According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control, chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes comprised an astounding 75 percent of U.S. medical costs in 2009. In an effort to curb rising healthcare costs while promoting healthier living in general, the CDC is encouraging businesses to offer more health and wellness programs in the workplace.
A workplace wellness program is a broad term for a wide range of corporate policies and promotions that inspire health and fitness through employee education, medical programs, weight-loss contests and other activities. Not only can company wellness programs help reduce medical costs nationwide, but they may also help boost productivity and profits for businesses. Here are five simple steps employers can take to encourage health and fitness among their staff:
1. Offer Vaccinations
It’s no secret that flu season can put a serious damper on a company’s productivity. If you want to give your employees a flu-fighting edge this winter, consider offering free or discounted vaccines on the premises. Vaccination programs like the one offered by Jackson Healthcare are great ways to avoid losing your best employees to bed rest while reducing the chances that sick workers will come into the office and infect others.
If it’s not possible to bring a vaccination station to your workplace, consider offering reimbursements to those who get the flu shot offsite. On a similar note, don’t forget to remind your employees to practice good hygiene year-round, washing hands regularly and staying at home if they could be contagious. During flu season, it also may be worth it to keep bottles of hand sanitizer around the office and encourage employees to wash their hands as an extra precaution.
2. Opt for Smarter Snacks
Want to help your employees make healthier eating choices? A simple, cost-effective way of encouraging workplace wellness is to switch up the snacks in your vending machine. Instead of stocking your break room with fatty or sugary treats, opt for healthier eats like granola bars or fiber-rich crackers. You can also offer free fruit and yogurt in the kitchen to encourage healthier snacking without breaking the company bank.
Of course, it’s tough for employers to encourage healthy workplace eating if they themselves don’t know how to make good choices when it comes to food. Consider hosting a wellness seminar on the property to educate both you and your employees about making better dietary choices throughout the workweek.
You can also consider reaching out to local, healthy restaurants near your office to arrange an employee discount; this will bring the eateries more business and encourage your workers to eat a healthier lunch (which helps prevent afternoon fatigue).
3. Make Fitness Fun
Want to enhance the overall fitness of your workplace? Many companies offer onsite workout facilities or discounted gym memberships to encourage employees to stay in shape. If subsidizing your employees’ workouts is too pricey, consider creating a lunchtime walking club to get staff members up and moving.
Looking for a fitness option that’s a bit more fun? Employees who get bored at the gym may prefer to participate in a team sporting activity like pickup baseball or soccer. Not only are sports a great way to stay fit, but they may also encourage coworkers to bond and work as a team both on and off the field.
Many companies have noted significant savings as a result of workplace fitness programs. After launching its self-care initiative, which includes a fitness center on the premises, Union Pacific Railroad, for example, succeeded in reducing healthcare costs by more than 17 percent. Businesses with budget to spare may also want to try offering incentives for weight loss and smoking cessation. Just make sure any restaurant gift cards you offer are for spots with healthy dining options.
4. Rearrange Your Office
These days, it’s not enough to promote healthy workplaces through diet and exercise; employers must also be mindful of modern ergonomic theory. It’s no secret that sitting too long can be harmful to your health. A recent article by Hallmark recommends reconfiguring your office to include desks with exercise balls, ergonomic keyboards and mice, and even individual step counters to encourage workers to get up and walk more. While they may be an expensive investment, standing desks can help improve employee circulation and overall productivity. Some businesses also orchestrate office-wide stretching sessions over the PA system to get workers out of their seats and on the way to healthier living.
5. Think Outside the Box
Want to boost your employees’ mental wellness as well as their physical health? Non-traditional activities like yoga are great for encouraging physical fitness while reducing overall stress and fatigue. According to a recent article, Aetna is just one of several corporations to reap the rewards of these programs. After figuring out that overstressed workers were costing $2,000 more each year than employees with less stress, Aetna created a yoga and meditation initiative as a means of encouraging both physical and emotional health. In the end, the company managed to lower healthcare costs by an impressive 7 percent.
It’s clear that employee wellness is essential to a company’s overall success. Consider ways to boost your workers’ physical and emotional wellbeing for a happier, healthier and more productive workplace.