Whether you call it employee incentives, wellness perks or a healthy living benefits package, corporate wellness programs can take many shapes (and have widely varied price tags). But wellness author Greg Anderson may have stated it best: “Wellness is not a ‘medical fix’ but a way of living…” For employers that are looking to make a big impact with their wellness programs– with a smaller price tag– consider these 6 low-cost wellness programs (or ways of living) that can complement your benefits package and lead to a healthier workforce.
“Wellness is not a ‘medical fix’ but a way of living – a lifestyle sensitive and responsive to all the dimensions of body, mind, and spirit, an approach to life we each design to achieve our highest potential for well-being now and forever. — Greg Anderson
Walk to Wellness
Walking programs are a great way to encourage healthy living and are a realistic option for most employees to participate in. According to the American Heart Association, a half-hour of walking five days each week improves heart health. As you look to introduce a walking program into your wellness ideas, you might consider the following options:
- Record minutes or steps walked each day. These can be converted to points or entries for weekly, monthly or quarterly drawings.
- Create a “Walking Warriors” group that takes walks before work, at lunch and/or after work.
- Start a “pedometer challenge”. Provide pedometers to employees. Allow teams to compete for overall step counts towards team goals or prizes.
- Schedule a “walking meeting”. Get the creative juices flowing during a walking meeting.
- Set personalized step goals and share milestones. FitBit offers some great corporate wellness programs and personal encouragement resources. Whether earning the daily “sneakers badge” or the more challenging “climbed Mount Everest”, these regular milestones and reminders can help keep employees motivated.
Culture of Wellness
A supportive company culture can help cultivate healthy behaviors. When employees see that the company supports their overall well-being, they are more likely to take advantage of the wellness programs presented.
- Show employees the importance of wellness programs by allowing them to take time during work to participate in program activities. Consider flexible time that may allow employees to build in physical activity before, after or even throughout breaks in the work day.
- Set expectations for a 55 minute hour which encourages employees to stand-up and stretch for at least 5 minutes each hour.
- Create a “wellness” committee designed to bring small yet actionable ideas to the rest of employees. They become your champions and help encourage participation. Also, it shifts wellness from a human resources function to an employee-powered opportunity.
- Reiterate wellness initiatives at all levels through “town hall” style meetings, management discussions, department meetings and cross-functional meetings.
- Post community wellness ideas and events in common areas. Providing employees with easy access to information can be just the nudge they need to take that fitness class or attend a healthy cooking event.
All too often there is a disconnect between message and reality. Management may preach the importance of healthy living and eating at benefits enrollment, but then bring in brownies and doughnuts to recognize company success. Here are a few creative ways you can encourage healthy eating on an ongoing basis:
- Add a fruit basket to the lunch area. This is a low cost way to reiterate the importance of healthy eating on daily basis and makes it accessible to all employees.
- Take part in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or Agriculture Cooperative. The company can sign-up for a weekly share and/or encourage other employees to sign-up. If you have several employees participating, you could see if on-site delivery is an option. To further boost healthy eating, encourage employees to bring in their favorite recipes using the produce of the week.
- Create a company cookbook or recipe sharing site filled with healthy approaches to cooking. Better yet, schedule a potluck style lunch and invite employees to bring in their recipes to share with others.
- Finally, stock your vending machines with healthy snacks. The 2:00pm slump is inevitable. Make it easy for employees to make smart choices.
Sponsor a team and/or event
Getting employees active one-by-one can be a challenge, but many employees will take action when there is a team mentality. These fun wellness activities at work can lead to higher participation and overall engagement in corporate wellness ideas.
- Promote and/or pay entry fees for a local 5K Run/Walk. Employees can participate in the 5K directly or cheer on their fellow employees. As an added bonus, you are likely supporting a great cause in the process.
- Get a group of employees together for a kickball, softball, soccer or volleyball team. It is a great way to get active and builds camaraderie.
- Schedule an employer-sponsored volunteer day. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity are always looking for groups to assist with build projects or clean-up initiatives. You might also consider partnering with local parks for community clean-up initiatives
On-site fitness opportunities
“40 to 45 percent of employees who are offered on-site fitness facility access choose to participate and report the highest satisfaction with them largely due to their convenience, inviting environment and low or no membership cost.”
Convenience is a huge factor to successful employee health and wellness programs. SHRM noted “40 to 45 percent of employees who are offered on-site fitness facility access choose to participate and report the highest satisfaction with them largely due to their convenience, inviting environment and low or no membership cost.”
While putting in a full gym might not be realistic for all organizations, there are actions you may be able to take to make on-site fitness a reality.
- Setting aside some space for employees to do yoga or breathing exercises can go a long way in establishing mindfulness.
- Standing and/or walking work station options help to reduce sedentary work conditions. To keep costs in check, consider creating a “meeting room” or “walking work space” which allows employees to sign-up for a walking work hour each day.
- Provide exercise balls as a chair alternative. An exercise ball can help with alertness, core stability and even reduce back pain.
If you are grappling with making additional contributions toward employees benefits, a “pay-for-play” approach can be a great incentive to push employees to the next step.
- Employees can earn HSA or FSA contributions for participation in wellness programs and healthy behaviors. Also, consider additional contributions for employees that complete a health questionnaire or receive an annual exam.
- Financial wellness is an important component to overall wellbeing. If employers are looking to further encourage employee HSA contributions, contribution matching is a great option. Employers can match employee HSA contributions up to a set dollar amount. This approach encourages employees to take a proactive role in saving for their current and future medical expenses.
- Additionally, employers can consider a non-smoking premium incentive. Employers are permitted to vary health insurance premiums for smokers vs. non-smokers. Employees that participate in smoking cessation programs may be eligible to receive non-smoker premium rates.
We want to hear your wellness ideas.
These are just a few low cost ideas to help round out your overall benefits package and employee wellness program. Every wellness idea you put in place, brings your employees one step closer to a healthier way of living.