An increasing number of employers are offering wellness programs for their employees. A Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust survey found 81 percent of large employers (200+ workers) and 49 percent of small employers offer programs to help employees stop smoking, lose weight or make other lifestyle changes. Even if you don't have the budget for a formal wellness program, there are steps you can take to nudge workers toward a healthier lifestyle. These nine ideas can help.
1. Empower employees. Get their ideas for improving health at work by asking them what they'd like, either through a survey or one-on-one. Here is an example of the results of a similar Employee Benefit Research Institute survey reporting on the reasons why employees participate in their employers' wellness programs:
The more you treat employees as stakeholders, the more they'll feel invested in a wellness program's success
2. Get people moving. Support behaviors that get employees out of their chairs and promote increased activity. For example, hold walking meetings for small groups. Encourage employees to take a short walk or do some stretches instead of gathering around the coffee machine on breaks.
3. Rethink workstations. Consider standing or treadmill workstations for interested employees (if the budget allows). At a minimum, make sure every workstation is ergonomically correct for each worker.
4. Support volunteerism. An increasing body of evidence suggests that volunteering can boost physical as well as mental health, as this Harvard Medical School blog post discusses. Provide opportunities for employees to volunteer in the community, either by arranging group activities or offering paid time off for volunteering.
5.Promote work-life balance. Ward off the harmful effects of stress by creating a corporate culture in which employees are not expected to respond to emails or texts 24/7. Encourage employees to use their allotted vacation time. Explore flexible work schedules and/or telecommuting.
6.Curb the spread of illness. Help keep employees from sharing their germs. If heavy workloads or special projects keep workers on the job even when they're sick, provide the technology tools and expertise that will allow them to work from home. Consider on-site flu shot clinics in the fall.
7.Foster better nutrition. Stock the break room with healthy snacks and water instead of junk food and sodas (if the budget allows). Scrap pizza lunches in favor of soups, salads and sandwiches loaded with veggies. Encourage employees to share healthy recipes and bring nutritious dishes to potlucks.
8.Create support networks. If you offer health and wellness-related discounts for employees, consider extending the deal to their spouses or partners. Offer to sponsor employees in local fitness-related activities, such as walk-a-thons or races.
9.Play by the rules. Three federal laws address workplace wellness programs within the context of broad rules that prohibit discrimination based on health status: the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). This Issue Brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation discusses the federal standards.
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