Workplace Wellness – Top 10 Bang for Your Buck Ideas

Are you overwhelmed by the number of wellness ideas workplaces are being expected to take on board? Wondering if you should institute on-site Yoga classes, start a smoking cessation or weight loss programme? Maybe provide all your staff with subsidized gym memberships?

What will give you and your team the most bang for your buck?

While the final answer is dependent on your particular aims and set up, I wanted to throw out 10 of my favourites for your consideration.  Coming from a fitness background, they are primarily fitness-flavoured initiatives, but that doesn’t mean they are without benefits to mental health, workplace culture, and productivity.    These are initiatives that go beyond looking good on paper, in fact, warning; some don’t look good at first glance but dig a bit deeper, and you’ll discover they pack a punch when it comes to having a positive impact on people’s health.  In some instances, I’ve linked to products and services we’ve created around these ideas, or that others have, but you certainly don’t need to buy any of those to roll with these ideas.

1. Movement breaks

Regular breaks as short as 20 seconds have wads of health benefits for people who sit or stand for long periods.   Those benefits include better health, better concentration levels, fewer aches and pains, and improved moods. 

For most, the benefits are derived via the doing of huffy puffy movements in those breaks.  Ones that get the heart rate up, and also take people out of the primary position they have been in for the preceding 30 minutes or more.    For example, if people have been sitting in a rounded/slouched, legs bent position at their desk, then doing sit-ups (another rounded, legs bent, position albeit but from the floor) wouldn’t be the best choice.  Standing up and doing leg swings would likely be better.

Anyone with an Apple watch who has used the hourly ‘stand’ reminder will appreciate this idea only too well and hey, if Apple has been doing it for 3 + years, surely that’s a bit of a sign we all should be.  Thankfully, you don’t need an Apple watch. Indeed you don’t even need a programme or any fancy equipment.  This is my no.1 bang for your buck choice.  You can read more about micro-movement breaks here.

2. Flexible working hours

While many employees are legally entitled to flexi-hours the idea here is to extend the eligibility to include things like allowing staff to start and end their days earlier or later to be able to cycle into work outside of peak hours, or so they can get in some exercise in daylight hours through winter; to swap around work times so they can get in extra training time for a big race; taking longer lunch breaks to get to a fitness class. Steps like these help grow a happy team but only if it’s seen as acceptable and encouraged. Chat with your workplace psychologist/wellness manager about how to roll out the idea to ensure people embrace the idea.

3. Lie down / napping spaces

If your people are on-site long enough to be eligible for breaks, then they are there long enough to benefit from a space where they can lie down for 10 minutes.  Getting horizontal can help relieve back pain, lower stress levels, and re-energize people.   Creating a suitable space or spaces can be easy and low cost.

Click here to read more about why astronauts and highly successful people lie down; how to go about setting these spaces up and ideas for creating ‘rules’ around their use to keep everyone happy.

4. Fun stuff

Specifically, I’m talking foosball and table tennis (ping pong).  These would have to be some of the best games a staff room could have in terms of being able to get people laughing together and moving more. Regardless of people’s fitness levels, size, or ability, pretty much everyone will be able to join in these two games.  If you’re tight on space and/or have a number of people who may struggle to pick a ping pong ball off the ground, then go the foosball option.  As a side note, table tennis tables can usually be folded, so one half becomes the ‘wall’ which decreases how much room it takes up and also has the benefit of being able to be then used by one person.

5. Challenges

Announce an array of different health and fitness challenges 12 months in advance for your crew to choose from. Having a choice, laid out ahead of time like this, will help them feel more comfortable about opting out of some. This is super important if we want to cater to people’s abilities, personality types, preferences, etc., while still enabling them to be involved, and feel involved, with the overall initiative.  It also gives people time to prepare for the challenges.  That may be on a psychological front, or to find a buddy to join them, or to buying a raincoat for those outside winter activities, or downloading and getting familiar with an app they’ll need to use.  We have 12 challenges here all set to go if you need ideas.

6. Support

Make it a bit easier for people to do what they are already doing. Options could include having a shower at work for those who like to cycle into work or run at lunchtimes; a safe place to store bikes, hang up raincoats, dry off wet gear.  Ask your team what would be most valuable to them. Too expensive to put in a shower and not sure it would get used?  Check out portable shower hire options.

7. Food

If you are going to have snack machines or snack boxes have healthy ones.  People can always bring their own junk food if they want it. That’s easy. What’s hard is finding time to find something healthy to eat when you’ve left your lunch at home, and you’re working through your break to meet a deadline.  What’s hard is saying ‘no’ every time you walk past those chocolate bars, chips and, fizzy.  Changing tack on this front will have a large and positive impact not just on people’s physical health but also on their mental health.  Equally important is to have a suitable setup for people to store, heat up, and blend their own food that they have bought from home. Having healthy food options at staff functions can also make them more enticing to all your health-conscious crew. Regardless of the already appreciative crew, healthy options reveal just how much you really do care about people because it takes effort to do a nice healthy spread.  For more details and loads more ideas clickety-click here Healthier Workplaces.

