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Employee health and wellness is important. You don’t need us to tell you this. In the last decade employee benefits have evolved to include better access to mental health, workout apps and even gym memberships.

Companies recognized a demand for superior health benefits and they’ve been working to provide them. With this in mind, it’s time that company leaders also look within the workplace to help improve employee wellness. Encouraging movement and healthy activities in the workplace can help lead to healthier choices outside of work.

The benefits of physically and mentally healthy employees are boundless and include better engagement and overall happier staff.

Start improving your employees workplace wellness with the following five tips.

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1.   Institute Walk and Talk Meetings

We’ve talked about meetings before—and the fact that they’re what many employees consider one of the top time wasters on the job. Unfortunately, they’re a necessary evil. But there are many ways managers can improve them, this is includes making them more dynamic.

There’s no hard and fast rule that says all meetings must take place in an office, with everyone seated around a table. For smaller meetings, such as employee one-on-ones, consider instituting a walk and talk policy.

Walk and talk meetings aren’t some new fad, many well-known visionaries such as Steve Jobs, Aristotle and even Sigmund Freud were known to take their meetings on a walk.

Walking is one of the best ways to improve cardiovascular health, it reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke and improves balance, muscle strength and endurance. Physical activity is also known to boost creativity and innovation, ensuring your meetings will generate new ideas that (hopefully) lead to successful results.

2.   Encourage Desk Exercising

Working in an office can be incredibly sedentary. On average, Canadians spend around 10 hours a day sitting—this doesn’t include the time spent sitting at work.

In recent years studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time can be incredibly harmful. Prolonged periods of sitting can cause weakening in muscles, increase body fat around the waist and result in higher blood pressure.

Employers can help fight the negative effects of lengthy periods spent sitting at a desk by educating, encouraging and building in time for employees to take small breaks, get up and stretch and even, yes, do some desk exercises.

Leg planks, shoulder raises, even simple stretches can help break up the monotony and danger of too much sitting. Breaking for two minutes every half hour to do a simple exercise improves both physical and mental health—and it gives the eyes a break from a starring at a computer screen.

Companies that include an HR hub in their benefit offering can even give employees access to apps that remind them when to take breaks and offer video examples of activities they can do, ensuring they do them correctly and avoid injury.

3.   Organize a Workplace Team

What better way to encourage physical fitness, engagement and team work than organizing a company sports team?

A company sports team is fun, breaks down team silos (meaning employees across multiple teams get a chance to interact and build relationships), and improves communication.

There are so many options available for team activities—dragon boat racing, soccer, baseball or softball, curling even.

A workplace team is a great benefit for current employees and a fantastic way to seal the deal with potential new recruits.

4.   5 Minute Mindfulness Breaks

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Work life can be stressful—deadlines, big presentations and coordination and communication with multiple teams can take a toll on our stress levels and anxiety. Your business can help employees alleviate stress by encouraging them to take five minutes or so a day to focus on mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a great way to help a person focus, it can rejuvenate the mind, release tension and reset us to attack our work in a healthy, productive way.

There are free apps employees can access to help with mindfulness.

Companies can take mindfulness one step further by bringing in an instructor once a week to walk employees through a 30-minute meditation session.

Regardless of what you offer, recognizing the importance of handling workplace stress, and providing employees a safe way to do so will support and improve your staff’s mental health.

5.   Competitive Step Tracking

A little workplace competition can be the perfect way to encourage your employees to get up and move. There are a variety of free apps (iPhone and Android) available that help people count their daily steps.

Put together a competition to see who can achieve the most steps in a month. You can make it an individual or a team competition. But remember, all competitions must have an incentive—some sort of reward that makes the effort worthwhile.

To win, staff should be encouraged to take the stairs, walk during their lunch breaks, even get off a stop or two early on the subway if they take public transportation to work.

Many people don’t look at physical activity as being fun. As an employer, you can help build positive attitudes towards better health in the workplace by showing your staff how much fun it can be.

Building a Healthy Workplace

The five tips we’ve listed are only a few of the ways employers can help improve workplace health and wellness. Encouraging healthy eating, providing healthy snacks, encouraging lunchtime workouts and providing superior benefits can help you build a workplace focused on health.

Healthy employees are known to be more productive, focused and reliable. When you demonstrate to your employees how important they are to you, you build a stronger foundation, strengthening retention that leads to a cohesive and healthy company culture.



Debbie Russell

Debbie is the assistant vice president in the Calgary office of GroupQuest Benefits Resources Inc., partnering with Group Insurance Advisors to support and help grow their employee benefits businesses. Debbie has over 30 years’ experience in the insurance industry. She understands building relationships is what drives this business. She holds the Certified Health Insurance Specialist (CHS) and Group Benefits Associate (GBA) designations and is a member of Advocis. On a more personal note, Debbie enjoys good food, good wine, and having a good time with family and friends. She loves golfing, camping, hiking and travelling.

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