Wellness Programs to Make Your Employees Jump for Joy

Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, can be devastating for your employees, seriously jeopardizing their health and well-being. Additionally, they can take a toll on your business, resulting in high absenteeism and increased healthcare costs.

It just makes sense to help employees prevent illness through wellness and disease prevention programs. Healthy employees tend to be happier and more productive. They also take fewer sick days and can significantly reduce your healthcare costs.

If you’ve considered adding wellness programs to your organization, there are several paths to take. Not all are costly, and most produce not only healthier employees but also more satisfied employees. Here are a few considerations:

Education programs. The first step can be simple lunch-and-learns on topics such as stress management, nutrition, weight control, smoking cessation, and sleep management. Many local hospitals would be happy to provide a physician or other healthcare professional to speak for free. Or, reach out to groups such as your local chapters of the American Heart Association or the American Lung Association.

Health fairs. Ask local physicians and hospitals to provide a lunch hour health fair. Typical services can include blood pressure checks, body mass index (BMI) monitoring, and cholesterol testing. To get people motivated, continue the fairs on a monthly basis, and challenge employees to get their numbers to healthy levels. Also, allow employee dependents to participate in the health fairs.

Company gym. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. A few stair climbers or treadmills are good for starters. Try desktop treadmills, allowing employees to work and take a brisk walk simultaneously. You might also consider after-work or lunchtime yoga classes.

Change your habits. Not all meetings need to be in conference rooms or offices. Encourage your employees to walk while holding one-on-ones or meetings involving a few people. Provide personal trackers to measure steps taken each day.

Discourage presenteeism. Sometimes workers feel obligated to show up to work when they’re sick. That’s a bad idea all around, since it doesn’t help the worker get better and can easily make the rest of the team ill. Provide adequate sick time so employees can stay home when appropriate.

Develop arrangements with local urgent cares. Many employees don’t want to see the doctor because it means excessive time off from work. As an employer, you can improve your workers’ accessibility to care by partnering with local urgent cares. Develop partnerships wherein your employees can be seen exclusively during their lunch hours.

Help nursing mothers. Breast milk is important for newborn health, but new mothers returning to work need a welcoming and safe place to pump. Make sure you accommodate nursing mothers with an area that is private and close to their offices.

Encourage healthy eating and drinking. Replace soda machines with water dispensers. Also, stock vending machines with healthy foods, and ensure the cafeteria has healthy options. Also, provide nutrition and calorie counts for cafeteria foods. Share fresh-squeezed juices during office birthday celebrations instead of the traditional chocolate cake.

Hold a farmers’ market day. Ask local growers to sell their fruits and vegetables at your workplace on a regular basis. Host cooking demonstrations featuring healthy produce options.

Allow for stress breaks. Provide chair massages during break time, and encourage workers to take stress-relief breaks. Start or end meetings with brief stretching exercises.

Bring health care your office. Provide flu shots at the workplace. Ask a local hospital about mobile mammogram vans, which provide lifesaving screenings for women.  Also, provide one-on-one counseling for employees during periods of high stress.

Encourage people to actually use their vacation time. Vacation is essential for decompressing and improving one’s quality of life. Make sure employees take advantage of their time off, and ensure that management is a role model in also taking time for themselves and their families.

Have good health insurance. Make sure your plan provides plenty of important preventive care, as well as easy access to physicians and clinics. Having a solid plan is a good sign the employer truly cares about employee health.

Think you can improve upon your wellness benefits? Tomorrow we’ll look at a few pitfalls to avoid when providing wellness programs.