We often start advice articles with an assumption. We assume you like to save time, or that you hate wasting time; we assume you like puppies and you want to manage your money wisely. And in this case, we assume you encourage your employees to be healthy, because to encourage anything to the contrary would be sort of . . . weird.
The issue, though, is that “healthy” is a little abstract. You want your people to be healthy, but you might not know exactly why, or what healthy really means, or how you can help. But we do, and we can help you.
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Why is employee health important?
Beyond the general understanding, you likely have that healthy people are happier and live longer, believe us when we say you also want healthy employees for some other great reasons.
First, any number of studies show that healthy employees are more productive and perform better, and they save you money (up to $1,688 per employee) by reducing absenteeism, illness, and injuries. Employee well-being programs have been shown to reduce turnover, and since benefits packages are a huge factor in today’s marketplace it stands to reason that beneficial health initiatives also improve your employer brand, even if your employees don’t participate.
How can I help my employees be healthier?
If the phrase “employee health initiatives” makes you think of lunchtime yoga classes and 15-minute afternoon stretch breaks, you’re not wrong—but you may need to broaden your perspective. Helping employees live healthier lives does include encouraging exercise, but there are countless other ways to make small impacts that add up to overall health improvements.
Donuts in the morning meeting, birthday cakes at lunch, and bowls of Halloween (and every other holiday) candy team up with the captivity of office life to create a perfect environment for excessive calorie consumption.
You may not be able to stifle the sweet treat invasion, but you can offset the damage by providing alternatives: offering more nutritious snacks, providing filtered water dispensers, and encouraging healthier take-out and catering options are all ways to fight against universally unhealthy eating in your workplace.
Not every office can accommodate or afford an on-site gym. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enable the people in your office who do exercise and encourage the ones who don’t. Lockers and showers are cheaper than a gym, and they make it easier to commute by bike or work out during lunch. Fitness programs that reward participation with prizes or extra benefits are easy ways to get people motivated.
In fact, chances are good your health insurance company already has a variety of programs that won’t cost you anything—because after all, making your employees healthier is in an insurer’s best interests, too.
If staying fit is the bright and sunny side of physical health, staying well is its less-glamorous sibling. You can help prevent office illness by making it easier for employees to get treatment: many insurance companies offer on-site flu shots for everyone on your insurance plan, and even general health screenings that can sound the alarm on more serious concerns.
On your end, you can help create a healthier work environment inside your building by using environmentally friendly building materials and cleaning supplies, posting signs about hand-washing during flu season, and by either supplying or allowing stand-up desks as an option for employees who want them.
Finally, instituting a work-from-home policy isn’t just good for the environment, highway congestion, and your employees’ wallets (cough, cough), it’s also a great way to ensure that people who think they’re getting sick won’t bring their fledgling colds to work.
Mind and body in balance
We think it’s important to mention that health is more than physical. Your employees’ mental health is also hugely important, and the negative stigma attached to mental and emotional health issues means it’s even more important that employers communicate their support. Employee assistance programs provide aid through counseling and education, but there are also less-direct ways you can help your employees fight stress.
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Money worries are a major stress factor for almost everyone. Employers who offer a 401k plan can help by using a financial advisor that also provides free consultations to their investors.
At BambooHR, money management goes to the next level: They offer employees and their spouses a free course on budgeting, saving, and investing for the future, plus a $100 reward for completing it.
The best benefits plan is worthless if nobody knows how to use it. Education is the key to empowering your employees to utilize their benefits fully. That knowledge can prevent already stressful situations like medical emergencies from becoming compounded by a lack of understanding about claims, deductibles, reimbursements, and the like.
A strong culture can make your workplace environment much less stressful to be part of. Communicating and supporting values like honesty, transparency, and openness help employees feel safer in raising their concerns and more heard when they do.
Get with the program
In conclusion, it’s worth mentioning that health and wellness initiatives aren’t just good business from a productivity standpoint; with nine out of ten employers reporting some form of wellness program, they’re becoming an expected part of a modern organization.
But even more importantly, establishing a multi-faceted employee health program is good for your people. And people provide the real value in any organization.