Enter the words ‘office wellness’ into Google and more than 4 million webpages appear. It’s no surprise that wellness programs are hot in office settings right now. A simple on-site yoga class, for example, can serve as a morale booster, employee efficiency enhancer, and even decrease health care costs for an employer’s bottom line.
Michael Smulders, founder of Bakery on Main in East Hartford, Connecticut, wanted to start a wellness program for his 20 employees, but didn’t have the office space to bring in a fitness instructor or massage therapist.
“Starting Jan. 1, we launched a program where we match the price of an off-site wellness program for our employees, dollar for dollar,” he says. “If they are interested in participating in activities not covered by insurance, such as yoga, massage and gym memberships, it helps them out.”
Even though it’s only been a few weeks, Smulders is seeing a shift in his employees.
“Everyone seems really happy about it,” he says. “They just give us the invoice for the class or program and we write them a check. It is easy.”
Dr. Marc Tinsley, owner of Fitness for the Rest of Us based in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, says wellness programs are best implemented with the help of a little structure.
“Start with a committee; this could be one person in the company or a few,” he suggests. “Then, task that committee with bringing in speakers to talk about healthy living and schedule lunch and learn sessions surrounding health.
Tinsley also recommends surveying employees to learn of their concerns and needs surrounding a wellness program.
Patty Purpur is the director of Stanford University’s Health Promotion Network and has implemented wellness programs in offices at Yahoo!, Google, and Cisco. I sat down with her to learn how small business owners can start their own program.
“First, call a company meeting and explain that you have ideas on how you can make the company healthier,” she says. “Ask the employees what they think about starting up a wellness program and ask for their input and ideas.”
If your question is met with blank stares, here are some of Purpur’s ideas on how to get things rolling:
- Instead of planning a happy hour at a bar once a week, schedule healthy happy hours. For example, at 5 p.m. on a Thursday, schedule a team walk, a yoga class, or meditation hour for your employees.
- Restructure the culture of food at the office. Instead of bringing donuts to company meetings, bring fresh fruit and whole grain snacks and encourage others to do the same.
- Send out motivational quotes once a week. Check out QuoteActions for free tips and quotes.
- Regularly conduct meetings on a local trail or track. The activity will get everyone’s juices flowing and you never know what creative thoughts may surface.
- Stock your break rooms with motivational reading materials and healthy snacks.