaces, such as docking stations that convert sitting desks to standing ones or medicine balls that make staying seated a workout for anyone.
- Add signage to the elevator doors to prompt employees to take the stairs instead.
- Make meetings more active, such as by implementing standing huddles or suggesting walking meetings outdoors when the weather permits.
- Add bicycle parking spots to the company garage or parking lot to encourage employees to bike to work.
3. Stress Reduction Upgrades
No matter the line of work, stress is inevitable. According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 8 in 10 employees have experienced stress at work, which affects business owners’ bottom line — experts estimate that health expenses are almost 50 percent higher for workers who feel more stressed. To minimize the impact of stress in your workplace, consider these cost-effective options:
- Transform an unused office or meeting room into a designated quiet space so that workers can take a half-hour to meditate, nap or otherwise unwind when stress starts to build.
- Hire a fitness instructor to host in-office wellness activities, like once-a-week yoga classes after work.
- Facilitate physical activity and bonding among colleagues by scheduling active outings (such as bowling or batting cages), instead of happy hours, so that workers can have fun together and exercise at the same time.
Finding What Works for You
Workplace wellness programs should be as unique as the employees who participate in them. So before unilaterally deciding what’s best for your workers, try asking them first.
According to a 2018 report from the Transamerica Center for Health Studies, a simple survey about employees’ health needs and interests can go a long way toward creating and sustaining effective wellness programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a tool to help with designing those surveys for the best results.
Regardless of what your program looks like, know this: It’ll be worth it. With lost productivity due to illness costing employers $530 billion a year, any effort to help boost workers’ health is a step in the right direction. That’s a consensus that’s hard to argue with.
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