Employee wellness programs–benefits that encourage employees to adopt healthy lifestyles–are all the rage at some of the world’s biggest companies: Apple, Google, and Microsoft, just to name a few. And there’s good reason for that. These firms see that investing in their employees’ health and quality of life both increases productivity and bolsters recruitment and retention, especially among highly-trained and highly sought-after Millennials. But you don’t have to be reporting hundreds of billions in profits to institute an employee wellness program and see a positive impact on your bottom line.
1- Put together a team for a charity athletic event: Many worthy causes use walks, runs, cycles, swims, and other sorts of friendly competitions to raise money. Some even make a training period for the event part of the fundraising. Decide on a charity event or events you and your employees want to support and offer to pay the entry fees for a team or match the money they raise. Training for and participating in such an event builds team spirit in the office, promotes exercise, and creates goodwill in the community for your business.
2- Negotiate with a local gym: Not everyone can afford an in-house state-of-the-art 60,000 square foot training center like Nike. But you can approach local gyms to see if you can work out a group rate for you and your employees. Also consider offering some subsidy yourself to help them cover fees.
3- Encourage employees to walk more and sit less: Recent research has established that one of the unhealthiest habits office workers have is sitting all day. Encouraging walking and movement can cost you next to nothing and yet yield dramatic results in terms of your employees’ health. Lead by example and take all the meetings you can on foot. Encourage employees to walk on their lunch hours, extending it for those who agree to put in the miles. Invest in low-cost fitness trackers or pedometers and set up a friendly competition to see who can walk the most miles. Finally, provide employees information on the dangers of sitting too long and find ways to encourage them to take brief movement breaks at least once an hour.
4- Promote healthy commuting: Many cities offer incentives to employers who subsidize public transport, which usually requires the employee to walk some distance before boarding a bus or train. Make it easier for your employees to choose to walk, bike, or take public transport to work by being flexible about hours (to accommodate transit schedules). See if there’s a spare bathroom you could convert to a shower and changing room for employees who chose to turn their commute into a healthy workout.
5- Sponsor a recreational sports team: An office softball, soccer, bowling, or even pickleball team will get your employees out from behind their desks and moving around in the fresh air, all while having fun and building company loyalty. If you don’t have enough employees to fill your roster, join up with another small business for a win-win: encouraging healthy employees and networking with other local business people.
You don’t have to run a multi-billion-dollar global corporation to show an interest in and encourage your employees to get and stay healthy. Any one of these five wellness initiatives will give your employees the chance to improve their health and fitness. And healthy employees are happier and more productive, which in turn makes your workplace enjoyable and your bottom line robust.
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