Implementing a fitness program for employees may not top your to-do list; however, not encouraging an active workforce could cost you more than you figure.
In fact, finances are the biggest risk of an inactive workforce, says Paul Newell, a personal trainer who works with small businesses to keep employees fit and healthy. “Sick employees, or employees with conditions like diabetes and heart disease, will increase the cost of health insurance,” he warns. On the flip side, healthy, active employees will lower insurance costs. You’ll also notice improvements among productivity and energy levels, Newell says.
Encouraging fitness among employees doesn’t require vast amounts of your time or budget. Here are four strategies for increasing the activity levels of your workers:
1. Create an exercise-friendly work environment. Burgess Advertising and Marketing, a 15-person, full-service marketing company in Portland, Maine, organizes lunchtime walks for employees. It also provides shower facilities and a storage area for bicycles and other sporting equipment.
“Not only do these things encourage fitness, but they are great for team building and healthy lifestyle choices, which lead to fewer sick days,” says Pekka Paavonpera, public relations and interactive marketing director at the company.
Other ways to create a fitness-minded work culture: Provide employees with a list of stretches they can do at their desks, hold a stand-up meeting, or schedule monthly games that all are invited to participate in, such as softball, kickball, or volleyball.
2. Add incentive. Once a year, the Oaks at Ojai, a wellness spa located in Ojai, Calif., sponsors an employee weight-loss program. “Each participant puts in $5, and the Oaks doubles the pot,” says Nancy Byrd Radding, fitness director at the spa. The program runs for two months; when it’s over, the participant who has lost the most weight takes home the cash.
If your employees are up for a “Biggest Loser” type of competition, consider tallying up points for the most inches lost. The winner could receive a prize such as a gift card or trophy, trainer Newell suggests.
3. Encourage employees to train for special events. At Burgess, staff members are encouraged to enter local charity fun runs, triathlons, walks, and golf tournaments. Those participating often train together, either during lunch or after work.
To help your employees get involved in local activities, gather the details for an upcoming charity event (find happenings in your area here). Share the information with everyone. Then encourage workers to sign up — perhaps under a company team name — and train together for it.
4. Set an example. When it comes to fitness activities, “if the people at the top of the organization aren’t participating, employee adoption and engagement may be low,” Newell says. To encourage a high turnout, join in the activities whenever possible. If you announce an after-work jog that all employees are invited to participate in, for instance, put on your running shoes and get out there, too.
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