One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions people make is to improve wellness in some way, whether it’s exercising more, eating healthier, or losing 10 pounds. In early 2017, Google searches for “get healthy” increased nearly 14 percent, while the number of specific searches for “gym” during that time went up 315 percent over the previous year.
Given that people spend a large portion of their day working, physical activity can be a challenge to implement in an already busy schedule, especially if their job is not an active one. And other positive wellness habits, such as a healthy diet, are easily ignored if not encouraged in the person’s environment.
So how can you help your co-workers or employees on their quest to leading a healthier lifestyle in 2018, and better yet, should you? The benefits to a workplace wellness initiative are many — healthier employees are happier, less stressed and more productive, and less frequently absent from work due to illness. At a time when healthcare costs are on the rise nationally, workplace wellness initiatives can actually help lower the cost for participating employees.
Begin by creating a wellness committee.
This starts with the person in your office who is most familiar with your health insurance plan and can communicate with a representative about incentives available for wellness initiatives. The size of the committee depends on the size of your organization — if you are a company of 50 or more employees, make sure to include a diverse set of employees who can offer varying perspectives. Task the committee with creating and implementing initiatives that will provide healthy alternatives in the work environment — whether that be the types of food available in meetings and break rooms, breaks during the day for walks or other physical activity or discounts for gym memberships.
Make it fun.
Everyone loves a good competition, especially when there is a prize to be earned. Many employers have had success turning popular weight-loss TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” into contests in the workplace. Creating a supportive environment is key to maintaining employee participation. Have an initial weigh-in, and then regular weigh-ins over a defined period of time to determine the winner — whether that be by total pounds lost or percentage of weight lost. Find a prize that will make the effort worthwhile for employees. Consider a cash prize, extra vacation time, or even a year’s membership to a local gym.
Offer incentives for exercise during off-hours.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a 24/7 job, and much of the work will have to be done when employees are at home. Consider a program that incentivizes employees financially for exercise when they aren’t working. Ask them to submit photos of their tracking device (like a Garmin watch, Fitbit or the screen of a treadmill) that shows the details of the workout and when it took place. Offer a set reward for achieving a certain number of workouts per month, which is deposited into a Christmas club or other savings account and disbursed annually.
Organize an annual office health fair.
Your insurance company may be able to help with organizing a health fair, or a representative from a local hospital or doctor’s office. Offer valuable information like healthy recipes and exercise tips, include vendors from local farms who offer produce, and provide basic screenings that will provide valuable information to employees about their health. Make sure to offer incentives for attending, and make it fun — include yoga demonstrations or chair massages to entice employees to participate.
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