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Well Done
10 ways to develop an effective workplace wellness program

There's a price to be paid for good health. We see it every time we renew a gym membership, buy a low-fat snack, or invest in a proper pair of running shoes. But it always seems to be worth it. The short-term investments make us feel better physically and emotionally. It's what pushes us to finish a workout or even to get off the couch in the first place.

It turns out that we're not the only ones to realize the benefits. Employers have something to gain from these minor investments as well.

I often cite a study by the Alberta Centre for Active Living, which discovered that active employees take 27% fewer sick days and up to 25% fewer disability days than their sedentary counterparts. On top of that, healthy employees help to control the rising costs of workplace benefits such as drug plans and rehab. Every workplace that sends a team to a tournament or participates in a fundraising walk reinforces a sense of teamwork which can engage employees in any task.

With October recognized as Canada's Healthy Workplace Month, it's a good time to visit a formal wellness plan. Consider these strategies that can make a difference in your workplace.

  1. Get moving – Wellness is a journey that begins with a single step. Stand up and get moving. Men who are inactive and sit more than six hours a day are 48% more likely to die earlier than their standing counterparts, according to the American Cancer Society. Inactive women who sit more than six hours a day were 94% more likely to die during the studied timeframe than those who spent less time in a chair. An interesting side note is that employees are actually looking for a change. Three out of four people surveyed by Ipsos wish they didn't sit for most of the workday.
  2. Identify champions – A formal workplace wellness committee can help to identify the needs in a specific workplace, and the programs that can make the biggest difference. As peers, they will also be in the best position to encourage fellow employees to participate.
  3. Set goals – Just like the stretch goals for a sales team, wellness targets identify what can be achieved, and hold everyone accountable. Add a few prizes and it builds a sense of competition. The goals don't have to be a matter of winning or losing. What about recognizing the groups that walk the most steps, or have the highest level of participation?
  4. Invest in success – Subsidized gym memberships, pedometers and other minor upfront investments will help to engage employees and deliver more of the financial returns that can be realized through improved wellness.
  5. Share information – Few workplaces will have skilled fitness instructors on staff, but www.participaction.com offers plenty of insight into everything from physical activity to sedentary behaviours. It even offers tools for promotional campaigns that can be posted on company bulletin boards. The constant reminders are hard to ignore.
  6. Drop the doughnuts – We've all attended meetings that include a pile of doughnuts in the middle of the table. One tangible way to reinforce a company's commitment to healthy living is to provide healthy snacks. Vending machines in the shared kitchen can also be stocked with better options than chips and chocolate bars.
  7. Be social – Wellness programs can be used to draw employees together. Consider inviting guest speakers who can address topics identified by the wellness committee.  Local dietitians, chiropractors and massage therapists will welcome the chance to discuss the benefits of healthy living.
  8. Support a cause – Many charities host tournaments, walks and other low-impact activities to help raise funds. Reach out to employees to find a cause close to their hearts, and encourage them to participate as a team. 
  9. Promote mental health – Programs such as yoga or tai chi classes during lunch breaks or just outside work hours can help employees focus and reduce stress.
  10. Stretch – Structured stretching routines help to protect against common workplace injuries.

These are just a few ideas. Visit www.healthyworkplacemonth.ca for more.

Top Tips:

  • Looking to make the business case for a formal wellness program? Calculate the increasing number of employee sick days, the rising demand for maintenance drugs in prescription drug plans, and the typical price of rehabilitating from a workplace injury.
  • Set goals and encourage a spirit of competition.
  • Identify workplace champions who will encourage peers to participate in wellness initiatives.

Copyright Notice

All rights reserved. All of the content herein is the sole property of the Callery Group, and may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in a retrieval system - in whole or in part - without the written permission of the Callery Group. Links to the originating article at www.callerygroup.com are permitted.

The Buzz Bits
Miscellaneous links to interesting benefits information

Owner of orthotics business and two others arrested in TTC benefits scheme: CP24

What are an employer's obligations to a terminally ill employee?: Blaney McMurtry LLP

The science of behaviour change: Green Shield

What stops small businesses from offering benefits?: smallbizadvisor

Top 5 reasons employees love their jobs: Your Workplace

Employee Assistance Plans: Mainstay Insurance Brokerage

Community Ethics, Big City Expertise

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