Work environments are changing as employees place a higher value on work-life balance and healthy workspaces. Companies that adapt to these shifting priorities can help people live better lives and see great business benefits, from reduced sick days to a competitive edge for recruitment efforts.
There’s a common misconception that changing lifestyle habits comes with a high price tag. While comprehensive wellness programs customized to employees’ needs require some investment, one recent study shows 72% of employers saw a reduction in healthcare costs after implementing a wellness program, leading to an average return on investment (ROI) of six to one. Beyond the dollars saved, successful well-being programs can also improve work performance and productivity.
So, where to start? Just as you don’t need to hire an elite personal trainer to start a fitness routine, there are many low- and no-cost ways for organizations to encourage employees to adopt healthier habits.
Creating a budget and developing a comprehensive wellness plan based on data collected from a health risk assessment (HRA) is the ultimate goal, but that can take some time. Let’s look at some low-cost ideas you can implement now to encourage healthy habits while building that perfect wellness plan.
1. Think Outside the Box
Many people associate health and wellness programs with weight loss. But, as the World Health Organization says, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Your wellness program should address all aspects of a person’s well-being. Consider implementing a daily five-minute meditation or starting meetings with a quick breathing exercise.
2. Volunteering for Health
Volunteering and giving back to your community has been shown to decrease stress, depression, and anxiety while boosting overall health and satisfaction with life. And there is little to no cost to participate in volunteer efforts. Employers can help organize volunteer days where employees can help clean up a non-profit facility or distribute food at a food bank. Let your population guide which organizations to support and encourage them to include their families and children who may need to earn volunteer hours for school.
3. Talk Finances
Money is a significant stressor for many. Contact local banks and finance specialists to offer free finance training or one-on-one financial reviews. Another low-cost way to promote financial well-being is to distribute communications with helpful tips and resources—make sure these are in a format that’s easy to follow and understand.
4. Get People Together
The success of any wellness program depends on engagement. After several uneasy years of isolation, whether your employees work remotely or on-site, one way to engage people is to bring them back together. If your population is primarily sedentary and your data shows they are concerned with weight or inactivity, implement a walking challenge. Employees can form groups and create teams to track and reach a certain number of steps per day, week, and month. Don’t forget to publicly recognize those who meet those goals or offer another low-cost but desirable reward.
5. Take it Outside
The great outdoors is a free resource that provides numerous mental and emotional health benefits. We’re not suggesting sending everyone on a tropical vacation, of course. Research has shown that just 20 minutes in the park, even if you’re not exercising, provides a 64% improvement in life satisfaction. Schedule meetings outside, organize outdoor potlucks or picnics for lunch, or even start a team garden. Encouraging your team to take a short walk or eat lunch outside can reap huge benefits in overall well-being.
Support Leads to Success
When employees feel supported in their health and wellness goals the entire workplace benefits. Not only does productivity increase and illness decrease, but employees who feel valued are less likely to seek employment elsewhere. And the more accessible, the better. People set up for success are more likely to stick with it and continue seeing positive results.
Want more ideas of low- and no-cost ways to promote health in your population?
Download our quick and easy list of 30 Low-Cost Ways to Encourage Healthy Habits.