Over the past decade, workplace wellness programs have become ubiquitous across multiple sectors. In fact, 70 percent of employers off some kind of internal health initiative, the Society for Human Resource Management found. Unfortunately, many of these programs don't live up to expectations and fail to meaningfully improve overall employee health.
Last year, Andre Spicer, an instructor at Cass Business School at the City University, London, evaluated corporate wellness initiatives and discovered that most yield negligible results, the Harvard Business Review reported. In some cases, they even did more harm than good.
"They were creating guilt and anxiety in employees," he told the publication. "One big wellness program we looked at led previously happy employees in a stable job environment to become anxious about losing their jobs. It seemed to make them think they needed to be more attractive to their employer, and if they did something like smoking a cigarette, they felt it affected their employability."
If you're looking to prevent such a situation and promote employee well-being, reevaluate your preexisting health plan and institute some of these simple fixes:
Conduct a kitchen makeover
Many American office kitchens are stocked to the brim with prepackaged snacks and sweets. Obviously, the constant availability of sugar-filled food does little to bolster company wellness. So, analyze your eating area and look for ways to encourage healthy eating, Inc. suggested. Trade in soda for concentrate-free juice or old fashioned H2O. Additionally, replace your snacks with nuts or fresh fruit.
This simple move can yield serious results – just ask Google. In 2013, the tech giant suspected that its employees were consuming too much free office candy, The Washington Post reported. In response, company officials formed a task force to monitor snacking trends. After months of research, the team confirmed that Googlers were indeed oversnacking. So, office managers across the country switched out the sweets for healthy snacks like figs and pistachios – the results were astonishing. Employees at the Google's New York workspace ate 3.1 million fewer calories in the seven weeks following the snack swap.
Adjust company policies
Modern employees are dedicated to their work and will gladly sacrifice almost anything to contribute – even their health. On any given day, offices across the country are teeming with ailing employees sniffling through day-to-day tasks. Unfortunately, this stick-to-itiveness causes major problems. For example, sick workers reduce overall company productivity by a third, Scientific American reported.
To meaningfully improve employee health and create an office environment in which wellness programs can succeed, you should meaningfully address your sick leave policies and procedures. Start at the top by calling on executives to set an example by heading home when they feel unwell, U.S. News and World Report suggested. Also, make sure you're providing your staff with ample sick leave. In the U.S., approximately 25 percent of workers don't have sick days.
Additionally, when employees request time off for an illness, don't make them provide a doctor's note. Extend some trust and let them know you care about their health.
Encourage interoffice exercise
When conducting wellness initiatives, businesses often expect employees to fulfill their exercise requirements outside of working hours. However, for workers with families or other personal responsibilities, this may be impossible. To address this possibility, encourage employees to exercise at work, Entrepreneur advised. Of course, this doesn't mean you need to organize daily, pick-up basketball games – smaller-scale activities will do. For instance, some offices institute pet-friendly policies to encourage activity.
"Pets will force you to take a walk because they need business breaks during the day," Jamie Russo, chief of work and wellness at the Enerspace Coworking in Palo Alto, California, told the magazine.
Additionally, try organizing more in-person meetings. This simple scheduling tweak requires employees to rise from their desks, unplug and tread over to the conference room.