By Brittany Newland
In today’s economy, there are more jobs than people. It’s an exciting time, really. Even out of college, we’re set up to be picky on the job hunt. And by whom? Our parents. Our parents want us to have three things: Good pay, benefits and overall happiness. Who wouldn’t want that? I bet you can guess that I am a 20-something millennial. My parents definitely had a lot of influence on my thought process during my job hunts. As I sit here and reflect on my third year of being in the professional world, I want to let all employers know that if they aren’t providing health and wellness programs in the workplace, they should start fast or they won’t have much luck with employee retention.
My last job had a lot of benefits that I really didn’t think would make any kind of difference in my work performance, but after taking advantage of them since they were there [and why not?], I definitely noticed positive outcomes in my everyday life. My energy level was always high, and I felt great even sitting at a desk. My thoughts weren’t cloudy like they were in the past, and every day really was a new day, instead of all the days blending together. The entire staff absorbed these benefits, not JUST millennials, although we did come up with them all. Here are 10 ways to modernize health and wellness programs in the workplace.
1. Health and Wellness Day
This way my favorite. A health and wellness day meant you received a paid day off for getting your physical. It’s funny how the older we get, we brush off going to the doctor and getting that yearly checkup—and this is when we need it most. It should be mandatory for every job to require employees to get a physical, just like it was required every year when we played sports in school or you couldn’t try out or practice. It was really refreshing when I found out about the paid day off to get a health exam because you could sleep in, get a quick checkup and just relax the rest of the day. Everyone needs that mind, body and soul kind of refresh.
2. Yoga Class
We had a yoga instructor come once a month for a short class. These classes were for all skills levels, and very welcoming. I loved that it was focused on stretches and breathing. This was a nice stress reliever from the hectic workday and also a great team bonding experience. Not a lot of us practiced yoga every day. When we started practicing, we were very out of shape and continually baffled at how it worked our bodies out so much! We all felt so great after!
3. Gratitude Practice
Showing gratitude may be the best habit you can form in your life. If you live your life with a consistently busy schedule, you start to lose track of how good your life just actually may be. When you stop and acknowledge the good in you and others, more good keeps happening. If you haven’t already started, you should really consider keeping a gratitude journal at your desk. There are so many ways you can practice gratitude while at work. I personally love to write, so I love keeping a gratitude journal. At the beginning and the end of every workday, I write down three things I’m grateful for. The beginning of the day usually reads like this: ‘I’m grateful for this job that helps me learn, create future opportunities for myself and allows me to pay for the things I want and need.’ At the end of the day I usually am grateful for the knowledge and skills I learned that day or how I overcame a challenging situation. If not a gratitude journal, try getting in nature and going for a 20-minute walk. If something more work involved sounds better, you can implement a reward system at work. We show gratitude to others by nominating them for a “You Rock” award. You would write a co-worker’s name to nominate them for a gift card and explain why they rock and why you are thankful for them or the positive action they did.
4. Gym Membership
Why not reimburse your employees for keeping good physical health, essentially assisting in positive mental health? Even if you put a cap on the monthly or yearly membership reimbursement, you’re still advocating for a healthy employee, and investing in them is investing in the company.
5. Meditation Room
This is a necessity for any line of work. A meditation room can be a place to simply cool off when you’ve just received the worst news, when everything is going too fast and you need a moment of clarity. This is a darker room with a few comfortable chairs (bean bag chair, a balance ball, or massage chair) to just be able to escape the present moment and take that 10-minute mental vacation. This has really helped my co-workers calm down and get back to where they need to be!
6. Healthy Food in Work Fridge
Why spend company dollars on donuts and other sugary carbs that only feel good for two minutes? Create a healthy company culture even in the work fridge! Stash it with bottled water, fruit, lunch meat and other low-carb, low-sugar items. It will be worth the couple extra bucks you saved buying those fattening donuts.
7. Stand Up Desks
These can be expensive, but the rate of productivity is so much higher than sitting down all day. Going back and forth from standing to sitting is perfectly normal and quite fine, really. I can’t imagine standing all day long at my desk, but I also absolutely hate sitting down all day. It makes me more tired and I even feel a little back pain. Not to mention, it’s terrible for your posture. Trading off to standing and sitting an equal amount of time each work day is so much healthier.
8. Weight Loss Challenge
The more people involved, the more fun a Weight Loss Challenge can be at work. You have one or two winners for the most pounds lost after an allotted time frame of maybe one or two months. This promotes even more healthy eating around the office, and who doesn’t love a good competition? It improves work morale and at the end of the challenge, no matter who wins, everyone is competing for a good cause.
9. Flexible Work Hours
Having more flexible work hours doesn’t have to be a whole change in schedule. As long as there are at least two people, let your employees come in an hour later a few days a week, leaving an hour later to miss the crazy traffic that is actually mentally harmful in starting or ending their day. This has helped work performance and allowed a more calming end of day wind down knowing not everyone is finishing their day at the same time trying to race out of the door, fighting to get there first.
10. Bike to Work Days
This one might be tough if you have a long commute; but if that’s the case, try this alternative. If employees can bring their bike to work, try a company bike ride for an hour and have a 10-minute meeting outside when you get to that destination. Employees may actually listen better at the meeting when their blood is pumped up, and they can literally breathe in the fresh air.
To remain a relevant, attractive employer in this industry, you must think about ways to implement health and wellness benefits to stay mainstream. In the long run, to give 10 different choices to employees in weight loss and mental wellness activities isn’t very costly and is more of an investment in the company than anything else. The more options you give, the more positivity you will create in the work culture.