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Wellness 101: Three Pillars to Build Your Company Wellness Program

by Bruce Stec

By Bruce Stec

Most full-time employees spend around 47 hours per week on the job. Unfortunately, some people spend even more time at the office.

For many, this time is spent on sedentary activities such as sitting behind a desk or riding in a car. In fact, JustStand.org reports that an average worker sits 12 hours per day, contributing to the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality (physical inactivity) and 3.2 million deaths per year. This reality is becoming evident in today’s workplaces, and the associated costs have motivated companies to beef up their corporate wellness programs in response.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the American Heart Association’s inaugural Nebraska Workplace Health Symposium. It was a great gathering of Omaha companies that are striving to make the workplace a healthier one.

One thing that struck me at the symposium is the seemingly countless tactics a company can employ to create a culture of health and wellness. If you’re just starting out on your company’s wellness journey, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Well-established wellness programs, on the other hand, may have so many initiatives that employee participation actually starts to wane.

Along with other CQuence leaders, I took stock of our corporate wellness program and boiled it down to three important pillars that we believe have led to the success and sustainability of our program. When implemented, these tactics can get you the proverbial “most bang for your buck” when it comes to enacting an overall wellness strategy for your employees.

Start With Healthy Eating

March is National Nutrition Month, but having a strong corporate food strategy to fuel employees through the workday must be a year-round focus. According to Ryan Picarella, President of WELCOA, your goal with workplace nutrition should be to provide employees with foods that nourish their bodies and help them thrive.

But we know employees are busier than ever and often miss meals or have to eat on the run. To make healthy eating easy and to eliminate the temptation for stress eating, remove your vending and soda machines and replace them with healthy alternatives. Many local grocery stores offer free delivery to simplify the process of stocking healthy foods, or you can ask members of your wellness committee to swing by a wholesale store on Monday mornings to stock up. At CQuence, our grocery list includes flavored zero-calorie waters, whole fruits, pre-cut and individually portioned vegetables, snack-sized hummus, hard-boiled eggs, bulk unsalted nuts and more. Find what works for you and go for it!

If you’re already stocking healthy foods, keep healthy eating top of mind by organizing a “lunch and learn” focused on nutrition. Ask your local employee assistance program, insurance provider or even a local grocery store dietician to host a cooking demonstration and share healthy-eating tips. You also could organize a “healthy recipe” contest among employees and have your company’s executives serve as the judges.

Involve Leadership

For workplace wellness to really take hold, it has to become part of the culture. While creating a culture rooted in wellness requires participation at every level of the organization, none is more important than input from the very top.

This has to be authentic, so involve the CEO and other leaders as often as possible. For example, invite the CEO to work out with employees at your on-site company gym or have him/her make healthy smoothies as a surprise morning treat. Not only does leadership participation show genuine support from the top down, these events are a great opportunity for employees to get much needed "face-time" with your company’s leaders.

Start Simple (or plan to simplify)

From employees’ feedback over the years, we’ve learned to keep things simple. Complicated tasks or tracking too much information simply didn’t provide us a return.Complicated tasks or tracking too much information simply didn’t provide us a return.

Before launching a new initiative, decide what the one or two critical “asks” of your employees are to be successful. If you have a well-established wellness program, take time occasionally to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t. Survey employees or seek feedback via small focus groups to get critical insight into what staff members really think about your wellness offerings. I’ve seen companies benefit by reducing the breadth of their program (less quantity) and increasing the depth of their offerings (better quality).

No matter where your company is at on its wellness journey, I hope these three strategies give you direction or new ideas to take back to your team. And remember, it’s okay to start small or even scale back. What’s most important is to keep in mind the overall objective: giving employees the time and resources they need to be well in body, mind and soul. The reward is happier and more engaged employees.

About The Author: 

As vice president of HR at CQuence Health Group, Bruce develops and promotes a progessive culture of accountability, engagement, wellness and corporate social responsibility. 

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