Some companies take on employee health and wellness initiatives in one gigantic sweep, but many ease into it slowly, implementing piece by piece and figuring out what works as they go along. If you don't have the budget or resources to implement everything at once, here are six easy things you can do to jump start your employee health and wellness.
1. Make a Commitment to Start Somewhere
If you are feeling overwhelmed at the idea of implementing a complete employee health and wellness program, that's understandable. But, if you value your employees and the contribution they make to keeping your small business going, let go of that anxiety and make a pact with yourself to start somewhere.
There are many small things you can do that cost little to no money and are very low risk in order to help your employees start to make their health and wellness a priority. Here are 7 simple things you can do.
2. Require Employees to Take their Breaks
If you notice that employees skip all or parts of their breaks, try to help them eliminate that habit. There may be busy times where your employees need to go on a break, don't let them put it off if at all possible.
There are laws for how often people need to take breaks because they are that important, and even the amount of breaks required by law really aren't enough. Regular breaks help your employees refuel with food and drinks, take care of basic needs, and reset mentally so they can maintain a consistent level of energy throughout their shifts.
In order to encourage regular breaks, you'll need to make it very clear that it's OK and even necessary for employees to take their scheduled breaks. If they are concerned because it's busy, jump in to help out yourself so they can take a breather (just remember to practice what you preach and also take your own breaks). Doing so can also improve your company culture.
3. Start a Walking Challenge
If you have employees that sit at a desk all day long, they could be at risk for a number of conditions due to being sedentary for so much of their time each day. In order to encourage activity and movement on breaks and outside of work, start a walking challenge.
Set a specific amount of time, a good place to start is one month. Have everyone track and log their steps each week. At the end of the month, provide a cash prize to the top 3 contenders that logged the most steps within the month. You could also recognize the efforts people made to improve throughout the challenge by awarding the 3 most-improved steppers.
Keep people excited and encourage them to continue in the challenge by offering small, unexpected rewards in the middle. Maybe someone logged 500 more steps than anyone else has so far in the competition, recognize that and toss them a gift card.
Don’t worry, you shouldn't need to buy everyone fancy step trackers as most smartphones have a pedometer function built in.
4. Provide a Company-Wide Activity Day
If possible, close up shop for a half day and offer PTO to anyone that sticks around to participate in your company-sponsored activity day. This can turn into anything active you can imagine, and you could even do a quick survey to see what kinds of activities your employees might be most interested in.
Some ideas for an activity day would be to offer yoga classes (someone amongst your ranks or within your network probably practices and could teach some basic moves). Go to a park that has courts and organize some pickup games of basketball, volleyball, or tennis, or something less conventional like Knocker Ball (Bubble Soccer).
This could also be as simple as a company-wide walk around a beautiful area of your city. This gets people moving and also encourages them to chat while walking which can help with team building.
5. Help Employees Make Good Decisions About Nutrition
If you currently offer any kind of food, drink, or vending options for employees, make sure to include healthy options to encourage good choices. If most of your employees go out to eat for lunch, look into offering coupons or gift cards to some of the nearby establishments that offer healthier options.
You could also bring in a nutritional specialist to offer an informational session to your employees about the importance of and guidance in making good decisions when it comes to eating. They can also answer questions that employees might have about nutrition.
6. Make Mental Wellness a Priority
Too often mental health is stigmatized or ignored completely. If you are able to create a culture where mental wellness is a priority in your workplace, you will be ahead of many organizations.
Often mental health is something that is invisible as it may not contain physical ailments like the common cold so people tend to feel guilty about asking for sick time if they are feeling mentally unwell. Bring in a wellness coach to provide an informational session about mental wellness for your employees. As part of that presentation, ensure your employees that it is okay to utilize sick time for mental health.
Make sure to provide space for your employees to prioritize their mental health throughout their work day as well. Part of this is ensuring they are taking their breaks as we discussed earlier, but also make sure they have a nice, quiet place to do so.
If you have the space, create a solitary room where they could take a quick nap or meditate. A lot of meditation apps offer a free version of their product that you could make your employees aware of, or you could purchase subscriptions for them.