Does your company have what it takes for award-winning workforce wellness? Over the past 10 years, more than 8,000 companies across the United States have applied for regional Healthiest Employers awards. And for the past four years, Wellsource has ranked in the top ten for similarly sized companies in Oregon. We’re honored to be recognized in this category as it goes back to our mission of empowering people to enjoy the longest, most satisfying, and productive quality of life possible.
What do Healthiest Employers have in common?
Part of being one of Oregon’s healthiest employers means sitting among other industry leaders in this space and learning how other companies set up their workplace wellness programs for success. Here are 6 best practices we noticed among award-winning workplace wellness programs.
1. Start workforce wellness at the top.
Executive support for the wellness program is key to being a healthy employer. And it requires more than just “a stamp of approval.” Management must become advocates of healthy living.
“Executive buy-in means more than just endorsing a policy that allows for wellness and work to coexist,” says Wellsource CEO Chris McReynolds. “It means sending a clear message to all employees that supporting and pursuing optimal employee health isn’t just this year’s focus, it’s every year’s focus.”
How does he do that? He leads by example. McReynolds conducts walking meetings, uses a stand-up desk, and tries each new healthy snack presented during staff meetings. He regularly sends out emails in support of various company-wide wellness initiatives.
“Participating in wellness alongside your employees reinforces your message that optimal health is a priority,” notes McReynolds.
2. Get good data.
Obtain meaningful data, and then analyze it to identify the greatest opportunities for improvement. The company behind the Healthiest Employers program released wellness tips learned from the more than 8,000 employers who have applied for the award in the 10 years since it began. They found that effective workforce wellness programs “are vigilant about measuring health outcomes associated with population cohorts.” In fact, good data and analysis are one of the primary principles of winning wellness. Use a health risk assessment that identifies risks as well as change readiness. Then re-test your population for year-over-year comparisons. Award winning companies like Moda use the WellSuite® IV health risk assessment which focuses on evidence-based health and wellness.
3. Offer teambuilding activities that are actually activities.
Organize scavenger hunts, walking team meetings, afternoon kayak excursions, or recess breaks. On-campus gym facilities, loaner bikes, a parkour course, or maps of one-mile routes inside the building are just some of the ways companies encourage physical activity.
Moda Health’s 101 low-cost ideas for worksite wellness include one-minute company-wide stretch breaks that are announced over the intercom system, starting a line dancing club, and a stairwell climbing competition called “Stair Well.” GoPro gives workers two hours each Thursday afternoon to take off-road adventures and document them (using a GoPro camera, of course). And online retailer Zappos takes small groups of employees representing different departments on fitness field trips called Wellness Adventures. Groups have jumped on trampolines, taken a golf lesson, or played laser tag.
4. Focus on work-life balance.
At Wellsource, we embrace a multi-dimensional concept of wellness that includes body, mind, and community. This includes benefits like regular walk and run groups, flex work hours, and more. We’re not alone. Companies like Google, Uber, Zappos, and PricewaterhouseCoopers have onsite nap areas for employees to catch some zzzs. Rested employees are more productive and creative.
5. Encourage healthy eating.
At Wellsource, employees are encouraged to prepare healthy lunches and we spotlight a monthly “healthy snack” during our regular all hands meetings. Other ways top companies encourage better nutrition include offering healthy vending machine food selections in place of candy bars and sweetened drinks, or even bringing in healthy snack options for your staff to enjoy.
Retailer Kohl's has a 4,000 square foot garden at its corporate headquarters. Employees volunteer their time in 15-minute shifts to water and harvest the garden. The fruits, vegetables, and edible flowers produced in the corporate garden are featured in the campus cafés. If a corporate garden sounds overwhelming, you can offer an on-site organic veggie give-away like GoPro did. They filled their patio with local, in-season produce and invited employees to take home a bag full.
6. Get employee buy-in.
Wellsource employees are more than participants in the wellness program. They’re wellness champions. Employees have taken an active role in presenting lunch ‘n learn sessions on a variety of well-being topics and healthy cooking sessions. They lead weekly run-walk groups and regular Frisbee golf events. And they challenge each other to ping pong tournaments in our on-site gym.
Wellsource uses these 6 strategies for our own wellness program. Here are some additional tangible ideas that will help you create winning wellness in your organization.
- Diverse programming initiatives. We offer programs ranging from financial wellness to earthquake preparedness and yoga lessons.
- A wellness culture. Even though our old neighborhood had a walk score of 11, we still got in a mile or three on work breaks. Now that we’ve moved to a better built environment with a high walkability score (85), employees frequently walk to lunch, walk around the lake, and jog along the river.
- A built environment that supports wellbeing. We have lots of window space. Live plants perched on windowsills bring nature in, remove toxins from the air, and help keep employees healthy.
- Health Challenges. Each month, employees are encouraged to engage in a specific healthy behavior, such as sleeping for 8 hours a night or eating more leafy green vegetables.
- Incentives. Employees stay motivated to engage in and track healthy behaviors such as exercise, monitoring blood pressure, and keeping current with preventive exams and vaccines, in part because of the quarterly gift cards.
- A service-minded approach. Wellsource has hosted an onsite blood drive and worked with a local organization to collect needed items for their annual holiday drive. Employees volunteer at community organizations, and receive wellness credits for doing so.
Wellsource was built on the principle of optimal health. You could say it’s built into our DNA. So it’s natural for us to look for opportunities to encourage each other to identify and achieve our own wellness goals.
But it’s also our responsibility to model the ideals of optimal wellness. Wellsource exists to promote healthy lifestyles to all people around the world. “Because we represent these ideals in the marketplace and promote them to the world through our products, it is important to teach and promote them within our own company culture,” says Wellsource founder Don Hall, DrPH.