From yoga and meditation classes to gym memberships and nutrition programs, bringing wellness initiatives into the workplace can significantly improve the physical and mental wellbeing of staff members.
Studies show that good employee health is good for business, boosting engagement and productivity, and reducing turnover, absenteeism and presenteeism.
With that in mind, here are five top tips for implementing wellness initiatives in the workplace from Gina Carlon-Tozer, Director at MindFit at Work.
1. Develop a tailored solution
Workplace wellness programs can encompass any number of health-promoting practices, from yoga, meditation and mindfulness classes to massage and anti-smoking campaigns.
However, before introducing a new initiative, remember that wellness programs are more effective when they are specifically tailored to people’s goals and needs.
“Meditation, yoga and mindfulness are hot topics at the moment, but they might not be the right fit for everyone,” says Carlon-Tozer. “For example, with some manufacturing clients we might be more likely to do stress-management or quit-smoking programs, while banks might do the more innovative stuff, such as mindfulness intensives and boot camps.
“It’s really important that you understand your audience, because every organisation, industry and age group will be different.”
Consider running surveys or focus groups to find out which programs employees would find most helpful and relevant.
Suggested initiatives might include:
- Gym memberships
- Fitness classes, including yoga, tai chi and dance
- Relaxation, meditation and mindfulness classes
- Quit-smoking programs
- Healthy-cooking classes
- Alternative medicines
- Parenting programs
- Online health training
- Performance psychology
- Fundamentals of sleep courses
- Health screening
2. Make it fun
Making wellness initiatives enjoyable is key to maximising employee engagement and participation, and is therefore vital to the program’s success.
“You need to offer lots of different activities and make it really engaging, relevant and high impact,” Carlon-Tozer says. “Participants are much more likely to retain information if it’s provided to them in way that’s fun and accessible.”
3. Follow the leader
Wellness programs won’t work as a one-stop solution. According to Carlon-Tozer, they need to demonstrate a business’s long-term commitment to the wellbeing of its employees.
“If something looks like it’s just a one-off, and it hasn’t got leadership support, it can actually decrease morale,” she says. “That’s when you can hear people saying things like ‘I’ve seen this all before’ or ‘Leadership don’t care’. So it’s got to be a leadership-driven program with ongoing engagement.”
4. Use evidence-based techniques
It’s important to make sure any wellness practices are steeped in science, otherwise you may be wasting time and money.
“On the one hand it’s got to be fun, but you’ve also got to be using really research-backed and evidence-based tools,” Carlon-Tozer says. “There’s no reason why people can’t do that because there are enough studies around now.”
5. Sustainability is key
According to Carlon-Tozer, wellness practices must be sustainable outside the workplace to have the desired long-term effects.
“It’s about making sure you have strategies in place so the staff can do it at home in their own time,” she says. “For example, we have an app that clients can use as part of our training programs, and we often train up coaches in-house who can ensure the people have ongoing support.”
As evidence that supports workplace-wellness initiatives continues to mount, Carlon-Tozer has seen her once mainly corporate client base expand to include manufacturing, construction and mining companies.
Within these industries, she’s seen wellness programs achieve incredible results, including a significant decrease in injuries and stress claims, reduced absenteeism, higher retention rates, and increased levels of engagement and wellbeing at work.
“I think as a society we are starting to have a better understanding of the costs of ill mental health, and there is definitely an increased recognition that wellbeing is important,” she says. “There’s never been a better time for companies to get on board and provide their staff with really innovative, high-impact and targeted wellbeing programs.”