From noon yoga breaks to kale smoothies in the breakroom, employee wellness is all the rage. And with good reason: According to the 2015 Strategic Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, more than three-quarters of respondents rated their wellness initiatives as “somewhat effective" or “very effective” in reducing health care costs.
“Promoting wellness in the workplace is vital for an employee’s health and overall satisfaction. Most employees are looking for ways to feel better during the day so they don't leave work and return home feeling exhausted and depleted,” says Katie Bressack, a Los Angeles-based nutrition and wellness coach who creates corporate wellness programs.
Of course, not every small company has the resources to reimburse gym memberships or hire on-site masseuses. Here are four low- to no-cost ways that small businesses can encourage employee wellness.
Upgrade your snacks
You might not be able to host a full salad bar or made-to-order sushi lunches, but you can make sure that the food you do offer is healthy. Replace the traditional Monday morning meeting muffins with a fruit plate or make your happy hour “healthy hour” with hummus and veggies. If you have a vending machine, ask your supplier to add in healthier fare, such as nuts, granola or baked snacks, suggests Bressack.
Ditch the sad desk lunch, consumed while you’re on a conference call or triaging emails. “When you encourage employees to leave the office during their break, they’ll return with improved energy and focus to be more productive,” Bressack says. Suggest they take a walk, soak up some sun, or even run an errand to cross something off their to-do list and lighten their after-work load. One study found that lunchtime walks improved mood and decreased stress, a major contributor to poor health.
Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking? Studies have found that being sedentary can lead to an increased risk of a host of conditions, from Type 2 diabetes to cancer and heart disease. Sure, you could invest in standing desks, but you’ll get the same benefit for free when you hold standing meetings or encourage your employees to actually leave their desks and visit their coworkers rather than communicating via a messaging app or email. Hit with a mid-afternoon slump? “A stand-and-stretch break will give everyone a little more energy to make it to the end of the day,” says Bressack, without relying on a caffeine or sugar fix.
Host a healthy challenge
Sign up for a 5K as a group or have everyone track their steps for a month. You don’t even need a pricey pedometer since most smartphones have a step-tracking app. Bressack recommends her clients ask a local yoga studio or gym if they will donate free passes as prizes. Sometimes “carrots” in the form of incentives are just as important to a successful wellness program as the orange kind.
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