Wellness in the Workplace

A couple weeks ago, we posted a blog about our very own fitness initiative we have at Medix.  We are definitely not the only ones hopping on the wellness wagon, as wellness initiatives seem to be a trending topic amongst the forward thinking employers of Corporate America.  The truth is, many people spend a large portion of their days at work, so more and more employers are bringing the spirit of health and wellness INTO the workplace itself.  From replacing traditional desk chairs with exercise balls and swapping that box of frosted donuts in the break room for healthy snacks, there is no shortage of creative ways employers are finding to make their workers’ health and wellbeing a priority.

So how can you bring wellness into your own workplace?  Lauren Lastowka recently had a very good article on Inc.com on “8 Ways to Promote Wellness in the Workplace.”  This is a great place to start when looking to launch your office wellness initiative.  What other ways are YOU promoting wellness in your workplace?

1. Promote preventive care.Bring vaccination to the workplace for flu season. Encouraging and even funding vaccinations for employees has one of the clearest returns on investment. When your employees avoid the flu, they avoid missing out on days, if not weeks, of work. Consider offering on-site flu vaccines to employees. Or if your health insurance doesn’t cover it already, consider reimbursing employees for vaccination fees.

2. Encourage exercise.
Turn your office into an active campus. If you can make changes at your facility, consider offering covered, secure bike parking for commuters. Or provide showering facilities and locker rooms for employees who wish to workout at lunch. Can’t make structural changes? Implement and promote a lunch hour walking club and offer incentives for employees who participate. Encourage the entire office to use the stairs. And offer discounts or partially subsidize memberships to a local gym or exercise club.

3. Emphasize education.
Brown bag luncheons or break-time seminars are prime opportunities for helping employees learn more about healthy habits. Recruit speakers to lead sessions on cooking healthy meals, staying healthy while travelling, or quick stress management skills. If you have the space, consider bringing in yoga, tai chi, or aerobics instructors for lunchtime classes. Keep sessions entertaining but informative, and offer incentives for employees who attend.

4. Bring the doctor in.
One of the most innovative trends in workplace wellness has been that of the office doctor’s office. On-site health clinics give employees the opportunity to schedule office visits for routine care without taking time off work. And they seem to be successful. A recent survey from the Center for Studying Health System Change found that on-site clinics increase productivity, reduce medical costs, and enhance a company’s reputation as being a desirable place to work.

5. Invest in incentives.
Employee incentive programs offer rewards—financial or otherwise—for employees who engage in healthy behavior. A growing trend is to cover an additional percentage of the cost of health insurance premiums for employees who pass certain biometric markers – such as having a healthy body mass index, blood pressure, or blood sugar reading.

6. Hone hunger options.
Everyone knows when you’re hard at work it can be easy—or necessary—to quickly grab a bite from what’s at hand. Offer your employees healthy meal and snack options that help fuel their performance while also meeting their nutritional needs. Consider replacing sodas with milk, juice, or sparkling water, and stocking snack machines with nuts, dried fruit, and other healthy options. If you can take it a step further, stock lunchrooms with fresh fruit baskets once a week, and be sure the office cafeteria has plenty of healthy meal options.

7. Be mindful of mental health.
Unmanaged stress has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep trouble. At the workplace, it can lead to inefficiency, job dissatisfaction, and absence from work for related health conditions. Consider offering an employee assistance program for employees who have financial troubles, excess stress, or depression symptoms. And encourage employees to take simple steps to reduce stress, like taking several breaks a day to go for a walk, chat with a co-worker, or just get outside for a breath of fresh air.

8. Recommend behavioral resources.
For some employees, a few work-based activities may not be enough to make lasting change. In these cases, coaching and disease management programs may be the way to go. These programs pair employees with online, phone-based, or face-to-face health professionals who can guide them through the steps of behavior change. Consider offering tobacco cessation, weight loss, or stress management programs to help empower your employees make lasting, noticeable change.

If any of these ideas appeal to you, it may be time to take a step in the wellness direction. The main tenants of a workplace wellness program are awareness, education, and behavioral change. Try focusing on just one of these to start. If it’s successful, try another idea a few weeks later. If, after a few trials, a wellness program seems right for your company, consider a comprehensive program. Research the options, and look at resources available to you. You may even consider hiring a company to run a wellness program for you. Whatever you choose, know that taking even a small step in the wellness direction can benefit your employees, your productivity, and your bottom line.

http://www.inc.com/guides/2011/01/8-ways-to-promote-wellness-in-the-workplace.html

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