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Workplace Wellness Programs in 2020 and beyond: What does the future bring?

January 10, 2020
HR Wisdom

We seem to have finally realised how detrimental a 9-to-5 sitting-at-a-desk-and-not-moving lifestyle really is.

After all, our bodies were not made for lounging around honed in on Netflix and Instagram all day long. We need to move to stay healthy, but the demands of the modern workplace often leave us drained and in no mood to go to the gym, or even for a walk.

Luckily, workplace wellness programs are starting to take off, and more and more companies are realising that there is no downside to implementing one. Not only will their employees be healthier and feel better, but they will also be more engaged and more productive at work.

Let’s explore where these programs are heading in 2020 and beyond.

Smoke-free programs and workplaces

A new trend that has started emerging is a zero-smoke workplace.

We all know just how bad smoking is – there is no need to dive into that here. But if you’re looking to help your employees combat this habit, here’s what you can do:

  • Make all of your spaces and all company vehicles smoke-free. This might just mean your employees will go outside to smoke, but it is the first step.
  • Encourage them to join programs that will help them quit smoking, and pay for them.
  • Establish company rewards for those who manage to stick to their no-smoking goals – but do not make these rewards resemble promotions. You’re trying to encourage a healthier work environment, so the rewards need to be specifically tailored to the milestones your smoke-free employees achieve, as opposed to the rewards they could expect for a job well done.

Improved mental health

Mental health in the workplace is a subject we discuss more and more often, but it is still not being tackled by companies on a large scale.

With burnout, anxiety, and depression being the most common mental health challenges of our time, you can do your bit and make a difference by implementing a program that will enable employees to reach for help in their time of need.

Our mental health is in charge of our quality of life – yet, tackling its challenges and negative influences can seem like a hurdle we can’t overcome. Not with all the work, and our personal lives, and everything else we have going on.

This is why a workplace mental health program can be the single most valuable step you take to improve your employees’ lives (and consequently, their performance).

  • Establish a strategy that will prevent bullying, nepotism, and unprofessional behaviour in the workplace. Have clear sanctions in place, and activate them every time someone violates the company zero-tolerance policy.
  • Provide training for your managers in leadership, management, and mental health strategies.
  • Take your entire staff to a mental health retreat once a year.
  • Establish a meditation or quiet space in the office.
  • Encourage and establish positive communication in the workplace. Actively work on weeding out negativity and unproductive criticism.
  • Provide mental health support and counselling – anonymous if need be – to all of your staff.

Promote physical activity

As we’ve already mentioned, physical activity is one of the building blocks to a better life, and exercise programs are the workplace wellness trend that we have seen the most of so far.

With more and more exercise-based programs available for companies, it becomes increasingly easier to sign your staff up to one. However, knowing what they need and how to provide it is the challenge here.

  • Go for a program like GoSweat, where your employees can choose the option they want, as opposed to being forced to go to a certain gym or program.
  • Provide company Fitbits or similar trackers to encourage your staff to stay active.
  • Establish company sports teams and compete against each other.
  • Reward employees who walk or bike to work.
  • Have weekly yoga or stretching sessions in the office.
  • Reward employees who walk the most steps in a month.

Promote better meal choices

Eating well is another of modern life’s challenges, but you can help your employees by offering healthy meals, snacks, or drinks in the office.

  • Have an office lunch or snack provided for your employees as often as you can.
  • Have a fridge and microwave in the office, so that staff can bring in their own healthy meal options.
  • Encourage them to try different meal plans and food options with tasting menus.
  • Ban the high-sugar and high-calorie options from your vending machines.

A word of warning

While we certainly expect more companies to adopt workplace exercise, mental health and meal plans, the one thing you need to remember is that you can’t force your employees to make the healthy choice.

Even if you provide the workplace wellness program you feel would benefit everyone, there might be someone among your staff who is simply not interested in participating. Don’t force them to take part, as they are free to live the life they want to. Try to educate them about the benefits, but don’t make them feel they have to do it. Prevent staff who are not taking part in the wellness programs from being ostracised, and don’t let cliques form based on lifestyle choices.

Final word

Establishing a workplace wellness program can be a bit of a challenge and a learning curve at first. But once it becomes the norm, your employees will feel all of its benefits – and that will certainly contribute to a more positive and productive workplace. It’s up to you to find the best program for your company and communicate its appeal.

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Caitlin is a bookworm, nutritionist and one passionate writer. When she is not trying to find the meaning of life and the Universe, Cate is researching and covering various health and well-being related topics. She is happily addicted to art in all its forms, grilled tofu, and well... caffeine (bad lama!). To see what is Caitlin up to next, check out her Twitter Dashboard.

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