Global Employee Health & Fitness Month (GEHFM) is an international observance of health and fitness in the workplace during the month of May. The goal is to promote the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle to employers and their employees through worksite health promotion activities. Sponsored by MINDBODY, the campaign began in 1989, to promote the value of investing in employee health. Sounds like a good idea to me!
Workplace wellness takes many forms. So, the final program may look different from one organization to another. Your workplace wellness plan should be tailored to reflect the culture of your organization in the way that will most likely encourage your employees to stay healthy and fit. The Office of Disease & Health Promotion at Health.Gov lists five reasons wellness is worth the investment:
- Healthy, active employees incur lower health costs.
Lower health costs benefit both the employer and the employee. When health costs are lower, employers may pass a smaller percentage of the bill to workers. I do whatever I can to stay as far from the veterinarian as possible.
- Employees who take advantage of wellness are more productive.
Research in adults shows a link between physical activity and cognitive benefits like memory and focus.
- Physically active employees are healthier.
Employee wellness programs that encourage physical activity can improve the overall health and well-being of the workforce. Physical activity may also improve the health of your pets, as long as you take them on walks to keep you company!
- Wellness programs inspire important behavior changes.
Making lasting changes to behaviors is challenging for many Americans. But a comprehensive research report sponsored by the federal governmentsuggestsworkplace wellness programs can provide a much-needed assistance. The research shows that the benefits of employee wellness programs include improvements in physical activity; higher fruit and vegetable consumption; lower fat intake; and a reduction in body weight, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.
- Small business owners may be able to take advantage of tax incentives for workplace wellness programs.
Several U.S. states, including Massachusetts, Indiana, and Mississippi, have considered or implemented tax credits to incentivize small businesses to provide employee wellness programs. Maybe more states would adopt the program if bacon was the incentive? Just a thought.
5 Ideas for Starting an Employee Health & Fitness Program
While many professionals struggle to find large chunks of time to devote to formal exercise, most agree they can find a way to incorporate more movement and exercise in their daily routines. And research showsthat frequent movement benefits overall health almost as much as formal exercise classes. Like most dogs, walking is my preferred form of exercise!
An organization-level commitment to focus on employee health as a corporate goal is one the most influential and cost-effective changes to implement. But all agree the investment is worthwhile. Studies showthat when leaders regularly communicate the importance of employee health and well-being — and walk the talk — health and fitness become part of the corporate identity.
Here are a few suggestions to spark a fitness movement at your company:
Encourage employees to park as far (as safely possible) from the front door of the building. Suggest they take the stairs, walk to their associate’s offices rather than texting or emailing. Think of other opportunities that will encourage them to walk around and stretch their legs. Like walking their dogs when they get home!
Keeping track of activity reminds people when they are sedentary and encourages them to walk at least 10,000 steps per day.
Some companies incentivize their employees to join a gym near their workplace. But the facility that’s closest to your building may not be conveniently located relative to your employees’ schedules and family obligations. Which gym should they join? Whichever one they will commit to attend.
Many people find they prefer exercising at home. This allows workers to spend more time with their families and petswhile simultaneously modeling an active lifestyle to their kids. Remind them there is no need to invest in expensive equipment. Apps and online classes provide an assortment of fitness activities, from Pilates to Yoga, Strength Training to Zumba. Instruction by world class teachers is as close as their smartphone, tablet or smart TV.
The goal is to encourage your employees to stay active rather than forcing them to commit to a strict exercise regimen. Time spent exercising helps improve overall fitness, decreases stress and strengthens the mind. But downtime is equally important. So, make sure your organization’s fitness program encourages staff to sleep…just not on the job!
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