How to Encourage Your Employees to Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle

by Thom Tracy

4 min read

Healthy employees are more productive, so it makes sense to invest in health-promoting programs and incentives for your staff. By encouraging your employees to make healthier choices, you reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, and show employees you care about them. Simple changes and incentives help employees improve nutrition, increase activity levels, and improve mental health.

Required Breaks

You want dedicated employees that work hard, but skipping breaks can lead to unhealthy effects. Your employees need that mental break from work that happens at lunch and break times. Sitting in the same spot indoors for an extended period of time may hurt creativity and innovative thinking. While the dedication is great, taking breaks means your employees come back refreshed, motivated, and better able to focus. Require your employees to take their regular breaks to show them you’re serious about their mental health and giving them the time out they need to perform well.

Wellness Program

Wellness programs encourage employees to take charge of their own health. The programs usually include health screenings to give employees a picture of their current status and to promote preventative care. Employee wellness programs might include incentives, health fairs, classes, and weight management programs. What you include is up to you, but getting input from your employees helps you tailor the program to make it more motivational. These wellness programs promote a positive, healthy company culture that encourages employees to make overall healthier choices.

Health Membership Reimbursements

Small businesses often lack the resources to build an on-site gym, so an alternative is to offer a reimbursement toward a membership at a local gym, weight loss program, personal trainer, or similar healthy programs. If you don’t have the budget to cover a portion of membership costs, check with local gyms to see if they offer a corporate discount rate for your employees. They still get an incentive to join without costing you any money. Another option is to bring in a personal trainer or fitness instructor to host weekly workouts in the conference room or other large space at the office.

Health Challenges

If an on-site gym isn’t possible, and you don’t have a huge budget for a robust wellness program, you can still encourage employees to make better choices by organizing health-based challenges. Some ideas for the challenges include weight loss, exercise, sleep, nutrition, or kicking a bad habit. If you host a weight lost challenge, base it on pounds, inches, or percentage of body weight lost. For an exercise challenge, you might award a point for every 30 minutes of exercise. Encourage employees to join in with incentives, either with one grand prize or an incentive everyone can get when they earn a certain number of points. It can be something simple like an extra casual day or a few hours of paid time off. Another good idea is to partner with a local business for incentives. Ask a local sporting goods shop to offer a discount for any challenge participants who earn a certain number of points, or ask for a prize donation for the top performer in the challenge.

Healthy Snacks

Do you stock your break room fridge with drinks? Do you keep snacks on hand to fend off the afternoon munchies? If so, are those snacks healthy? Ditch the unhealthy pop in favour of a water cooler or healthier bottled drinks. Stock oatmeal or granola for healthy breakfasts to get the day started right. Fill a bowl with fresh fruit on the break-room counter to boost energy mid-afternoon. These healthier snack options make smart food choices easier, and they set a healthy tone for the workplace. You don’t have to ban doughnuts completely, but keep those sugary snacks to a minimum and only for special occasions.

Generous Sick Time

No matter how many healthy choices your employees make, sickness is inevitable. By offering a generous sick time benefit and making employees feel like they can use it guilt-free, you make it easier for your staff to get well faster. You don’t want employees coming to work when they’re sick; they spread germs to coworkers, which causes more absences. Plus, productivity goes down significantly when you’re not feeling well. Your employees may be at work physically, but are they really getting much done? Let them have time to rest and recover, so they come back strong and ready to work.

Company Outings

A big part of a healthy lifestyle is balance. Too much work without a little relaxation leads to burnout and can drain creativity. Boost employee morale by planning non-work-related activities as a group. Invite your staff for an afternoon at the bowling alley to celebrate hitting a huge sales goal, or plan a family picnic on the weekend. Bring in a massage therapist to provide free chair massages. Even a healthy catered lunch once a month is a way to show employees that they’re important. Those little outings help relieve stress for improved balance and encourage employees to bond, which can help them work better as a team.Create an environment that promotes wise choices to keep your staff healthier physically and mentally. That investment in health pays off with higher attendance, increased morale, and greater productivity to keep your business at the top of its game.

References & Resources

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