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17 ways to promote health and wellness at your startup

You want happier, healthier employees. From promoting stress management and better sleep to offering perks like paid fitness memberships, here are the basic practices to implement.

Encourage healthy behavior for your employees. (Photo by from Pexels)
This is a guest post by Ameer Asghar, marketing manager at Philly-based health and wellness benefits company IncentFit.
Wellness has been a core part of our DNA since we began our startup in 2013. We have transparently promoted our own internal wellness programs — and it has had a huge impact on building our company culture.

Like most startups, we’re often working long hours, and at quick speed. So we really needed to implement some sort of wellness program from the get-go to balance stress-levels, and build team camaraderie. To add to that, with our office being based in a busy city, we really wanted to promote healthy behaviors to counter the sedentary lifestyles that we are all (unfortunately) used to!

Some of the specific wellness perks that we’ve rolled out are rewards for staying active, wellness challenges, and our own health newsletter that is personalized for each employee. We’re also obsessive about tracking how our wellness program is going; our team usually logs well over 15,000 miles walked per year. Asides from wellness rewards programs, we also have perks like flex time that let people be able to shift a few working hours each week so that they can take a mental break, or go catch up with a friend.

That being said, wellness is something that any company can incorporate into their culture. There are countless benefits of promoting health and wellness in the workplace, but here are a few of the main ones:

  • Improved employee health behaviors
  • Improved employee health
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Improved morale
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Improved attendance, and reduced absenteeism
  • Reduced healthcare costs
  • Improved teamwork

All of the points above sound like a human resource professional’s dream outcome, but you might be a bit lost as to how you can pull off this culture reform. So, here’s a list of 17 ways that you can get started on promoting a culture of health and wellness at your startup.

1. Encourage healthy eating habits

Our food has a direct impact on our performance, and productivity. Generally people are not educated about healthy eating habits, so here are a few ways to do that:

  • Host a healthy eating lunch and learn
  • Starting a healthy eating challenge or contest
  • Sending out a monthly newsletter with healthy recipes

2. Evaluate employee health risks proactively

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. It’s easy to understand your employees’ health, proactively using these measures:

  • Conduct employee health assessments
  • Track use of sick time
  • Compare year-over-year insurance claims

3. Offer paid fitness memberships

Many employers offer fitness memberships as a part of their fringe benefits, and employees love making use of these. Oftentimes, employers can even get tax incentives for offering fitness memberships to their employees.

At IncentFit, our team members are rewarded for every visit they make to a fitness facility.

4. Provide access to help lines for employees

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress in your workplace is to offer employees a safe outlet to share their stress, and grievances. Gaining access to a help line may lend a hand in reducing workplace stress.

5. Evaluate office ergonomics

Adapting the workplace and work tools to employees’ physiological needs is a great way to reduce repetitive strain injuries. This is especially important for white collar work environments.

We provide all of our team members with convertible desks, so that they can choose between standing or sitting whenever they’d like.

6. Promote stress management techniques

Stress is natural, and just a part of being a human. Stress can arise from the workplace, or even personal circumstances. Actively promoting stress management techniques will not only promote a culture of proactive wellness, but also help employees develop healthy stress management habits.

7. Make exercise exciting

Exercise improves oxygen, and nutrient intake, as well as helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. It is also an awesome way to reduce stress. You can make exercise exciting by hosting accessible and safe exercise challenges, or even incentivize exercise for employees.

We’ve got wellness perks at our company that let our team members get paid to walk, run, jog, bike, etc. This way folks are incentivized to build healthy habits!

Members of the IncentFit team on Zoom. (Courtesy image)

8. Discuss sleep habits

Sleep plays a crucial role in good health, and well-being for everyone. Shoddy sleep habits can significantly impact job performance as well. It may be beneficial to bring in a sleep expert who can share guidance with the team on healthy sleep habits.

9. Minimize mental health stigma

Correcting negative language, or information about mental health can be the first step toward reducing mental health stigma. These past few years have been a challenge for everyone, and maintaining a healthy attitude towards mental health will go a long way in promoting a healthy workplace culture.

10. Encourage collaboration

Humans are social beings, so collaboration is absolutely essential for our mental health, and wellbeing. Here are a few ways to promote collaboration:

  • Cultivate openness and transparency
  • Establish a judgment-free idea-sharing culture
  • Encourage collaboration across departments
  • Lead from the top down
  • Implement the right technology to promote collaboration

11. Promote a smoke-free workplace

Providing help to individuals who are trying to quit tobacco use through a smoking cessation program will be a great way to help those who are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle.

12. Keep employees connected

In this era of remote work, employee connectedness is more important than ever. Here are some best practices to do so:

  • Stay connected through workplace communication technologies (Zoom, Asana, etc.)
  • Foster social interactions through social hours, video chats, and virtual team-building activities
  • Ask for, and listen to employee feedback
  • Recognize employee contributions
  • Support your newest hires by actively training, communicating, and providing them resources throughout their onboarding process
  • Be flexible with employees, give your employees autonomy around when and how they work (aside from team meetings that are at set times)
  • Offer a mix of remote, and in-house work options

13. Encourage employees to rest

Employers need to create a healthy culture of taking time off. Here are a few ways to do so:

  • Leading by example
  • Be tuned in to your employees needs, and habits
  • Incorporate time off in your culture
  • Offer time off as a sign of appreciation for your employees
  • Be genuinely excited for your employees when they request time off
  • Make sure information about taking time off is made clear during onboarding, and in the employee handbook

14. Encourage giving back

Volunteering or donating can instill a sense of gratitude and generosity in your workplace culture. Also, giving back is an awesome de-stressor. Here are a few ways to encourage philanthropic practices:

  • Find an activity, or charity that sparks the interests of your employees
  • Create a yearly company tradition to give back to those in need
  • Offer employees an opportunity to volunteer at charities during work hours

15. Boost morale

Morale is negatively impacted by things like workload, support (or lack thereof), views of leadership, and employee recognition. Here are some expert-suggested methods for boosting morale:

  • Touch base with employees early, and often. Ask how they’re doing!
  • Address growth opportunities. What are employees looking for next in their careers?
  • Offer flexibility with work hours, or work-from-home options. Amid the pandemic, the need for this is more obvious than ever.

16. Encourage pets

Sometimes spending too much time close to a project, problem, or any work related task can inhibit productivity and increase stress. Pets remind people to pause, and take a step back to relax. Could your company offer pet insurance as a perk?

17. Create a wellness program

This is the major strategy behind promoting a culture of health and wellness at your organization, where it becomes a part of the company DNA. By creating a robust wellness program, you are helping your employees develop healthy habits, and avoid health complications that can lead to chronic diseases.

Companies: IncentFit

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