Every year, chronic illness and injuries cost U.S. employers billions of dollars in absences and diminished productivity, according to John Hopkins Medicine. Consequently, workplace wellness programs are becoming increasingly popular. With average employees spending a third of their hours at work, workplace wellness programs can allow them to easily add healthier habits into their days.
Workplace wellness programs may include a combination of education, communication, and access to wellness activities like gym memberships, medical screenings, and immunizations. These programs don’t have to be extensive or expensive. Many employers find that small steps contribute to the overall wellness journey. If you’re thinking about adding a wellness program at work, consider the suggestions below to ease your employees into healthier lifestyles.
Smoking cessation programs
Tobacco is one of our biggest public health threats and is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Workplace smoking cessation programs can start with easy access to education and resources. Some smokers may find success in nicotine patches, smoking cessation medications or other treatments like hypnosis. A supportive employer, a friendly competition or incentive program and supportive coworkers can be key to a successful outcome. Local resources like Hancock Health’s free Commit to Quit tobacco cessation program may be an option for employers who are looking for structured programs.
Healthier food and drink options
Ask any office worker – food remains an integral part of many workplaces. Some companies offer a fully stocked kitchen or break room for employees. Others rely on vending machines for the mid-afternoon munchies. Morning meetings begin with donuts, and lunch meetings offer pizza and chocolate chip cookies. Putting your workplace menu on a diet is an important step in employee wellness. Toss out the sugary drinks and install a water cooler to encourage healthier beverage choices. Ditch the chips and candy bowls and instead offer healthier snacks like nuts, granola bars and brightly colored fruits.
Gym memberships and on-site classes
A free or reduced-cost gym membership may provide an incentive to employees who want to get moving but aren’t sure where to start. Some employers may include such memberships in their budgets, or they may negotiate with their insurance carriers to subsidize these benefits. But gym memberships aren’t as popular as they used to be in pre-pandemic days. Many employees are opting to work out at home or on their own. Employers can encourage fitness via on-site classes and company competitions. Random events like hula hoop contests or yoga stretches create a sense of camaraderie and get people moving. Something as simple as a step counter and a company-wide challenge can encourage employees to take the stairs or park farther from the entrance.
Stress management strategies
Stress affects mental health and can lead to physical ailments as well. The work still must be done, but employers can encourage healthier stress management through team retreats, meditation rooms, adult coloring books or flexible hours when possible.
Annual flu vaccines can reduce the risk of illness between 40 and 60%, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Many people may make the mistake of considering themselves invincible when it comes to the flu until the bug hits them and they’re battling the worst body aches and fevers of their adult lives. It’s tempting to put off a vaccine, but it’s also easy to take the jab when it’s offered at work during your lunch hour.
Many employers are discovering a healthy return on their investment in workplace wellness programs. Each small step in the wellness journey affects the ultimate destination, and every employer can encourage and support their employees as they make healthier choices, big and small.