Americans today are expecting more from their workplace than ever before. And one of these expectations is workplace wellness.
It’s no real surprise either, considering what we’ve all been through. The pandemic was a traumatic experience that left many people with lingering mental and physical health concerns. Inevitably, employees are now turning to their employers to address and support their mental and physical wellbeing.
Companies that don't do this may risk higher turnover, lower morale, and increased healthcare costs. Conversely, at companies that support wellbeing initiatives, 89% of employees are more likely to recommend the business as a good place to work.
Let’s look at a number of activities that will take your wellness program to the next level.
Physical Workplace Wellness Activities
Physical workplace wellness activities promote more than movement – they also include sleep, nutrition, and preventative medical care. Try incorporating one (or all!) of these activities to engage employees in supporting their physical health.
Activity challenges are a great way to inspire employees to get moving. Whether they’re training for a marathon, swimming laps at the local pool, or playing pickleball with friends, increased physical activity improves longevity and ‘affects nearly every cell in the body.’
With activity challenges, focus on increasing movement rather than hitting a specific target. Because each person has their own unique degree of fitness, a general goal will be too easy for some and too hard for others. Instead focus on increasing steps, sitting less, or exercising more often.
People are quick to sacrifice those zzz’s when life gets busy, but a lack of adequate sleep can have long-term physical and mental consequences. Research has shown that sleeping fewer than eight hours a night increases the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and the common cold.
Try hosting a sleep challenge to encourage employees to get the rest they need. Like with any challenge, the goal is to use the short-term challenge as a starting point for long-term change.
Participate in community walking events
Community walking events don’t just offer the chance for physical activity – they’re also a great way to build camaraderie between the team of participants. They also give employees the chance to give back to local organizations.
Relay for Life is a fundraiser benefiting the American Cancer Society that takes place in over 5,000 locations across the U.S., and there are likely other local walking events that interested employees could participate in.
Walk and talks
In the U.S., sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950, and the average office worker sits for 15 hours a day. Some activities, like typing emails or handling complicated client calls, usually require employees to be at their computer. With some flexibility, though, there are a number of tasks that can be done away from the desk, and meetings are one of them.
For remote employees, walk and talks could consist of audio-only meetings, giving them the chance to listen and contribute while they stroll around their home or neighborhood. In the office, encourage employees to use one-on-ones as an opportunity to do a few laps together around the building while they talk.
Classes from local wellness providers
If your employees work in person, ask local fitness teachers if they’d be willing to come in and lead a class. People get a chance to move during the work day, and as an added bonus, these classes can create interest in future sessions with the instructor.
Just be sure you make the necessary schedule adjustments so that employees don’t end up staying late to make up for lost work time!
Employee recreation team
If you work with a close knit group of people who genuinely enjoy spending time together – even outside of work – an employee recreation team is an incredibly engaging wellness activity. Sure, you can go for the standard baseball team, but don’t be afraid to try something different!
Start a bowling league or put together a hiking crew. Talk to employees about what physical activities they enjoy and plan around that for maximum participation.
On-site screenings and vaccines
Most workplace wellness activities focus on supporting physical activity, but don’t forget to provide preventative offerings as well. On site wellness screenings and vaccines have several benefits. First, you’re removing the hurdle of scheduling doctor’s appointments and taking time off work for a physical exam.
In addition, many insurance providers offer special incentives and rewards for health screenings and vaccines, and employees will likely appreciate your support in completing those tasks with ease! Preventative measures are also beneficial for your company’s bottom line. During the 2019-2020 flu season, the flu vaccine prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza cases. How much does sickness cost your organization each year?
Google ‘healthy lunch ideas for work’ and you’ll receive more than 237 billion results. Why not reach out to a local chef or restaurant and plan a class that supplies employees with nutritious meal inspiration? Make sure employees leave with a full stomach and some great brown bag ideas. Depending on your budget, you can cover the session fee or choose a low-cost option that allows everyone to participate.
Mental and Emotional Workplace Wellness Activities
Mental and physical health are closely linked; mental health problems increase the risk of physical health problems, and vice versa. Each year, depression and anxiety cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion.
In a 2021 survey, 68% of senior HR leaders shared that they’re making employee wellbeing and mental health a top concern. If you haven’t already, it’s time to prioritize the mental and emotional wellbeing of your employees.
Keep your people in the wellness loop by sharing weekly newsletters via email or your favorite communication channel. What information would be beneficial to share?
- new research on mental health
- seasonal tips (info on SAD, ideas for navigating the stress of holidays, etc.)
- mental health facts
- mental health FAQs answered by a professional
By no means are weekly newsletters limited to mental health. In fact, the best wellness newsletters include a combination of physical, mental, and social wellbeing information.
Random act of kindness
It feels good to give back, and research has shown that acts of kindness can have a positive impact on our emotional health. Perpetually kind people have 23% less of the stress hormone cortisol than the average population.
In addition, studies have shown that frequent acts of kindness can reduce depression and increase positive moods. This workplace kindness calendar from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is available to help you brainstorm some creative ways to show kindness in your office.
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and emotional reactivity and increase focus and cognitive flexibility. In one study, participants experienced a 58% drop in anxiety levels and a 57% reduction in depression.
