Small Business Strategies: Starting a workplace wellness program might be easier than you think

Meditation room at Tribe

What can you do in the new year to improve employee morale and productivity without spending a ton of money? Easy answer: start some level of wellness program in your office. If you’ve ever considered doing something like that, this might be the perfect time.

Wellness programs allow you to give employees something they find meaningful without handing out big pay raises. Many small companies froze salary increases last year. In others, employees watched people in their company lose their jobs, and were understandably meek about pushing for their own salary reviews. But don’t think that means they’re not thinking about what they give the company for what they get. A workplace wellness program can be a very good way to let employees know you value their contributions.

Of course, it’s also the beginning of a new year. The perfect time for fresh starts, healthy new habits and lifestyle improvements. Your employees are probably already thinking about what they can do in 2010 to be healthier. A wellness program can help support them in their individual goals. It’s also a powerful way to bring new energy into the workplace.

How do you do it? You don’t have to build a company gym or pay for an on-site spa chef (although you could). Think in terms of providing flexibility (time) or resources (access). You can pick one element of wellness, like fitness or stress management or healthy eating and focus your program around that area. Or you can put together a small smorgasbord of wellness offerings. Here are a few examples:

• Allow employees extra time for lunch two or three days a week so they can fit in a walk or a run. At Tribe, we tell employees they can put up to three hours a week on their time sheets for exercise during the workday. We’ve found that whenever someone manages to fit in a workout or  yoga class during the day, they’re likely to come back to the office with a good idea or solution for something they’re working on. If nothing else, their energy level is higher that when they left.

• Use one of those empty offices for a meditation room. Move the desk out and put a small couch or a comfortable armchair in there instead. Or just put out a few yoga mats or some big floor pillows.  Add a few meditation CDs and a CD player, and you’re good to go. If employees feel comfortable spending 20 minutes meditating in the middle of the day, alone or with a coworker, that can go a long way towards reducing stress levels.

• Put a bowl of fresh fruit in the break room, and stock it weekly. When employees hit that pre-lunch or mid-afternoon slump, being able to skip the vending machine and grab an apple or banana instead can be a highly appreciated perk. Supporting wellness in the office can actually come down to some very simple (and inexpensive) changes.

The biggest thing employees are looking for in a wellness program is a way for the workplace to support them in living a good life. As a business owner, you do that by providing meaningful work and fair compensation. But lately, many companies have been asking employees to work harder without the hope of a big, fat salary increase. Especially in this economic environment, one of the best things you can do for your employees is to provide the flexibility and resources for them to take care of their own health.


11 responses to “Small Business Strategies: Starting a workplace wellness program might be easier than you think

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Small Business Strategies: Starting a workplace wellness program might be easier than you think « Life-Sized Business --

  2. Elizabeth
    Excellent post. You make an elegant case for the importance of health programs and give very doable examples.

    And you very rightly emphasize the importance of modest programs to show concern for employees’ wellbeing. Being appreciated means so much.

    All the best,

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  6. Great post with some excellent no cost/low cost ideas to help keep employees more fit and well. May I repost it to my Wellness blog, Working Well Resources?

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  8. As much as I can understand right now, I think you’re right!

  9. Pingback: Wellness at Work Ideas that Won’t Break the Bank « Working Well Resources' Blog

  10. This reminds me of how my company gym started offering simple solutions to make working out during breaks so easy. They have t-shirts, socks, shoes, etc that they keep available to anyone who forgot theirs or simply wanted to go for an impromptu workout. Their small investment in a communal ironing board and hairdryer really makes my life easier when packing my gym bag.
    I only wish we would use our empty office as a mediation room!

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