Healthy employees are happier, more productive, and less likely to miss work, but employee health programs can be expensive. Thankfully, there are several easy, inexpensive strategies you can implement to improve the health and wellbeing of your workforce.
Keeping Employees Healthier
These measures can all have a positive impact on employee health:
- Improve the air quality. Negative air quality can make employees feel unwell, aggravating their allergies and/or making it difficult to breathe, even if the effect is subtle. There are several ways to improve the quality of the air, but the most notable is to upgrade, clean, and maintain your HVAC system, including the ductwork. You may also be able to improve the air quality by keeping the windows open when appropriate, and by installing live plants in the work environment.
- Encourage frequent breaks. Breaks are important for employees for several reasons. First, they allow employees to momentarily de-stress, and soft reset their minds; this goes a long way in making the workday more manageable, and improving cognitive efficiency. Second, they encourage employees to get up and move around; sitting down all day isn’t good for the body.
- Encourage vacations. Similarly, it’s important to encourage your employees to take vacations at least once annually. Vacations come with a host of mental and physical health benefits, giving people a natural high, improving their happiness and life satisfaction, and reducing their chances of burnout. If your employees feel like they can’t or aren’t allowed to take a vacation, they’ll end up feeling miserable.
- Host walking meetings. Meetings are a regular necessity for most businesses, but it’s possible to make them both more interesting and more beneficial for long-term health; turn them into walking meetings. Instead of sitting around in a room, take the team and discuss what you need to discuss while walking around the block or around the office.
- Offer standing desks (or something similar). Again, sitting all day is a bad thing, so it’s important to counteract it however you can. That might mean investing in something like treadmill desks or standing desks, which force employees to stand. It might also mean investing in better ergonomics and other medical office furniture, so you can at least encourage good posture.
- Institute a bike to work program. Your employees need to get to work somehow, and for many, it’s too far to walk—but it might not be too far to bike. Institute a bike to work program, and encourage your employees to bike together on their way into the office. They’ll get a bit of exercise every day, and simultaneously have the opportunity to bond with one another along the way.
- Educate employees on health basics. You might be surprised how many of your employees have misconceptions or no real knowledge about health basics. You can make it your responsibility to better educate them, providing them with information on what really counts as a “healthy” diet, the importance of regular exercise, and why taking breaks from work is important for long-term mental health. You can also recommend outside resources to employees who are looking for more information or support (if you can’t offer them yourself).
- Subsidize gym memberships. Many people would go to the gym regularly if they had a membership, but are reluctant to get a membership because of the cost (as well as fears of getting started). As an employer, if you subsidize your employee gym memberships, you can gently incentivize getting started. Employees who exercise on a regular basis will be happier, healthier, and more productive.
- Stretch midday. Light forms of exercise throughout the day are a great way to stay in shape, promoting blood flow and the release of endorphins, as well as the reduction of stress. One of the easiest ways to exercise midday is with stretching, which you can do without leaving your office or cubicle. Guide the entire team in a coordinated stretching break at some point in the middle of the day.
- Provide healthier food and drink options. You can also facilitate better eating habits by including healthier food and drink options in the work environment. Reduce the junk food available in vending machines, and instead provide employees with fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy snacks.
Complementing a Healthcare Program
Most employers should consider implementing these employee health measures in addition to, rather than in place of, a formal benefits program. Not all businesses or business owners will be able to afford an employee benefits plan, but if you can, they’re often well worth the costs—both because they attract more talented, loyal employees, and because they keep your employees in better shape throughout their tenure with your business.