Create a workplace wellness programme that employees will love 

11 May 2021

The shift to working from home in the last year has been challenging for many. We all have good days and bad and need to actively manage our wellbeing, particularly during a time like this when we may struggle with isolation, illness, grief or one of many added stressors while working from home during a pandemic.  

Research by Harvard in 2018 showed, every dollar spent on employee wellness provided a 6-1 return on investment in terms of medical costs and absenteeism.      

Encouraging employees to be intentional about their wellbeing this year and in future is a win win for employers and employees alike. If you are looking for some alternative wellness challenges, here are some ideas for your employees: 

Physical activity is intrinsic to both mental and physical health. Study after study shows the more we move the more we reduce our chances of developing a number of chronic diseases. Encouraging employees to move more in different ways by setting a physical or fitness challenge may also help reduce stress

Everyone is familiar with step challenges. There are countless apps dedicated to enabling people track their steps and compare them to their colleagues.

If you are looking for a step challenge to bring employees together rather than encourage competition, consider one related to covering a specific distance cumulatively meaning everyone’s contribution counts. Is your office in London? Have another in Paris? Why not challenge your employees to walk the distance in kilometres between the two? 

Top tip: before committing, make sure you check the viability of the challenge. A team of four might find it difficult to cover international distances in a month.

Consider a companywide reward for employees when you get there. Maybe a gift card or early finish one day. 

If you have exhausted walking and running challenges, why not engage your employees with a wall sit challenge? One of the difficulties of long-term working from home is many employees will not have the ergonomic office equipment they have access to in the office resulting in bad posture. Over time this can lead to back problems and repetitive strain injuries. 

To perform a wall sit, sit (without a chair!) with your back flat against a wall and your heels on the ground, forming a right angle at your hips and knees. You should be able to feel a light quad stretch.

Performing wall sits correctly improves posture. They also improve core strength, balance and focus. The best thing about wall sits is, no equipment is needed and they are easy to measure. 

Everyone records themselves doing a wall sit at the beginning of the month. Complete an exercise programme to strengthen legs and core before repeating the challenge at the end of the month. 

Top tip: if prizes are awarded don’t just focus on overall time. Percentage improvement is also an important measurement of success – particularly to encourage those who are starting from a lower fitness base. 

A plank challenge focuses on strengthening muscles in our legs and stomach that support our core. Our core is central to almost every move we make. Having a strong core enables us to undertake many day-to-day activities with ease. 

The approach is similar to the wall sit challenge. Ask each employee to record themselves completing a plank until they fail. After a month of core focused exercise, which they may complete together or in their own time, retake the challenge.  

A challenge for many people during the pandemic has been maintaining healthy eating habits. Too much time at home makes it too easy to reach for sweet treats over healthier options. Although healthy eating challenges can be more difficult, the impact eating well has on our overall wellbeing make them worthwhile. 

There are many ways to approach healthy eating as part of a workplace wellness challenge:

  • Send fruit baskets or healthy snacks to employee’s homes.
  • Run a series of healthy eating webinars at lunchtime with a reward for employees who attend them all. 
  • Or try a water drinking challenge to encourage employees to drink 8 glasses a day. 
Maintaining our mental health requires work. The World Health Organisation expects the additional stress from Covid-19 lockdown, isolation and grief are likely to lead to increased mental illness. It is more important than ever that we are intentional about what feeds our mental health. 

If you or your employees are not sure what helps you feel happy, take our happiness habits quiz, built in conjunction with Happiness expert Vanessa King, anddiscover some ways to be happier. In general, mental health is fed by five key elements:

  1. Mindset
  2. Self-Care
  3. Meaning
  4. Relationships
  5. Resilience

Encourage employees to take on challenges related to the area they feel would benefit most: 

Attitude of Gratitude: write down 3 things you are grateful for every day for a month.

Cut the clutter: devote 10 min a day decluttering your home/car. 

Morning mindset routine: each morning write down 1 thing you are looking forward to that day, repeat for 30 days.  

These are just some of the ways we can help focus on mindset, discover more about why it really matters when it comes to success at work. 

Mindfulness: set aside 5 min every day to follow a mindful meditation for a month.

No phone zone: limit smartphone use after 8.30pm at night

Stretch: each morning schedule 10 minutes into your day to stretch. 

Discover more about why self-care matters and how not looking after ourselves can impact our performance at work. 

Kindness counts: actively perform an act of kindness for someone else every day for 30 days

Learn a new skill: so many courses have become virtual, you can learn to cook, draw or a host of other activities from the comfort of your own home. 

Volunteer: although employees may not be able to volunteer in person encourage virtual volunteering for a charity whether it is by check in calls with vulnerable people in the community or running errands for those who may not be able to leave their home.

Discover more about the importance of meaning in expat life.

The power of attention: Did you know positive psychology shows attention matters more than the total time we spend with a person? Give people your undivided attention as much as possible. You will both benefit.

Build a relationship routine: during these difficult times it can be easy to lose touch, encourage employees to contact their support network on a regular basis to prevent this from happening and support their mental health.

Amplify the good stuff: when talking to others focus on any good news they have and encourage them to share it.

Discover more about fostering great relationships and how it can impact our wellbeing. 

Turn your inner critic into a wise coach: often we are our own harshest critics. One way to support your ability to bounce back from a setback is to turn your critic into a coach. Instead of criticising, acknowledge that you feel bad about a situation, recognise you are not the only person to find yourself in that situation, reflect on what has been learned and move on.

Change channels: focusing on negative things that happen is another way we can undermine our resilience. Encourage employees to train their brains by ‘changing the channel’. Imagine the issue you are focusing on playing on a TV and mentally switch the channel every time it pops into their head.

Discover more about cultivating resilience in this article by Happiness expert Vanessa King.

These are just some of the ways you and your business can encourage employees to support their physical and mental wellbeing during these challenging times.