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Many of the benefits of wellness in the workplace, which can include increased productivity, profitability and stability, are well-known, but I’ve found that not many organizations take the time to develop effective programs that support the health of employees. Healthy employees are often happy employees, and happy employees tend to be more productive. Organizations that support their employees can also experience cost savings on insurance and absenteeism, less turnover and possibly more profitability.
Cultivating wellness at your company extends far beyond hosting yoga classes or nutrition talks now and again. In my experience, wellness must be integrated into the foundation of your business to elicit real benefits. Creating a culture of wellness may lead to sustainable and long-term health for your organization. Here are seven ways you can create a culture of wellness at your company:
1. Review your wellness policies.
Building wellness into your corporate policies tells your employees that you truly care about their mental and physical health and well-being. As you are reviewing your HR policies, consider adding benefits such as flex time, paid family leave and mental health support, which have been shown to increase productivity and/or employee retention.
2. Create well spaces.
To the extent that it is possible, building wellness into your office space can help create a positive atmosphere to support employees in unique ways (e.g., not just promotions, etc.). Incorporating green spaces into your office space can support mental health, even if that means just buying a few indoor plants. Create standing desk stations and encourage walking meetings to get people on their feet. An in-office gym can allow people to work out on their breaks without having to take the time to leave the building. Most importantly, make sure your management and culture support the implementations and are taking these breaks for health as well.
3. Stock your kitchen with wholesome food.
Corporate kitchens are notorious for offering inflammatory foods. Provide healthful options in your kitchen that provide your employees with real fuel to help them be happier, healthier and more productive. There is evidence that supporting your employees in choosing nutrient-dense options will not only benefit their physical health, it can also improve alertness and cognitive functioning, boost mental performance and enhance well-being.
4. Identify inspirational figures.
People aren’t always keen to join a wellness program when it is forced, but if someone they look up to has incorporated healthy habits into their lifestyle, it might incentivize a change. Find leaders within your company who are passionate about fitness and nutrition, and ask them to inspire others. Make sure some of these leaders are on the management team so they can serve as living proof of your organization’s dedication to health. When your employees see someone who is happy, healthy and integrates wellness into their work day, it can inspire them to do the same. Research has found that peer mentors in fact can help people increase their well-being.
5. Host creative, active events.
Instead of happy hours, offer fun, active options such as cooking classes, dance classes and group runs. These events create fun opportunities to incorporate wellness without being overly dogmatic. Unique activities also serve as a way for employees to bond and relax in an enjoyable environment.
6. Facilitate wellness challenges.
If executed within a culture that promotes wellness, challenges can be an exciting way to get employees moving and engaged. Hosting events like step challenges can bring out people’s competitive spirit and encourage them to take positive action for their well-being. A 2016 Fitbit case study with about 1,300 Cisco employees found that 95% of employees that participated in a company-sponsored challenge felt that they would continue physical activity post-challenge.
7. Form a company sports team.
Gathering your employees into a team not only gets them moving; it can also foster team building and productivity. Make sure your leagues are open and welcoming to people who might be nervous about their physical ability. One study found that even watching or talking about sports as a team can boost office morale.
Effectively incorporating wellness and its organizational benefits into your culture requires deeper work than hosting a fitness class occasionally. Make sure employee well-being is considered in every organizational decision, even those that may seem non-related. A company that truly values their employees’ wellness, and therefore the health of their business, will do so at every touchpoint.