How to Run a Successful Wellness Program in Your Office

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If you’re a tech company and not offering a wellness program, you might be behind your peers. An estimated 90 per cent of companies are now offering wellness programs, many of them using it as a recruitment and engagement tool.

The benefits are huge, both for individuals and for your bottom line. Specific to tech, the IT industry is 50 per cent more prone to weight gain, and those who are obese have medical costs on average $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. This doesn’t include estimated absenteeism costs and presenteeism costs – someone sick coming to work but not being able to perform their job as well—which are estimated at 2.3 times that of the medical costs.

To get the estimated six to one return on your investment a wellness program can get, simply offering the program isn’t enough. As the CEO of HEAL (Healthy Eating And Living), a company offering corporate wellness programs to top tech firms including Google and Facebook, these are five pillars I find critical to ensure a successful wellness program in your office.

Educate and Motivate

Given the wealth of information available online now, employees often find themselves confused on what is really the right approach to their health. That’s why education is at the root of any successful program.

We’ve found a variety of different ways to educate that are effective, from lunch and learns to webinars to wellness challenges that offer small tidbits of daily education. The key with any lunch and learn or webinar is that the presenter is a lively, motivating speaker so attendees feel inspired to take action.

Facebook’s Toronto office is a great example of wellness education. It offered a series of our lunch and learns on Eating For Energy, Natural Cold & Flu Prevention and Weight-Loss Strategies.

Enable and Empower

Once you’ve begun to educate your teams, it’s important to make it easy for them to follow through on what they learned. For example, in Google’s Toronto office, we worked closely with the office head chef to create a ‘HEAL approved’ Green Bowl Program. Employees knew that whatever meal was in the Green Bowl that day was a healthy lunch option.

Your office doesn’t have to have a full cafeteria to enable healthy choices. Vancouver based real estate tech firm, RESAAS, made the simple choice to give employees large water bottles and provide lemons in the office to make morning lemon water, which energizes and hydrates employees.

After all, wellness doesn’t have to be complicated. It often comes down to simply staying hydrated as a 3-4 per cent drop in hydration can result in a 25-50 per cent drop in productivity.

Incentivize

A little friendly competition goes a long way. Team-based wellness challenges with prizes help employees take what they’ve learned and motivate them to create healthy habits.

We ran our 8 week Wellness Challenge at Vancouver based tech firm, Mobify. It included daily challenges that were nutrition, fitness or mental health (self-care) based. At the end of the 8 week program, 95 per cent of employees surveyed felt they had better energy, 89 per cent were better equipped to manage stress and 84 per cent were more active.

Online wellness challenges can include multiple office locations and build camaraderie company wide. Giving prizes for participation is also effective for including individuals that may not be as likely to participate, yet are the ones who need the program the most.

Lead by example

Getting senior leadership involved will make your wellness programs more successful. Employees see it as acceptable to take time for their health when they see their senior leaders and role models doing it – whether it’s joining an office yoga class or going for a run at lunchtime.

At Toronto based health care start-up, League, CEO Michael Serbinis sent an email to all employees indicating how he would be participating in our Wellness Challenge. Manager of Health Services, Signy Roland said, “Over 50 people participated, which is a huge engagement percentage.”

Create consistency

Finally, simply doing a one-off wellness event to check the boxes isn’t enough. Just like any new habit or change to routine, consistency is key. Planning out a full year of wellness in advance of the year keeps the program top of mind in the office. It also allows you the opportunity to provide different offerings, as not everything will appeal to everyone. Examples include offering a combination of lunch and learns, monthly newsletters, fitness classes, wellness challenges and even cooking classes.

As the CEO or the HR leader, running a good wellness program can quickly become a full time job, so outsourcing to a wellness focused company will not only save you time but also dollars. To learn more about HEAL’s corporate wellness programs, click here.

Mandy King is a Holistic Nutritionist and the Founder of HEAL.

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