A Complete Guide to Incorporating Wellness at Work Every HR Manager Needs to Read

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
July 18, 2024 at 8:46AM UTC

In the 2010 paper “The Five Essential Elements of Well-Being,” Gallup scientists reveal the findings of their study of people from more than 150 countries about their well-being needs. Five factors emerged as priorities: career, social, financial, physical and community well-being. Others define these pillars slightly differently, but the general principles are similar. 

Well-being doesn’t just affect people’s personal lives. It’s also important for work satisfaction. Moreover, employees who are healthy are more likely to come to work, engage and be productive. How do you bring wellness into the workplace? Here are our suggestions for implementing wellness programs.

Employee wellness program ideas.

How do wellness programs affect the workplace? You’ll be contributing to the physical and psychological well-being of your staff. Ultimately, this boosts morale, reduces presenteeism and absenteeism and means a happier, healthier workplace overall. What are some wellness activities you can implement in your workplace? Here are 24 ideas to get you started.

1. Mindfulness, meditation and yoga classes

These stress-reducing activities not only boost the practitioner’s mental health, but they can also increase concentration and focus, as well as boost your creativity — vital skills and behaviors in the workplace. Bring in a teacher to lead sessions during lunch or after work. Perhaps you even have an employee or contact who can teach the classes. If you offer them on-site and at a reduced cost, employees will be more likely to participate.

2. Standing desks

Standing desks not only improve your health — they also increase productivity, according to a study conducted by Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center School of Public Health. The study, entitled "Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention," found that employees at a Texan call center who used standing desks over a six-month period were more productive than their seated counterparts.

3. Healthy food and snacks

Keep your office kitchen stocked with healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, popcorn and yogurt. These snacks give employees a healthy alternative to the candy, cake and cookies people bring in around the holidays (although the occasional treat won’t hurt you). 

4. Cooking demonstrations

While we’re on the subject of food, why not bring in a local chef for a cooking demonstration — especially one with a healthy bend. Or, if you have an employee known for their cooking prowess, see if they might lead a session instead. Look for vegetarian or vegan chefs, as well as those who cater to specific diets. 

5. Gym discounts and reimbursements

This is one of the most common wellness perks businesses offer. You can work out group discount rates with a local gym to encourage employees to join or even offer reimbursements for exercise courses, gym memberships and fitness equipment. Just be clear on the terms, such as a limit to the amount of money that’s reimbursed yearly and which purchases qualify.

6. Field days

Not only will holding corporate field days get employees away from their desks and encourage them to be active, but they’ll also promote team-bonding. Play a variety of games, such as capture the flag, soccer, football or what have you, and make a celebration of it, with food and other activities. Why not invite employees to bring their family members, too?

7. Wellness room

What is a wellness room at work? This is a space where employees can retreat to when they’re upset, overwhelmed, under the weather or stressed. It can also serve as a place for new mothers to nurse; legally, businesses must offer such a space to nursing mothers under Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. You can also stock the room with equipment, such as massage chairs and beds, as well as offer low lighting and soft music.

8. Bring your pet to work options

Nothing helps employees destress more than bringing their best friends to the office. Before you let people bring their puppies into the building, however, check with the building regulations if you don’t own the facility and ensure that your employees are comfortable with the idea (for example, some may have allergies or phobias). 

9. Walking meetings

In office environments, employees spend the majority of the day sitting. Meetings can be especially difficult because there are few or no breaks. Instead of staying cooped up in a boardroom, why not get the blood pumping by having “walk and talk” meetings?

10. Volunteer days

Helping other people boosts morale, decreases depression, increases self-confidence and reduces stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. Let employees take off a handful of days every year to volunteer in their communities. Wellness benefits for your employees and giving back to the community — it’s a win/win for everyone.

11. Stress relievers

Stock your office with equipment like stress balls, fidget cubes, punching bags and other tools designed to reduce stress. This will give employees a quick, easy way to unwind and relax.

12. Nutrition counseling

Help your employees meet their health goals by bringing in a nutrition counselor to offer guidance on nutrition, including the food they eat and vitamins and supplements they take.

13. Onsite gym

Give your employees a convenient option for exercising by installing an onsite facility. For employers who have the space, this is a good alternative to offering membership discounts and reimbursements. Employees who want to work out during their lunch breaks need only go upstairs.

14. Onsite flu vaccinations

The flu vaccine is an important precaution people should take to guard themselves against an illness that can potentially be very serious (not to mention prevent them from working). It’s not just about protecting the individual, either — it also helps protect others, including children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. Create a program to have medical professionals deliver vaccines on-site, making it convenient for employees. 

15. Wellness tips in emails and newsletters

Include a “wellness tip of the week” or similar advice in your company newsletters. This will remind employees to work toward their wellness goals and guide them along the way.

16. Sick days

According to federal law, employers are not required to give employees sick days, although some state and city laws have other laws governing sick days. Still, it’s important to encourage employees to stay home when they’re too ill to work or are contagious. Offering a generous sick leave policy is a good first step. 

17. Resources for new parents

I’m not just talking about parental leave, although, of course, that’s extremely important. New parents are stressed and exhausted, so why not give them access to resources like night nurses, housekeeping and cooking services and babysitters?

18. Plants in the office

The study “The relative benefits of green versus lean office space: Three field experiments.” from the University of Queensland found that plants improve workplace satisfaction and air quality, as well as productivity and workplace satisfaction — so make your office a little greener.

19. Onsite massages

Massages are a great method of reducing tension. During particularly stressful times, or perhaps just as a treat or reward after a successful quarter, bring in professionals to conduct massages onsite.

20. Co-ops

Encourage employees to up their fruit and vegetable game by coordinating onsite deliveries and pickups with a local co-op. Set up program parameters such that employees can buy shares and opt in or out as needed. You might even be able to get a large group discount. 

21. Fitness challenges

Steer clear of weight-loss challenges — that may not be healthy or feasible for some employees — but fun, low-stakes challenges like ultimate frisbee or even step counts will encourage your staff to get up from their desks, move around and boost team spirit.

22. Naptime

With so many adults suffering from insomnia and other sleep issues, you no doubt have many employees in need of some rest. Better sleep means better productivity. Set up a space where employees can nap, even for a few minutes (it could even be in your wellness room).

23. Give employees water bottles

Staying hydrated is an important part of your health. Ensure that your employees are getting enough H2O by giving them company-branded water bottles. Of course, you should also have water coolers in all areas so they can refill as needed.

24. Gratitude exercises

People who express gratitude are happier overall, according to a multitude of research. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, for example, found that study participants who wrote grateful thoughts were more optimistic. Have your employees participate in gratitude exercises, such as writing down one thing they’re grateful for every day on a wall in your office. 

Successfully implementing a wellness program

How do you get your company on board with your ideas and implement a successful wellness program? Here’s how to begin:

  • Survey your employees about their needs and the programs they want the most.
  • Evaluate your employee makeup and consider different ways of accommodating remote employees and those who work in offices outside of your headquarters (for example, a gym reimbursement might be better than an on-site gym if you have numerous employees who work from home).
  • Ensure that employees are aware of new and existing wellness programs by alerting them via email and other reminders, as well as posting guidelines in a conspicuous location.
  • Ask supervisors to encourage their employees to participate (and encourage managers to partake, too).
  • Educate your staff on the benefits of wellness at work programs.
  • Work with your HR and finance departments on issues like participation, funding and budgetary constraints.

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