Employees spend more time at work than anywhere else and health care costs are increasingly becoming more of a cost burden to employers.
This positions workplace wellness as an important tool in mitigating costs on the employer side while also introducing employees to health resources and programming they maybe couldn’t make time for on their own.
What better time than the beginning of the new year to focus on ways you can improve the physical wellness of your workplace in some meaningful ways. I sat down with our Director of Health Promotions, Madison Cofield, to talk about the top 5 ways you can improve the physical wellness of your employees at your workplace.
1. Make Environmental Changes to Encourage Physical Activity
If your budget is huge and you want to go all out for your employees, you could add an on-site fitness facility where employees can go during their lunch break or off time to work out. Many companies don’t have a booming wellness budget like that, so something as small as giving employees a company branded water bottle or fitness gear is a fantastic idea to encourage physical wellness. Cofield says it’s all about giving employees a “a good environmental trigger” to encourage that activity. Another idea is to simply place a poster or some flyers near the elevator to encourage employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator. That’s one small change that can make a big difference for many people.
Skip the elevator! Take the stairs.
2. Allow for Flexible Schedules
Your employees have a ton of competing priorities once they’re off the clock. Heading to the gym at 5:30pm is oftentimes the last priority on their list, especially when kids need to ride to soccer practice or dinner needs to be on the table by 7. Allowing your employees to have a flexible schedule or extend their lunch hour by an extra 30 minutes is a great way for an employer to allow the employees to build some fitness minutes into their workday and still get their physical activity in before the 5pm and after priorities hit.
3. Encourage Walking Meetings
Nilofer Merchant says it best in her TED talk to an audience full of people sitting down: “What you’re doing right now at this very moment is killing you.” According to Merchant, we spend 9.3 hours a day sitting on our tush – which she notes is more time than most people spend sleeping.
Instead of heading from their desk straight to a conference room, encourage your employees to hold walking meetings. Obviously sometimes this won’t work, especially when holding a meeting with a large group of people. However, make sure your employees are aware of the many benefits of the traditional walk n’ talk meeting, including the creativity benefits they’ll reap from stepping away from their computer.
4. Sit for 60, Move for 3
A cost effective strategy that some of our groups have employed is implementing a Sit for 60, Move for 3 campaign. That’s where you’re encouraging your employees for every 60 minutes of inactivity, to get up and move for 3 minutes — whether it’s to stretch their legs or take a walk to the water cooler. The Wellness Council of America has some free resources to help you get started on your campaign, including a sample Sit for 60, Move for 3 policy that was provided by the City of Presque Isle, Maine.
We also really love the apps Workrave (Free, Workrave.org) for Windows and BreakTime (4.99, Mac App Store) for Mac that help make it easier for your employees to remember to get up and move. Both apps allow you to set a specific time interval you’d like to work for and when you’d like the app to interrupt what you’re doing and tell you to get the heck out of your chair! Well, they don’t exactly tell you to get the heck up, but it does throw an alert up on your screen telling you that it’s time to take a break.
I use BreakTime in my daily workflow. This is what it looks like when it’s time for me to take a break.
5. Activity, Not Injury!
Finally, consider incorporating some type of safety component into your wellness offerings. Be mindful of the fact that as your employees engage in more physical activity throughout the year and throughout their workday, they’ll also be more susceptible to injury.
Help them safely and comfortably learn how to incorporate more exercise into their day so that they’re not rushing to the gym during their work hour, forgetting to stretch and then pulling a muscle. That’s a detour that both you and your employees can’t afford to have happen.
Have an idea to add to this list? Maybe something that your company has tried and had great success with? Let us know! We love your feedback!
(St. Augustine Lighthouse Stairs | Photo Credit: sdixclifford)