Employee wellness is sometimes thought of as a nice-to-have rather than a must-have — something you worry about when you already have all your other ducks in a row.
But the reality is that if you put off employee wellness initiatives until you’re “big enough” or “ready for them,” it will already be too late.
That’s because employee wellness and employee performance are linked. A culture of wellness actually drives results by helping to create an engaged workforce.
The connection between engagement and performance is well-established. Engaged teams have been shown to outperform competitors in categories like productivity, profit, and employee retention.
Employee wellness also impacts the bottom line more directly. Harvard Business Review reported that, on average, employers who invested in health and wellness initiatives saw $6 in healthcare savings for every dollar invested. The Rand Corporation estimated that the ROI for businesses overall was $1.50 for every dollar spent; the ROI for disease management jumped to $3.80 for every dollar invested.
But not all employee wellness initiatives are equally effective. While there’s a seemingly endless supply of employee wellness ideas, there are far fewer good employee wellness ideas. These are initiatives that not only have been proven to work, but that your team will also want to participate in. Remember, a well-intentioned wellness idea with zero participation is a waste of everyone’s time — and your company’s money.
So here are 10 employee wellness ideas that will get your team members excited, make a positive impact on their health, and help you develop a more engaged team.
We are increasingly a snacking culture. According to recent data,91 percent of people snack multiple times a day. In fact, snacking accounts for around half of all eating in the U.S.
Unfortunately, most employers offer traditional, low-quality vending machine fare: candy, soda, and other snacks loaded with sugar, saturated fat, and chemicals. These are snacks that not only derail productivity with energy crashes, but that will also seriously impact employee health in the long run.
So what better way to impact your team’s overall nutrition — and, therefore, wellness — than by providing easy access to healthier snack choices throughout the workday? Companies like SnackNation make it incredibly easy to provide healthy snacks for your employees. The brand’s curated boxes of better-for-you options will give your team the burst of energy they need to get the job done (without those unfortunate sugar crashes).
According to the University of Cambridge, being sedentary is just as dangerous as being obese. In a recent study, the school found that a lack of exercise accounts for twice as many deaths as obesity among European males. Another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that the harmful effects of prolonged sedentary lifestyles persist, even with periods of intermittent exercise.
Get your office on its feet by offering standing desks. Varideskoffers an active workspace line of desks and office furniture that can create an active environment that can help your employees get in good shape.
A little healthy competition can be just what your team needs to help make exercise a daily practice. Gamify company fitness by creating incentives and challenges. Hand out gift cards for the most consecutive gym sessions logged or yoga classes attended. Better yet, provide employees with wearable fitness trackers to launch a group walking challenge.
Because your team likely consists of people with varying ages and fitness levels, the key is to create both individual and team goals to keep everyone motivated.
Remember that wellness isn’t just about physical well-being; it’s about your team’s mental health, too. The daily practice of being grateful has been found to ease depression, curb appetite, and enhance nighttime sleep.
Try this at your company: Create a shared doc where team members across the organization record one thing for which they are grateful every day. Challenge your team to do it for three weeks straight. At the end of the three weeks, have your team reflect on their mood and productivity.
Higher productivity, increased collaboration, and reduced stress: No, these aren’t the results of a new miracle drug or the latest productivity software. It’s the natural effect of granting our furry, four-legged friends free reign of the office.
One study, conducted by Central Michigan University, found that the mere presence of a dog in the office improves collaboration.
Of course, there are some businesses where having a dozen loose dogs running around the office just isn't feasible. If that includes yours, consider keeping an aquarium. You’ll get many of the same stress-busting benefits, without the (adorable) disruption puppies tend to cause.
Stress is the silent killer lurking in your office. Researchers from Harvard and Stanford universities analyzed decades of survey data and found that stressful jobs might lower one’s life expectancy.
The good news? Meditation and other mindfulness techniques have been shown to help reduce stress. Popular meditation app Headspace has enterprise pricing, enabling your entire office to benefit.
A U.K. study found a connection between nutritional knowledge and the quality of the food decisions people make.
One easy and fun way to increase your team’s understanding of nutrition is to host a cooking class after work. When it comes to food, abstract concepts and nutritional facts are never as convincing as a delicious meal made by hand.
Multiple studies have shown that access to nature can relieve stress, increase sociability, make us more active, and even help soothe mental illness.
Mere proximity to green space can even have a positive impact, and potted plants in offices have been shown to do everything from lowering blood pressure to boosting job satisfaction.
LiveWall helps companies bring the outdoors inside with its lush vertical gardens.
For too long, the stigma around mental health has left victims to suffer in silence. The best way to alleviate the stigma surrounding mental health issues is simply to talk about them.
Try hosting a workshop on the most common mental health disorder, anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety is exceedingly common. Approximately 40 million adults suffer from anxiety in the U.S., and nearly half of those who experience depression also manage anxiety.
It turns out that old saying is true: Laughter is the best medicine. Laughing really does carry a laundry list of health benefits, including increased immune function, better mood, relaxation, and longevity.
Bring in local comedians (there might be one or two at your office) for a comedy night, or treat the office to a night at a local improv theater to unlock the hidden health benefits of laughter.
Finally, remember that it isn’t enough to deploy one (or even 10) of these ideas once. Wellness can’t be a campaign; it has to be ingrained in your culture. To reap the full benefits, use these ideas to lay the foundation for an ongoing wellness culture at your organization.