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April 24, 2012 / mike54martin

You Don’t Have To Be Big To Be Good

What makes a workplace a good place to work? According to all the surveys I have seen a number of common themes keep recurring when it comes to how they handle their employees. These characteristics include having policies that promote a balance between work and the rest of their lives, flexibility in work scheduling, environmentally responsible policies, good communications systems that value employee input, and a wide range of employee benefits. Not surprisingly these are also some of the all basic elements of an employee wellness program.

It’s also evident from both research and informal networking that successful small and medium organizations are always looking to improve. So if your small business has some elements of an employee wellness plan already in place, why not take the few extra steps to make it better? Here are a few tips courtesy of “Healthy Alberta”:

 

  • Start an online “wellness” newsletter that offers weekly or monthly tips on healthy living
  • Participate in on-going activities and programs like Healthy Workplace Week.
  • Get pedometers for employees and track their steps.
  • Rent a nearby school or community gym and offer exercise classes.
  • Hire a local fitness instructor to give classes or lead stretch breaks
  • Install more bike parking.
  • Serve healthy alternatives at company meetings and lunches.
  • Hire an ergonomics specialist to assess workstations.
  • Provide a wellness subsidy for a variety of health and leadership activities and courses.
  • Offer wellness incentives as rewards and recognition for a job well done.
  • Spread the workload by establishing an employee wellness committee.

If you haven’t yet established a formal employee wellness program it’s not too late to start. One of the best places to begin is by gathering information about what types of wellness programs your employees would like to see and ones that they are most likely to participate in. There’s no point in setting up smoking cessation programs if only one of your employees is a smoker or building bicycle racks if most employees already take public transit to work.

After you determine your needs you can about putting these ideas into action. It is often best to begin slowly by setting up a couple of activities that you know you will have the financial and human resources to support. If your priority is physical fitness and your employees will participate you can have a once a week yoga class in your boardroom. If you have a number of smokers there are lots of free smoking cessation programs out there that you can supplement with a small bonus that rewards extended periods of smoking cessation.

You should also take the opportunity to review all of your company or organizational policies and procedures with an employee wellness lens. Is there a way to help reduce the stress on employees who are working a lot of overtime by rescheduling or reorganizing the workload? Do you have the ability to offer flexible working hours or assist with child or elder care? Do people have healthy eating choices in the cafeteria, in vending machines, or at corporate meetings? It’s not that expensive to have a bowl of fruit at a breakfast meeting along with the muffins and croissants.

Communications are the key as you begin your employee wellness program and it is one of the major reasons why some programs peter out or die. If you have a wellness committee you can task them with providing a communications feedback loop that ensures that employees know about activities and can offer their suggestions to improve them as you go along. You shouldn’t be afraid to drop the yoga class if attendance dwindles but you need to know why it wasn’t successful and what you can replace it with that might encourage greater participation.

There is no one size fits all approach that will work in every small workplace but over time you will find one that works for you and more importantly helps your employees become healthier and happier at work and in the rest of their lives.

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and workplace wellness consultant.  He is the author of “Change the Things You Can” (Dealing with Difficult People)

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