How to Build a Health & Fitness Program at Your Company

How much time do you spend at work? The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Americans worked an average of 34.4 hours per week. And how many hours will you work in your lifetime? About 90,000 hours, or a third of your life.

That’s not all. What about the time you spend getting to your job? If you’re lucky enough to work from home, you don’t have to worry about commuting to an office every day. But for the rest of us, the average one-way commute in the United States is about 26 minutes. That means if you work 5 days a week full time, you spend about 4.3 hours a week commuting, or over 200 hours per year. Your commute could be even longer if you live in a city with notoriously bad traffic, like Washington, D.C., New York, and Maryland.

Because we spend so much time at work, it’s common for us to neglect our personal health. If you work a typical desk job, that means much of that time at work is spent sitting down. Which, if done in excess, can be harmful to your health. And if you have a long commute and work long hours everyday, the last thing you feel like doing is making time to exercise.

That’s where a health and fitness program, also called an employee wellness program, can help. When your employees are in good physical and mental shape, they can excel at their jobs. They’ll also feel happier, less stressed, and more engaged with the company. And of course, they’ll be in better health, which means fewer colds and illnesses spreading around the office. That means better productivity and less absenteeism.

Check out our tips below for creating and implementing your own employee wellness program.

Decide what you want to offer

An employee wellness program probably brings free fitness classes or gym membership reimbursements to mind, but you can do so much more than that. Here are some ideas for benefits that go beyond the obvious.

Free flu shots

During flu season, offer your employees free flu shots. It’s the perfect time to remind everyone that their health is a priority. If they’re sick, encourage them to stay home and get better.

Free health risk assessments

Health assessments are usually created by asking employees questions about their activity levels, diet, stress level, and behaviors like smoking or drinking. You can also provide screenings for blood glucose, blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol. For many employees, these health assessments can be a reminder or a wake up call to take care of themselves.

Volunteer days

As a way to get up and moving outside of the office, try organizing volunteer days every once in awhile. Partner with a nonprofit that you support to organize a company-wide volunteering event, or encourage your employees to participate in an event that supports a cause of their choice.

Whether they choose a 5k, plant trees, volunteer to clear litter, or help out at a soup kitchen, they’ll feel good about helping others. And that can work wonders for relieving stress and clearing the mind.

Fitness activities

Some companies are lucky enough to have onsite gym facilities or fitness classes, but for many organizations, that’s just not feasible. As we said, gym reimbursements or fitness classes are popular choices for employee wellness programs. Try bringing fitness instructors to the office to host classes if you have the space.

You can also form exercise groups within the company and encourage employees to participate. Create a walking route for employees to take “walking breaks” throughout the day, whether that’s outside or throughout the building. Do your employees love team sports? Form a kickback, softball, or flag football team that can meet after-hours for games.

Lead the charge

Now that you know what you’d like to offer in your health and fitness program, it’s up to company leadership to set an example for everyone else. When leaders are seen participating in the wellness program, that shows employees that it’s okay to participate too. They’ll know it’s okay to take walking breaks, to stand up and stretch, and to stay home when they’re not feeling well.

Make it a game

Who doesn’t love to win? Set up a game system or a series of challenges that will entice your employees into participating. For example, you might create a list of challenges for employees to do, ranging from easy (take a walk break for 15 minutes) to more complex (run 10 laps around the office building before 9 am.)

You can even set up challenges between departments for a little fun and friendly competition. Have each team or department track their progress. Whoever completes their challenges first, or whoever completes the most challenges within a certain time frame, wins bragging rights. Or they’ll win an actual prize, which leads us to our next point.

Offer incentives for participation

Motivating yourself to exercise for personal health reasons should be enough reason to do it, but we all know that sometimes that’s not enough. To combat that, offer your employees incentives for participating.

Of course, try to make the incentives healthy or fitness related. For example, whoever takes the most steps during the week or month could win a gym membership, a weekend at a spa, or a pass to a variety of fitness classes.

Host events frequently

It’s not enough to create an employee wellness program and walk away, hoping employees will join. Host company events frequently to build interest and encourage participation. It will also show that company leadership is serious about caring for employee health.

How frequently you host events is up to you. Consider hosting events like company hikes, or team-building physical activities like zip lining and paintball. Or, you can sign up for third-party events such as obstacle course races like Savage Race, Tough Mudder, and Spartan Race.

Care for your employees

After you’ve created your employee wellness program, don’t forget to write everything down! A written policy can help prevent misunderstandings and clarify the program details. Include it in your employee handbook, on your internal website, and keep it posted in common areas like kitchens and break rooms.

Setting up a wellness program takes time and resources, but it’s worth it. You’re helping your employees become their best selves so they can do their best work. Happier and healthier employees are less stressed and more productive. An employee wellness program is not only good for personal health, it’s good for your company’s health as well.