Spring into action: Things you can implement today to create well-being in your workplace

LIFESTYLE

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By Stacy McClain, NASM-CPT

The verdict is in: healthy employees are good for business. There is research being published daily that supports this. Not only does wellness in the workplace improve employee’s physical health, but studies show it makes workers more productive and happier while they are at work.

So why aren’t all offices focusing on creating a culture of health? The two excuses I hear the most are, “I don’t know where to begin” and “We don’t have the budget for it.” It’s true, not every office has the resources for a comprehensive wellness program. But wellness doesn’t have to be expensive. There are small changes you can implement today that are little to no cost, and I’ve listed them below:

Replace all unhealthy behaviors with a better option.

Before investing extra dollars into wellness, take a look at existing products and practices you are already spending money on. Start to replace unhealthy rituals and practices with healthier options. For example:

Reassess your office snacks. Replace soda with sparkling water, chips with nuts, and candy with fresh fruit. Instead of ordering in pizzas for lunch & learns or birthdays, opt for salads or Mediterranean.

Give the gift of health. Do employees receive gift incentives for reaching goals or milestones in their career? Gift a fitness tracker, an additional vacation day, or something else that promotes well-being.   

Switch up your meetings. Instead of sitting around a conference room table, invite your team on a walking meeting. If that’s too much, invite them to stand. That alone increases cognitive abilities (link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797617721270).  

Plan healthy social hours with clients and coworkers. Don’t default to the typical happy hour. Find a unique event. Volunteer together. Hold personal development workshops. Host your own walk/run.

Change up the environment.

Small changes to the environment can go a long way. Provide employees with the resources and space that will help them engage in healthy behaviors.

Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular in many offices to get employees away from sitting for hours at a time. They can get expensive. However, there’s no need to get fancy. A cardboard box or a stack of printer paper will do. Even having one standing desk that employees can share or rent would be a cost effective option.

Designate a conference room for meditation. This gives employees the space and permission to take time during the work day to decompress.

Create awareness for existing options for movement. Put signs near the stairs, and make them look inviting. Provide maps for walking paths and healthy eating spots in the area.

Get creative. Even something as simple as removing all the personal trash cans from under the desks forces people to get up and move more often throughout the workday.

Work life balance.

Achieving work-life balance is a daily challenge for many employees which can result in high stress and sometimes even mental health issues or burnout. Employers can help relieve some of the pressure by establishing policies and expectations that promote a balanced lifestyle.

Create flexible work schedules/vacation policies or remote work days that allow employees to address home and parenting responsibilities, medical/dental appointments, avoid a difficult commute, etc. Many CEOs worry that this amount of freedom will affect quality and quantity of work, and understandably so. Two key factors when implementing are setting clear expectations and trust. Make sure employees understand their responsibilities to the organization, and then trust they will not take advantage of it.

Create companywide "turn off" hours. Technology allows us to access work anytime anywhere. It can work in our favor such as the example above, or it can work against us. Just because we are able to access work after 5 or on the weekends, doesn’t mean we should. Employees need time to disconnect. Company policies like “turn off” hours allow them to do so.  

Recognize.

Praise and recognition are very powerful in the workplace, and have the ability to motivate and shape employee behavior. In addition to rewarding employees for common definitions of achievement (hitting sales goals, positive client interaction, etc), recognize employees who make healthy decisions during the day. This sends the message that wellness in the workplace is valued and supported.

I leave you with a quote: “If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way.” These simple changes to the workplace have the potential to create a ripple effect that can change your office culture for the better.


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