Practice, Program, Policy: A step-wise approach to foster wellbeing at work
Leanna Lilly, MS, PHR, CCWS
Creating a culture of well-being within an organization is a big job and takes time, money and support. Recently, I was introduced to a new concept from the not-for-profit world, “Pledge the Practice, Pass the Policy.”
The idea is simple: pledge to act today while building a foundation to achieve long-term goals. Ideally, we would all have policies in place to foster healthier work environments and formally support employee wellbeing at work. However, it takes time to gather support and buy-in to successfully implement new policies.
Even if you don’t have money or organization-wide support, you can personally start to make small changes today. As these practices take hold, you can then begin to implement programs to engage employees. All the while, you can be working behind the scenes to gather support, develop guidelines and formally adopt policies that will integrate those practices into your workplace culture to make healthier choices and behaviors the norm.
Let’s examine a step-wise approach to fostering wellbeing with progressively increasing requirements of time, money and organizational buy-in.
You can start implementing PRACTICES today, on your own, with no additional resources. But practices are most effective when they spread throughout the workplace and become ingrained in the fabric of an organization. So start leading the way.
Some practice examples include:
- Stretch breaks: Initiate daily stretch breaks. Turn on some music, get up from your desk, invite your colleagues and direct reports to join you, and move for 2-5 minutes. Your body and your brain will thank you. Physical activity and taking breaks have been shown to increase productivity and creativity. And as you continue this habit, it will become a fun part of the day that you and your colleagues look forward to.
- Laughter breaks: Use break time to watch a funny video and invite others to join you. If you are leading a meeting, open the meeting with a few minutes of work-appropriate comedy or invite employees to share a joke with the team. Laughter can make you instantly feel happier, bond with others and relieve stress.
- Walking meetings: If you are a manager, bring up this idea with your direct reports. Let them know that walking meetings are an option and allow them to opt-in or out. You can also propose a walking meeting with your manager or colleagues on a project. Walking meetings can stimulate creativity, facilitate problem solving and minimize distractions.
- Encourage employees to take breaks: Breaks during the workday allow you to refresh and recharge, which leads to an increase in efficiency, decrease in errors and a more engaged workforce. However, many employees still skip breaks. Encourage your direct reports to take regular breaks and lead by example by taking breaks yourself. Invite a colleague to join you for a walking break or to grab a cup of coffee.
- Healthy food and beverages at meetings: If you are organizing a meeting, you can commit to ordering or purchasing nutritious foods and beverages. You don’t have to wait for a company-wide nutrition policy to ditch the donuts and provide yogurt parfaits for a breakfast meeting. Sodas can be replaced by fruit-infused water. When you have the ability to make ordering decisions, you can begin the bring more nutritious foods into the office.
The next step, PROGRAMS, will take longer to plan and will require additional support and resources to implement. Programs are more formal and structured than practices and have the potential to reach a far greater number of individuals.
Some program examples include:
- Wellness challenges: Depending on the size of your company and your budget, there is a wellness challenge for you. Whether you organize a basic paper-tracking challenge or bring in a third-party vendor, you can engage your team, department or organization in tracking daily healthy behaviors. The sky is the limit for wellness challenges; track servings of produce, acts of kindness, hours of sleep, sugar-sweetened beverages, meditation and more. If you have funds for incentives, great! If you don’t, get creative. Give away a homemade trophy, lunch with the CEO or a valued parking space.
- Onsite fitness, meditation, cooking classes: A great way to bring wellbeing to a worksite is to offer classes or workshops. You can partner with your benefit providers, health department, community organizations or local businesses to offer education and hands-on experiences to your employees.
- Walks led by senior leadership: After you lead by example by taking walks with your colleagues, you can invite your senior leaders to also, literally, lead by example. You can host a single walk or offer the program monthly or quarterly. Having your C-suite lead a walk can be a great, no-cost way to support employees and the visibility of wellbeing initiatives.
- Commuter programs to support biking and walking to work: There are both wellbeing and environmental benefits to ensuring that employees are able to walk and bike to work. Providing showers, bike racks and changing facilities demonstrates that you support their choice to use alternative forms of transportation. Consider hosting an event to celebrate the annual Bike-to-Work Day in May.
POLICIES require buy-in from leadership and can take a long period of time to adopt. To be effective in the long-term, policies require ongoing education and support across the organization.
Some policy examples include:
- Flexible work schedules: Where possible, policies that allow employees flexibility in when and where they work can have a big impact on productivity and wellbeing. Examples of different arrangements include: compressed workweek of four 10-hour days; 9/80 where employees work 9-hour days and have one additional day off every other week; telecommute policies that allow employees to work remotely some portion of the week. The key is to find what works best for your organization to ensure that productivity and customer satisfaction aren’t sacrificed.
- Healthy food, including vending machines: Most employees eat at least one meal each day while they are at work, so the employer can be in a position to advocate and support nutritious options. Policies can include guidelines for food served in cafeterias, for sale in vending machines and provided at meetings. A healthy food policy can be a great tool in creating a culture of health where the nutritious choice is the easy choice.
- Dress code: More traditional business attire can restrict movement and decrease active time during the workday. If an employee must change their shoes to take a walk at lunch, only your most health-conscious employees are going to do so. Consider relaxing your dress code to allow blue jeans and tennis shoes on one or more days per week. If you make a change, communicate to your employees why and use it as an opportunity to show your commitment to their wellbeing.
Building a strong effort to increase wellbeing in the workplace can seem a bit intimidating. But taking an organized, step-wise approach based on a sequence of practices, programs and policies will help realize the benefits for everyone as quickly as possible. It just takes someone with initiative to get the ball rolling and engage others. You can be that person!
About the Author
Leanna Lilly, MS, PHR, CCWS, is a Health Management Specialist for Keenan with over 11 years of experience in worksite wellness. Her areas of expertise include program development, data analysis, and program evaluation. She holds certifications as a Professional in Human Resources, Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist, WELCOA Faculty Member and Certified Personal Trainer. She earned a B.A. degree in Psychology from the University of Kentucky and M.S. degrees in both Industrial/Organization Psychology and Exercise and Sports Science from