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    Kick Off the New Year with a Winning Wellness Program

    Now that we’ve officially started a New Year and more and more individuals are buckling down on their New Year's resolutions, taking steps to lead a healthier life is always at the top of the list. As a business leader, you have the power to support your employees in their quest for better health by implementing some proven methods that promote healthier employees, which can lead to lower healthcare costs, less absenteeism, and higher productivity. Sounds like a win-win, right?

    Maybe you already have a wellness program in place and have seen some moderate improvements in your employees' health and labor, and if so, you’re definitely on the right path! As an experienced Wellness Program Manager that has worked with dozens of companies to implement and improve their wellness programs, I can tell you, just handing out free gym memberships and posting a healthy food chart in the breakroom isn't enough to achieve noticeable results in your workforce. It takes a bit more effort, but it's certainly worth the investment.

    If you've resolved to improve employee participation in your wellness program, get your employees more motivated to get healthy, and lower healthcare costs, here are nine ways to kick off your wellness program in the New Year.

    1. Education

    The most effective and successful wellness programs begin with education—both for leadership and employees. Through regular communication, give your employees tips on leading a healthy lifestyle such as maintaining a balanced diet, staying active, and having regular health screenings. Provide information on the negative effects of smoking, obesity, alcohol use, and unhealthy practices that can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stress, and depression.

    Related Reading: Why Nutritional Counseling Should be Part of Your Corporate Wellness Mix

    2. Management Participation

    Managers and executive leadership should lead by example by exercising and practicing healthy habits. Your employees are watching you, and if they see you taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or grabbing a bottle of water instead of an afternoon dose of caffeine, they may follow your lead!

    3. Appoint Wellness Leaders and Ambassadors

    Whether they are on your HR leadership team or individual contributors within your organization that are on fire about health and wellness, it’s key to assign wellness leaders and ambassadors that can support your organization’s wellness goals. If you have an employee that runs marathons in their free time, empower them to start a running club that employees can join. If you have an employee that loves to cook healthy meals, give them the resources they need to share healthy recipes with the rest of your employee population through email newsletters or bulletin posts in your breakroom.

    Empower wellness leaders to sponsor training webinars, maintain an online wellness resource center, organize health fairs, and promote local health events within the community, such as 5Ks. When your employee population feels like they have a like-minded support system that can give them tips and encouragement to jump on the path to wellness, they are more likely to stay motivated and involved.

    4. Offer Positive Incentives

    Contests, rewards, and incentives are a great way to get your employees engaged in your wellness program. By leveraging people’s competitive nature, you can foster healthy competition within your employee base. Offer rewards for adopting a healthier lifestyle and provide employee access to assistance for those who may be suffering from unhealthy addictions such as smoking or alcohol abuse.

    5. Prioritize Mental Health

    This year, more than ever, businesses have seen a spike in mental health issues within their employee population. It is a well-known fact that satisfied and happy workers provide better customer service and are more productive each day, leading to a 12% spike in productivity for your business and higher profits, according to a recent study at the University of Warwick. Think beyond diet and exercise and provide your employees with access to counseling and mental health resources to help them combat mental health ailments such as depression and anxiety.

    6. Include Individualization

    Use biometric screenings to determine employees' health status and track wellness progress, while maintaining employees' confidentiality. Ensure your employees have access to their individualized health and wellness information so they are aware of their conditions and can take proactive measures to make improvements.

    7. Make Exercise Fun

    For some people, the thought of going to a gym to exercise is dreadful. To encourage employees to get up and get moving, even if it's not in a traditional gym, promote events and activities that involve dancing, swimming, martial arts, playing sports, biking, yoga, or walking trails. These days, especially in our COVID-19-world, there are endless at-home workouts that you can share with your employees to encourage them to stay active. The key is to educate your workforce that any form of movement and exercise is good for their health.

    8. Provide Healthy On-Site Foods

    Obviously right now, many businesses and organizations do not have employees on-site due to COVID-19, but if or when things return to “normal,” or you’re an essential business, it’s more important than ever to provide healthy on-site snack and food options to your employees. You can make it easier for your employees to access options by stocking vending machines, self-service kiosks, or on-site cafeterias/restaurants with healthy food and drink choices.

    9. Leverage Partnerships

    Develop relationships with outside vendors that provide healthy products and resources. For example, partner with a local sandwich or smoothie shop to give your employees discounts or loyalty cards that can be redeemed for free healthy goods. Do you have a local gym in your area that might be willing to offer your employees a discounted membership? You’ll never know unless you ask! These type of partnerships are a win-win for your business, their business, and most importantly, your employees!

    When your business has a winning wellness program that your employees are engaged in and excited about, morale will be high and it can put you on the path to building a healthy, happier workforce. Subsequently, you'll have better attendance and improve employee retention.

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    Employee Health & Wellness

    Roxanne Leal

    Roxanne Leal has been with SWBC since December 2019. As a Wellness Program Manager, Roxanne specializes in developing strategic wellness programs based on high cost claims, survey data and aggregate reports. Roxanne Leal has worked in the health & wellness industry for over 7 years.

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