Carrots, Broccoli & Apples — Oh My! Actual Examples of Successful Employee Wellness Programs
It’s a new year, which means people have made resolutions. One of the most popular ones? Getting fit by losing weight and exercising more.
But how does this relate to business, and why are we discussing it here on our blog? Unfortunately, our business lives contribute to many of our health woes, due to the fact so many of us sit in offices in front of our computers all day. And employees’ chronic health problems come with a price. This Gallup poll points to the fact that unhealthy workers’ absenteeism cost US businesses 153 billion dollars in lost productivity each year.
Many of these chronic problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes, are the result of poor diets and sedentary lifestyles (e.g. sitting in a cube all day). In other words, they’re preventable.
Experts suggest that 75% of healthcare costs is spent on preventable conditions. The good news? Preventative healthcare, which includes employee wellness programs, has been predicted to potentially save 1.9 trillion dollars per year. And this “savings” doesn’t even account for other possible benefits, such as increased productivity and happiness in a person’s day-to-day life. It’s no wonder, then, that employee health and wellness are such hot topics.
The question is, what can small businesses do to encourage employees to have a more active and healthful lifestyle (while still making sure the day-to-day work gets done on time)? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Each business needs to create a program and culture that works for its own unique environment. That said, we reached out and talked to several small businesses that are doing their part in helping their employees embrace a more active lifestyle.
Our Guests for This Post
We talked to Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers, a personal finance website.
Crystal L. Kendrick, president of The Voice of Your Customer, a marketing firm that assists clients to penetrate niche markets using surveys, focus groups, secret shopping, and media campaigns.
Antonia Genov, an account coordinator with Clearpoint Agency, which has developed award-winning PR and marketing communications programs for B2B and B2C clients in technology, consumer products, financial and professional services, manufacturing and biotech industries.
We hope their insights, innovative ideas, and advice will provide you with the info and inspiration you need to get a health and wellness program started in your organization.
QUESTION: Talk about the ways your organization encourages and promotes health and wellness among your employees.
ANDREW: We send our content to our staff, and at the beginning of 2012, we started including a wellness section. In the beginning it was pretty minor: we started listing out some fun (but informative) facts about the negative effects that junk food and fast food has on your body. We listed calorie counts and grams of fat for some of the more popular fast food items, and we also encouraged our staff to take a healthier approach to their diet. Then we started to include the benefits of exercise, such as how much weight you can lose by exercising a certain amount of time each week, how much exercise you should be getting, etc.
CRYSTAL: In April 2011, our firm coordinated the Greater Cincinnati Healthy Monday Conference designed to introduce Healthy Monday Initiatives to health promotion decision makers at restaurants, schools, work sites, and community organizations. As a small business, we knew that we had to implement a health and wellness program throughout our organization that was effective and affordable. In April 2011, we implemented the following initiatives:
- Meatless Mondays
- Bring Your Lunch To Work Days
- Walking initiatives to needed services (bank, post office, library)
- Team Walks during the lunch hour
- 2, 5 and 64 Efforts – Encouragement to eat 2 servings of dairy daily, 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and 64 ounces of water
- Daily Vitamins – Encouragement to take multi-vitamins and supplements each day
- Daily Stretches – Encouragement to complete a series of stretching exercises provided by a local chiropractor to prevent tension and injuries caused by sitting and/or typing for long periods of time.
- For Lent in 2012, we all gave up drinking any beverage other than water.
ANTONIA: We are located only a block away from the local YMCA, and Clearpoint gives a free membership to all employees as a benefit. Clearpoint provides healthy snacks for the office, such as veggies, fruits, cheese sticks, granola bars, and others. Recently, Clearpoint purchased office equipment designed for healthy back and posture. Clearpoint encourages employees to take short breaks several times a day, and take a walk around the building.
QUESTION: What has the response been and what sort of results have employees seen?
ANDREW: Over the last year our staff has lost over 100 pounds.
CRYSTAL: Before we made health a priority, several team members experienced high blood pressure, high sugar levels, and high cholesterol. Today, all of our team [members] have reduced their levels and none of the ladies are currently taking medications to address these conditions. We also noticed that we have not had any team members call out sick for illnesses related to these conditions in 2012.
ANTONIA:Everyone here goes to the Y on lunch breaks or after the work day. Several people especially enjoy the classes they offer there, such as spinning, zumba, and so on. Most of us have been taking advantage of [the short breaks that Clearpoint encourages we take several times a day] and it helps us clear our minds and stretch our bodies for a bit.
QUESTION: Why do you think having a formal or informal wellness program is so important?
ANDREW: Having a wellness program is important because it offers both your business and your staff several benefits. The employees improve their overall health and become more productive, which benefits both them and the business.
CRYSTAL: Creating a healthier environment was important to us for a variety of reasons. It was important for us to implement initiatives that we were promoting on behalf of our clients – Healthy Mondays, Tobacco Cessation, Workplace Safety, Energy Conservation. Additionally, creating a healthier environment helped to reduce unplanned absences due to illnesses related to lifestyle conditions. As a small team, having one or more persons call out sick can really impact our productivity.
ANTONIA: Having a healthy office results in happier and more productive employees. Wellness programs are important because with the sedentary office work that most of us do nowadays, these habits will keep employees moving and encourage them to have a healthy lifestyle. Often journals come up with new research on how bad sitting at a desk for long hours is; therefore, we need to remember to step out for a few minutes and even take a short walk. Every small thing counts! Working at a company that is encouraging of healthy habits is a big plus.
QUESTION: For small-to-medium-sized businesses thinking about creating their own programs in 2013, what 2-3 tips/advice can you offer based on your company’s experience?
ANDREW: Start off modestly, and be sure your staff is interested. If not, then don’t bother wasting your time. Don’t try to force anything on them, and make participation voluntary. However, if they do choose to participate, you can offer a variety of incentives. Even if your funds are limited, there’s no reason why you can’t at least try to educate your staff on the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
CRYSTAL: For small firms, I would recommend that you create a plan that is inclusive of the team, encouraging, relatively reasonable to comply, and fun. Most employees do not want to be badgered about their health. They will not participate in programs that seem difficult, unreasonable, or uncomfortable. It is important to have team buy-in to make the program work. The program does not have to be expensive or formal, only encouraging and effective.
ANTONIA: Working out in teams works better sometimes because employees keep each other motivated. Remind them that they need to take breaks, this way they won’t feel guilty for stepping out for a bit even if they’re working on a deadline. Try wellness programs for a short time and see if they work for your team. If not, consider different approaches. If you’re getting snacks for the office, try healthy options and ask employees for their desires. This way you can get different things every time. Set time aside and bring a health coach in for a lecture on nutrition or a related topic. If you are not close to a gym, or don’t have any work-out equipment at the office, you can always go for a run or walk. You can make a difference for your lifestyle with every little thing you do.
A Word from Amsterdam Printing
We want to thank Andrew, Crystal, and Antonia for participating. We also wanted to take a moment and share what we do at Amsterdam Printing with our employees. Our company offers yearly wellness screenings that assist with insurance premiums, and it provides discounts on Zumba classes and gym memberships.
By the way, another great way to get employees excited about these programs is to provide them custom gear, like personalized water bottles (pictured), custom company T-shirts to work out in, and lunch and cooler bags.
Now we want to hear from YOU! What ways do you encourage health and wellness in your organization? Share in the comments.