It might be difficult to coordinate company-wide mindfulness breaks, and employees may not relish the idea of practicing their deep breathing on a Zoom call with 20 other people. Instead, impart the merit of mindfulness breaks in your wellness communication with employees. Here are a few mindfulness breaks you might recommend:
- mindful meditation
- walk around the block without headphones
- music break
- short stretching session
- mindful eating
With any mindfulness break, the goal is to be fully present in the moment and focus on your current emotions, physical sensations, and surrounding environment.
Weekly virtual lunches
Almost two-thirds of remote employees have reported feeling isolated or lonely sometimes. With in-person work, co-workers catch up as they wait for meetings to begin or while they’re eating lunch. Opportunities for the same kind of connection between remote employees are few and far between, and may not arise without a little encouragement.
Combat the loneliness of working at home by planning weekly virtual lunches where colleagues can get to know each other a little more. With people working a variety of schedules across several time zones, you’ll probably have maximum participation with an open-house style lunch meet open for a couple of hours once a week.
Mental health days
In a 2021 survey by the APA, 79% of respondents had experienced work-related stress in the previous month and 32% reported emotional exhaustion. 32% of employees have taken a sick day due to stress. While mental health is a vital component of a person’s overall wellbeing, only 51% of employees believe that their workplace supports mental health.
You can prioritize the mental health of employees by instituting mental health days. Two measures will help ensure people actually use mental health days without worrying about a stigma being attached:
- Establish a minimum number of mental health days to be used, such as 1 per quarter or 2 per year.
- Have executives and managers openly use mental health days following the same schedule.
Company book club
Like virtual lunches, a company book club offers a new avenue for employees to get to know each other a little better. There’s no one right way to plan a book club, and a lot of your decisions should depend on feedback and the goals you’ve set for the club.
Is this venture going to be part of professional development? In that case, select nonfiction books that focus on work-related topics, and schedule time for employees to read during the workday. Are you going to offer the book club as a social event, so people can chat about their reaction to the story? Be clear that this is a completely optional activity designed to offer community to employees.
Paid volunteer days
Volunteering regularly has been shown to improve mental and physical health and improve life satisfaction. 26% of employers offer paid time off for volunteering – are you one of them? If you haven’t yet implemented this policy, here’s a sample description you could include in your employee handbook.
There’s something especially magical about the lazy days of summer. With this growing initiative, the work week ends at lunchtime on Fridays, extending the weekend by half a day. Many employers choose to implement Summer Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day to give employees a little extra time to enjoy summertime activities and a mental refresh.
While you may be hesitant to cut out 10% of your workweek, 66% of employees who follow a summer schedule say it actually increases their productivity.
Health and Wellness Activities for Kids
With some wellness activities, like sleep and movement challenges, employees are often able to invite their partners and grown children to ‘play along.’ But what about those under eighteen family members at home? Here are a few ways to help them join in on the fun!
- Include a kids' wellness tip in your weekly newsletter.
- Provide information or even supplies for a small outdoor garden to support physical activity, increased outdoor time, and healthy eating.
- Invite employees for a family hike at a local nature center or hiking trail.
- Create opportunities for children to occasionally join in employee wellness activities planned for the adults.
- Partner with local schools and children’s nonprofits to provide monetary and volunteer support aimed at educating children about their health.
Developing Workplace Wellness Programs
Ask a fitness guru about their regimen, and there’s a chance that they’ll launch into a lengthy explanation about the carefully curated combination of cardio, strength training, stretching, and nutrition habits that go into keeping their body in top condition.
When it comes to developing workplace wellness programs, the same kind of thoughtful dedication is required. The need for frequent wellness activities, coupled with the task of delivering health-related guidance, is all topped with data tracking requirements.
While a successful workplace wellness program is simple and straightforward for maximum participation, the path to designing the program is not so simple and straightforward. To help, here are some of our tips for creating employee wellness programs that actually work.
Preparation is key. To design a wellness program that employees engage in, you need to know what they want. Gather feedback from people in all positions and levels of the organization to paint a complete picture of what everyone is looking for.
Employee buy-in will make or break your program. With a program based on feedback, you know you’re offering something that people truly want, but how do you build excitement about participating?
- Find a few key employees who will act as wellness champions. Having even one advocate in each department is a surefire way to spread interest in the new program.
- Get the word out. Promote the program in meetings, email, fliers, and other communication avenues. Let employees know what rewards and incentives are available to help spark their interest.
A few months in
Depending on your wellness program, you’ll have access to any number of health metrics, such as step count, activity levels, weight loss, even tobacco use. These numbers are important, no doubt, but they are pieces of a much larger puzzle. You’ll also need to consider other metrics, which may be less concrete at times.
- Look at participation rates. How many employees are enrolled? Are there certain initiatives that have higher engagement rates?
- Listen to feedback. What are you hearing about the program? Are people begrudgingly participating or truly enjoying a variety of activities?
- Examine absenteeism. Have employees needed less sick days? Are they using their mental health days?
Try a New Workplace Wellness Activity with Terryberry
Planning new wellness activities doesn’t have to rest solely on your shoulders. With Terryberry, we make it easy to launch wellness challenges that keep employees engaged and motivated. Our comprehensive app allows employees to track fitness, mood, sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, and other metrics. Employees can also connect via the platform to encourage each other through message boards.
As an administrator, you’re provided with expert content and communication templates, detailed challenge results, and dedicated customer support. Contact us today to learn more!