Look around and you’ll notice we are spending the greatest amount of our time at work; most full-time employees will spend over 2,000 hours at work every year, some even more. This not only minimizes the amount of time we have to spend with family and do the things that make us happy, it also makes it more difficult to fit in the required physical activity and to make healthier nutrition choices.
We are seeing rates in health care spending on the rise – but also increased rate of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, heart failure, hypertension, and obesity; many of these could be prevented with a few behavior modifications in our nutrition and physical activity.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States spends far more on health care than any other nation, yet the life expectancy of the average American is only 78.3 years, which is lower than the average and the lowest among the top health care spending nations. Chronic diseases are responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths every year in the United States, and treating people with chronic diseases accounts for 86% of our nation’s health care costs.¹ Our lifestyle choices in this country are partially to blame.
Spending more on health care is not making us healthier nor bringing us longevity; we are realizing that prevention is considerably cheaper than managing any health condition and/or chronic disease. As a result, wellness is getting a lot of attention lately as we become more aware that we own our health and have complete control of our wellness.
Many businesses are adopting new approaches and beginning to implement workplace wellness programs – which are proving essential for creating and maintaining healthier, happier, hard-working employees, while reducing the costs of health insurance claims, absenteeism and receiving maximum productivity in return. Happy, healthy employees are more productive. It’s nothing short of a win-win symbiosis.
So, what is a workplace wellness program? A successful workplace wellness program enables employees to increase control over, and improve, their health by offering healthier opportunities and empowering them to make healthier choices with ease.
The wellness program may offer risk assessments, screenings, flexibility for time to exercise, healthier snacking options in vending machines, behavior modification, educational and tobacco cessation programs, and much more. Access to a wellness program gives the employee the opportunity to take care of their health on a more regular basis and reduce stress. Offering incentives may also be used to encourage employee participation and increase engagement.
Here are a few low-cost tips to get you started on spreading workplace wellness and transforming your organization into one of the best places to work:
- Healthy Pantry Club: Start a healthy pantry stocked with the healthy choices essential to a healthy diet and productivity at work. Keep it junk-food free by stocking it with healthy snacks, fresh fruits, vegetables and low-sugar, low-sodium drinks. A contribution box for employees to donate to keep the pantry stocked is a great way to get everyone involved.
- Fitness Trackers: Fitness trackers can encourage employees to increase their steps while being more active through participation in challenges that will keep them motivated and mindful of their health and nutrition choices. Office challenges are a fun way to increase steps and also build camaraderie. Award prizes for the top stepper, wellness champion, best effort, etc.
- Office Gym or Gym Memberships: Transform an unused office or space into a gym by adding yoga mats, free weights and other fitness equipment. This helps the strapped-for-time employee fit exercise into their busy schedule. Subsidize or reimburse gym membership fees bringing fitness within reach for all employees to help create a routine they can stick with.
- Walking Meetings: Incorporate moving meetings to stimulate creativity and new ideas by walking around the building. Physical activity gives you energy and makes you feel more alert.
- Wellness Communications: Communication is the key to a successful wellness program. Get employees excited and engaged by sending wellness communications that provide ideas, strategies, short articles, tips, recipes, reminders and more. Create awareness posters and flyers to display around the office and coordinate your content with the seasons of the year, and monthly health observances.
Remember, it’s not the amount of extravagant perks you offer, it’s how successful you are at fulfilling the employees’ basic human and emotional needs to foster a healthy, conscious, and happy environment that inspires employees to be their best.