8. Snappy snippets

Snappy snippets are short healthy messages. Think 100 words or less. Avoid collecting random ‘tips’ from the internet thinking they sound good or harmless; instead, ask your local health and fitness professionals if they would like to contribute weekly snippets. It will also save you time and will help ensure the advice being turfed out is correct.  Otherwise, head to Government websites for industry guidelines on activity and nutrition, or click here to use 10 of ours.

For most impact, get creative with how the messages are delivered. Turn them into posters, use funny pictures, and put messages into the speech bubbles coming out of the mouths of cute animals or consenting staff members!  Posters could go on to the back of toilet doors if you have a physical workplace or if you’re team are WFH then you could have them as a slide while people are waiting to join a meeting or midway.

Whether you are on location or WFH, you could also play the ‘Telephone Game’  with health messages, having one message a week passed on from one person to another. Have the last person share what they think the message was and compare it to the original.

9. On-site health expo

Invite in local health and fitness professionals for a lunchtime or half-day expo. Offer the opportunity for a variety of health markers to be measured like blood pressure, glucose levels, recovery heart rate, balance, flexibility, cholesterol, heart-lung fitness as well as doing skin cancer checks.  If you are an online business or have WFH staff, there is still a bunch of these measurements that can easily be done in the virtual world.  There are also some neat programmes now that offer an entertaining, online on-site trade show feel.

10. On-site fitness space

Having access to fitness equipment/space at your workplace can be helpful, providing you do it right. ‘Right’ is easy and not necessarily costly or involving tons of equipment. However, it does mean knowing beforehand what people will use (not what they say they will use) and equally importantly, what will be useful for them.

To ascertain these answers, my suggestion is to talk to a fitness pro who has 5+ years’ experience working with people in gyms.    Ideally, these are professionals who don’t have a product to sell or service to push.  A local gym instructor would be ideal.  They should be able to tell you which equipment will last the longest, requires the least maintenance, gets the most use, and has the most potential to exasperate common injuries/conditions.  Once you decide on what you like and before you buy anything, check in with the health and safety officer about all the related issues that will need addressing.

There’s also a free questionnaire/checklist for those thinking of putting gyms/ fitness spaces in at their workplace, that can be download here.

What didn’t make the cut?

There are probably 3 or 4 other initiatives I could just as easily have included in my Top 10  list, but the aim was to cut through the noise and make it super simple for those wondering where to start.

As you can see, Yoga classes, smoking cessation and weight loss programmes, nor subsidized gym memberships, as mentioned in the opening paragraphs, made it into my top 10. I’m not sure they would scrape into my top 20 either, but that’s a story for another day.

Top 10 easiest & cheapest?

Not all of those in my top 10 are easy or cheap to implement, even though they would be great for the health of the individuals and likely too for the culture and productivity of the workplaces,  i.e. offering the most bang for your buck. Still, the list did lead me to jot down what would be the 10 easiest and cheapest steps a workplace could take.  What if a workplace had just a few hours and a $100 budget to do as much as possible with, what should they do? If that sounds like it would be useful, sign up to the Catch Fitness Club and I’ll send you the list when it’s released.

Top 10 steps in 2023?

Maybe the most interesting question is: what would be the 10 best steps in 2023?  

I think the pool of ‘hazards’ (which employers are legally obligated to minimize) is about to grow big time.  This is mostly because technological advances and research can now directly link more of our workplace behaviour and environments to illness and injury and, that they are places where the changing of behaviour can significantly reduce both injury and illness.  Up until now, we’ve theorized around this stuff, and even the peer-review medical journal articles that have supported the connections struggle to land in the mainstream world because of the inability to measure those changes, easily, instantly, and on a huge scale.  That’s all about to change, and the first businesses to most benefit from the tangibility of this information will be insurance companies.  They have direct financial gains to be made from this and good leveraging power to indirectly prompt both employees to take the necessary ‘new’ steps to ensure better health outcomes and employers to provide opportunities for those steps to be taken.

So, what research and technology are emerging? What will be the first unexpected new ‘hazards’ to fall within the employer’s pool of obligations?  Is anyone in the health and wellness space preparing for this, and if so, how?  What does it mean in terms of what you are investing in now?  Would you do well to be already doing what’s going to hit the mark, especially if you knew it would attract lower insurance premiums and help pull in good staff?  It’s a big and exciting issue, but one for another time.

I hope you found something in this resource article useful.

Thank you for reading.

Broni McSweeney