Wellness in the workplace has come a long way from its origins of subsidized gym memberships and fruit in the lunchroom. Now we understand that employee wellness is more than physical health; it is a complex interaction of many factors that improve quality of life overall. Great Workplaces understand this interaction and actively promote wellness within their walls and beyond. They also recognize that workplace wellness has been significantly impacted by the pandemic and the increase in remote work. While people will be slowly transitioning back to the office, remote work is here to stay and it’s important that wellness initiatives keep up with this new reality. Here are some initiatives to explore and ideas for how you can adapt them to meet the needs of all employees.
Physical fitness is where it all started and its importance to wellness hasn’t diminished. Better health is better for productivity, happiness, creativity, mental acuity, and the list goes on. And by making fitness fun and including the team you reap more rewards. Remember to get creative with your remote workers and include them in the challenges as well. Adopt On-the-Go technologies so they can walk, run and stretch right along with the team in the office.
- Provide an in-office gym with shower facilities
- Give away fitness related items for rewards and recognition
- Daily stretches for the whole team
- Host walking meetings (and bring remote workers along with you on their phones)
- Participate in Bike to Work
- Fitness challenges with prizes
Good nutrition is essential to wellness. Not only does it impact the ability to think clearly, it also affects mood and energy. And it’s not just what we eat that is important, how and when we eat also impacts overall wellness. Consider the following:
- Replace high sugar snacks in the lunchroom with things like fruit, yogurt and nuts
- Share pictures of employees’ lunches and the healthiest one gets a prize
- Encourage water over coffee or soda
- Host healthy recipe sharing
- Allow employees sufficient breaks to eat properly throughout the day
Mental health issues are becoming more mainstream and less stigmatized, and workplaces are recognizing the importance of overall mental health. It impacts everything from communication and interpersonal relationships to leadership and absenteeism and there are some interesting programs you can implement to promote mental wellness.
- Get involved in mental health initiatives in the community
- Use inspirational quotes and focus on positivity
- Host lunch and learns on sleep habits, stress management and mindfulness
- Talk about meditation and provide time to practice
- Engage mental health resources for employees and their families
- Explore mental health apps that provide easy, accessible tools for anyone, anywhere
Work is important but so are many other things in life. Finding balance is the best way to ensure all aspects of life are taken care of and this promotes overall wellness. People are more productive when professional and personal obligations can be taken care of and when they know their employer trusts them to get their work done even when personal issues arise.
- Offer sabbaticals
- Ensure employees have, and take, sufficient time off (consider unlimited vacation)
- Provide sick leave so people can stay at home until healthy
- Provide generous leave time (maternity, paternity, family care, etc..)
- Support off-site work
- Provide flexible work conditions (flex time, flex hours, job share, etc.)
Being productive is more than working hard; it’s working smart. Workplaces can, and should, be organized so that the environment is conducive to healthy work habits that contribute to wellness. And when the workplace is an employee’s home, finding a productive balance is particularly challenging. The line between work and home becomes blurred, office spaces are crammed into corners, interruptions are constant… so while working from home often sounds idyllic, the reality is less so. Focussing on this element is important for all employees and particularly critical for remote workers.
- Do an ergonomic assessment of workstations and home offices and support the suggestions made including lighting and desk suggestions.
- Provide the tools and technology needed to complete quality work
- Share funny interruptions with pictures and videos
- Host virtual breaks and lunches with the whole team
- Establish no-meeting/no-email times to encourage enough time away from work
- Regularly talk about workload and adjust as necessary
A Collaborative Environment
Collaborative workspaces also promote wellness as they encourage the social nature of people. When people work together on a regular basis, they build connections, communicate better, are open to different perspectives and have healthier overall workplace relationships. All of which promote overall wellness. Again, focus on creating virtual opportunities for collaboration as well.
- Meet outside of the office
- Encourage in-person meetings where possible
- Have enough space and adequate seating for full teams to meet
- Create open areas for people to gather informally
- Adopt technology that allows remote workers to ‘meet’ regularly
Camaraderie at Work
As with collaboration, social factors impact people and friendships are important. Given the amount of time spent with colleagues, an important part of wellness is encouraging positive relationships in the workplace. And while we may not choose our coworkers like we choose our friends; these people can become more than workplace acquaintances. This element is particularly challenging for remote workers and there are no easy solutions. The best approach is to keep trying new ideas to connect remote workers with their teammates and where budgets, and circumstances, allow, bring people together in person as much as possible.
- Encourage cross functional teams
- Create mentoring opportunities
- Host off-site events regularly
- Design a games room for employees to hang out
- Establish social traditions like Friday happy hours, weekly lunches, and cultural pot-lucks
- Use ‘Buddies’ as part of welcoming practices
People thrive on success and achievement and part of that is progressing in their career. This may mean learning new skills, adding new responsibilities, changing roles and traditional promotions. As part of overall wellbeing, workplaces need to be providing a wide range of opportunities for employees to set, track and attain their professional goals. Here are some simple ways to encourage development:
- Acknowledge and celebrate achievements
- Provide leadership development opportunities
- Share success stories in newsletters or meetings
- Establish development paths that go up and through the organization
- Subsidize development courses
- Use stretch assignments to challenge employees
- Set professional goals and meet regularly to discuss
Personal Goal Setting
To supplement professional goal setting, show support for personal goals in the workplace as well. These goals are less about specific professional results and more about improvements to the whole person that will benefit them in all aspects of life. With the challenges dealing with the pandemic, these personal goals are even more important to overall wellbeing and can have a significant impact of wellness. These goals include:
- Active listening
- Financial health
- Public speaking
- Time management
- Stress management
Giving Back to the Community
Giving back is rewarding on many levels and it benefits the mind and body as well as the community. Doing good, feels good and it has the added bonus of building workplace relationships and having fun as a team. From fundraising to community events there is never a shortage of ways to get involved.
- Adopt responsible environmental practices for reusing and recycling
- Support charitable payroll deductions
- Donate a certain percentage of proceeds
- Sponsor a community sports team
- Create a team-challenge for $s raised
- Join a community sponsored event and bring the whole team
- Ask staff what organizations they want to support and include the whole team
Aligning Values with Wellness
Examine what you are modeling from the top and endeavor to incorporate wellness practices into everyday life. Do top executives take sufficient holidays, work balanced hours, and keep their stress in check? Do they participate in challenges and activities that promote wellness? Consistency between the message and practice is important and will encourage people to get involved much more than fancy slogans or slick pamphlets.
- Revisit values statements and incorporate wellness principles
- Include wellness metrics in regular reports
- Examine policies and practices for inconsistency
- Survey employees on wellness factors – discuss and improve as necessary
Wellness affects overall health and happiness and that has a direct impact on the workplace. And as we deal with the impacts of the pandemic on wellbeing in general and at work specifically, employee wellness has renewed importance and unique challenges. Ultimately, happier people are more productive, more creative, and more present so it is worth every effort to encourage and maintain employee wellbeing. And really, the effort is not that onerous. Start with a few wellness practices and gradually add in practices that make the most sense for your people. As more and more organizations focus on wellness, the tools and supports provided at work will translate into a healthier and stronger society; something that benefits us all.
Organizations that value the well-being of their employees, that acknowledge and recognize them, build a work culture that increases productivity, retains top talent and pushes boundaries together. Great Place to Work® makes it easy to survey your employees, uncover actionable insights and get recognized for your great company culture. Clients apply our insights, advice, and tools to fuel the vision, decisions and actions that drive business performance.
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