Wellness Programs for the Modern Company

By: Allison Doyle

There are countless studies correlating health and happiness, but in everyday life, they aren’t typically addressed together.  Since most of us spend forty or more hours a week at work, a few small worksite wellness initiatives can greatly improve both. Wellness programs reduce absenteeism, boost company morale, improve employee retention/ recruitment, and of course, reduce healthcare costs.

Julian Varela, director of wellness and prevention at Vie Wellness Solutions in San Luis Obispo, Calif., explains “there are many intangible benefits to wellness programs such as increased morale, perception of the company and the overall culture and work/life satisfaction.Offering wellness programs, and then strongly supporting them across all levels of management, truly shows that the employer cares about its employees. Furthermore, it’s a great recruiting strategy for smaller companies as employees are asking for these types of programs and will soon hopefully expect them.”

The biggest roadblock to implementing new programs for large and small companies is typically related to budgets. However, many employee led wellness initiatives can be implemented at little to no cost to the employer, yet at a huge benefit to the employee.

Here are a few easily implementable ways to transform the work environment without incurring huge company costs, while allowing any employee to make small changes toward an outstanding result.

The Wellness Walk:  The first, and easiest, thing one can do to start incorporating wellness activities into the workday is to organize a wellness walk.  Employees set up an office-based exercise program that can quickly become an inclusive part of the company culture.  A lunchtime walk allows for time away from the computer coupled with fresh air and the chance to socialize with co-workers outside of the department.  It is also another opportunity for cross pollination of ideas and projects.

Additionally, if the company has the budget, a more formal walking program could be created where employees choose to log their miles in exchange for small incentives.  The company could sponsor participation in a charitable walk, which would give employees a sense of accomplishment, knowing their healthy choices are not only benefiting themselves but also good causes they support.

Nutrition: Traditionally food brings people together, and this can also be the case in a wellness program.  Consider holding a monthly potluck where employees bring in a healthy homemade dish to share along with copies of the recipe. An employee cookbook of healthy recipes could also be created from the potluck offerings. Start with small changes such as working with the vending machine company and the cafeteria to post calories and nutrient contents. Petition to remove the normally candy filled vending machines and replace them with healthy snacks such as fruit, yogurt, granola and nuts.

Employers need to adjust their practices to accommodate the current needs of their employees.  Any opportunity employers can use to bring employees together in a non-work setting is beneficial because so much of employee life has blended into personal life.  Working hours no longer stop at five o’clock. Rather, emails are integrated into soccer games, and an after-work drink with a coworker turns into an impromptu offsite idea exchange.  The traditional inclination for work/life balance is no longer practical or feasible with high career demands and constant technological connection to work.  It is now necessary to address our health at home as well as at work.  As this trend continues, the companies that embrace and encourage wellness opportunities will see increased employee retention, more cheerful work environments, and best of all, more productive, happy employees.

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