Improve Your Health

Tips for Starting a Workplace Wellness Program

About The Author

Judy Melaro-Gavigan

Director of Business Relations

Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, a part of Ascension Wisconsin

Read more »

Embarking on a wellness journey may seem daunting, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial challenges. Often, all it takes to get over the hump is a strong support system to help a person stay motivated to stick with their new habits and routine wherever they are.

That’s where workplace wellness programs step in. Workplaces can play an important role in supporting employees to be more proactive about their health. This can help boost morale leading to increased productivity and better employee retention, as well as lead to fewer health insurance claims and lower health insurance rates.

A common misconception is that workplace wellness programs are expensive. In fact, these types of programs don’t have to cost much at all. For example, a workplace might start a lunch walk club or encourage employees to take the stairs instead of an elevator. Another option is promoting healthy eating by providing nutritious food options during meetings. Instead of supplying donuts, bring in fruit.

Workplaces may also consider organizing individual or team competitions. This may include competitions to see who can log the most steps in a week. At Ascension, we do a Beat the Boss initiative where a boss or supervisor pledges to walk a certain number of miles in a week and encourages employees to join him or her.  

Another popular type of competition helps employees maintain their weight during the holiday season. Participants are weighed in during the first week of November and receive tools and resources to stay healthy during the holidays, such as recipes, tips to lower stress, and strategies to avoid munching all night at parties. They’re then weighed in again in January and those who didn’t gain any weight split the pot or receive a small prize. These types of things tend to spur a lot of participation and they build good relationships within the workforce.

If a workplace is able to invest even a little in the health of their employees, bringing in a professional nurse health coach is the most impactful and cost-effective option. Nurses with this skill set are a tremendous resource for companies. They are able to visit the worksite regularly to provide everything from screenings and vaccines to smoking cessation programs and nutrition advice. They can also help employees navigate healthcare systems if their health concerns require a greater continuum of care.

To keep things going, I recommend companies have a wellness committee. Bring on people that represent different areas of the company to act as wellness champions and encourage others to participate and stay motivated.

We spend so many of our waking hours at work. Receiving support in the workplace can make a big difference in helping a person succeed in changing their lifestyle and, ultimately, improving their health.

Share this article