While the idea of promoting “wellness” in the workplace has become ubiquitous, what wellness actually means, how to incorporate it into the work day, and what kinds of wellness programs employees will actually engage in remains elusive. But companies have an incentive to find a wellness program that works: wellness programs aren’t just a nice perk, they’re good for the bottom line. A 2012 study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that for every $1 spent on fitness efforts, employers could expect $1 to $3 in decreases in total healthcare costs.
Wellness programs can run the gamut from stop-smoking efforts to group Fitbit challenges to on-site gyms. However, taking on a large-scale program may seem daunting due to budget or time available for your team. But fear not! Many companies have implemented simple, easy wellness ideas that require little space or equipment and can integrate into the company culture. Here are six you could try to kick your workplace wellness into gear:
Zappos’ “Wellness Adventures”
Las Vegas-based Zappos is known not only for selling shoes, but for creating a unique company culture. In addition to bringing fitness activities to employees — via company-organized three-on-three basketball matches and “Recess Tuesday” gym games — Wellness Coordinator Kelly Maher brings employees on fitness field trips. For the company’s “Wellness Adventures,” Maher has taken groups of employees to trampoline parks, laser tag venues, and local parks for sports like soccer. The outings also serve as icebreakers and team-building excursions; Maher assembles each adventure’s roster from people working across departments.
Google’s campus in Mountain View, California has long been a Shangri-La for tech employees. Analytically engineered for comfort and productivity (what else would you expect?), the search engine’s headquarters has nap pods, treadmill desks and unlimited free food. That last one caused a hitch: Google employees were gaining weight. In addition to color-coordinating food choices by healthiness, Google implemented a company garden, a step that can be taken by any company with a patch of dirt. Employees can work in the garden, an activity proven to promote mental clarity and a feeling of reward. In addition, the garden provides fresh, healthy food for Google’s snack bars. The idea spread to the company’s London outpost.
Atlassian’s Workout Breaks
At both its Austin and San Francisco outposts, global software company Atlassian breaks up long workdays in front of a screen with exercise sessions. Senior Systems Analyst Adrian Mason, who leads twice-weekly workouts at the Austin office, has created a simple regimen that can be done without any equipment and is accessible to fitness newbies: 10 pushups, a 30-second plank, mountain-climbing motions for 20 seconds, another 30-second plank, 10 more pushups, and then 30 seconds of exercise of the participants’ choice. “The fun thing about the workouts is the viral effect they have,” Mason told an interviewer for the company blog. “When one person sees another coworker doing it, they jump in, too.”
Bandwidth’s 90-Minute Lunches
Some companies promote health by simply ensuring that the workday doesn’t interfere with exercise routines. Bandwidth, a North Carolina provider of internet and phone services to businesses, schedules 90-minute lunch breaks for their employees so they can have a chance to get to the gym or yoga studio. The company also provides free gym membership and sponsors sports leagues to give employees somewhere to train and something to train for during their generous midday break. Apparently, CEO David Morken leads by example, and blocks out his schedule from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Vynamic’s Email Outage
In another simple alteration of corporate culture, Vynamic, a Philadelphia healthcare consulting firm, implemented a company policy to discourage emails during off hours. “Stress was showing up as a challenge for our team — an area that we weren't really making improvements on,” CEO Dan Calista told Fast Company. "Through some conversations about the abundance of email and the always-being-on nature of our jobs, we realized that this could be a great opportunity to create a structured way to disconnect on a regular basis.” Employees are banned from sending work emails from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays and anytime on weekends. This straightforward change helps mitigate the serious health impacts of work stress.
Scripps Health’s Healthy Vending Machines
When renewing snack vending contracts, employers have an opportunity to make health a priority. That was the case for Scripps Health, which manages four hospitals and 19 outpatient facilities in the San Diego area. The nonprofit network added machines stocked by FitZee Foods, a local health-minded food company, to its buildings. The machines provide all the components of a full nutritious meal — perfect for doctors, nurses and other health professionals who work long, unpredictable shifts and can’t always jump out to grab a healthy bite. While larger, cash-flush companies can install treadmills and stock the break room with carrot sticks and organic hummus, there are also strategies early-stage startups or smaller business can do to make employee health a priority. Companies can experiment to see what works within their company culture. Sometimes, it’s as simple as providing a time or space to get those crunches in.
Photography by Dominick Mastrangelo