Beyond Employee Health Benefits, more workplaces are starting wellness programs to boost their employees’ health, morale and avoid sick days- Albertans take an average of 5.8 days off per year because of illness or disability. Wellness programs can be as simple as putting a bowl of fruit in the breakroom to encourage healthy eating to radically changing a company’s workplace practices to encourage work-life balance.
So how can your company begin to boost wellness?
- Work-Life Balance
The Catalan region recently changed from the usual Spanish workday that begins at 8 am, breaks for a three-hour lunch at 1 pm and ends at 8 or 9 pm for a more typical nine to five arrangement. While their grandparents might have returned home at lunch for a siesta, modern Spaniards live further from their workplaces and typically spend their breaks on multi-course lunches or at ‘nap bars’. The result is a poor work-life balance that adds up to little contact with friends and family during the work week and poor sleep habits.
Keeping the fact that your employees have lives outside of work is harder than it sounds, especially for entrepreneurs who pride themselves on eighteen-hour days and seven day weeks. Getting to know your employees, allowing them to be honest with you about what working arrangements are right for them and respecting the eight-hour workday that has been the norm for over a century will help you avoid over-stressing your employees.
- Mental Health
You might have seen one employer’s heartwarming reaction to an employee requesting a Mental Health Day, something that is becoming increasingly common as employers and employees start to recognize that mental illness and physical illness are just as damaging.
Allowing employees to request the occasional mental health day is preferable to allowing them to burn out and either quit or seriously reduce their work output in order to avoid pushing themselves beyond breaking point (or just take mental health days and tell you that they’re regular sick days). If an employee is taking too many mental health days, that can be an indicator that something is wrong in your workplace for you to fix- and an indicator that an employee health benefits plan might be needed.
- Too Much Sitting
Sitting increases the risk of death by heart disease by 125% and the risk of any kind of death by 50% according to the Mayo Clinic. Our bodies didn’t evolve for eight hours of sitting- something that has only become commonplace during the last fifty years or so. When you sit your body’s processes for breaking down fats and sugars stall, increasing your risk of diabetes and a host of other conditions.
You can reduce the effects of sitting by making a few small tweaks to your office: have meetings standing up (this also reduces the amount of time wasted in meetings), offer standing desks, restrict eating to a break room or canteen area so employees don’t eat sitting at their desk. You can also incentivize your employees to cycle to work, offsetting some of the damage desk-work does, by offering vouchers to buy bicycles or bonuses and prizes for cycling.
- Healthy eating
Brown-bagging lunch or buying from fast-food restaurants doesn’t add up to a great diet. Unhealthy eating habits don’t just pile on the pounds, they can lead to people feeling sluggish, even depressed, and to the development of hundreds of debilitating conditions.
Adding a bowl of fruit to a breakroom area can introduce some much-needed vitamins and fibre to your employees’ diets, and you can also look at any vending machines you might have and the food on offer in local cafes- exchanging services for gift vouchers for somewhere that sells healthy food could be a good way to incentivize healthy eating.
- Smoking and Drinking
Both of these habits are becoming rarer, especially in younger people, but substance misuse still takes a toll on employees- they still lose mornings to hangovers and have to take breaks every few hours for a cigarette.
Both habits can be the result of issues that need addressing, responses to stress that could be made healthier. You can encourage employees to quit smoking by not setting up a dedicated smoking area or offering Employee Benefits plans that can subsidize nicotine patches or other means of quitting. Drinking is much more difficult to reduce because most of it happens outside of work hours, but you can speak to them one-on-one if it becomes a problem- in certain industries where safety is critical there are established protocols for dealing with substance abuse.
- A Rock-Solid Health Plan
Your first step in increasing employee health should be an Employee Benefits and Group Health Plan that allows them to get any current conditions they suffer from taken care of before they start affecting them at work. We can help build that plan.
It’s easy to say that your employees are your company’s most valuable asset, but much harder to put time and money into ‘maintaining’ them. Ultimately, an investment in your employees and Employee Health Benefits can be one of the best things you will do for your company.