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Employee Wellness: 9 Low-Cost Ideas That Your Team Will Love

Kate Williams

Last Updated:  

30 May 2024

7 min read

I was at the office when a friend called me, asking for a therapist’s recommendation. I immediately gave her some of the names that popped up in my head and asked whether she’s comfortable telling me what it is about.

“It’s work! I’m burning out!” she said in an exhausted voice. 

Sadly, this story is more common than you think. For one thing, many firms still view employee wellness as a nice extra. And secondly, personal health, especially mental health, is such an intimate issue; to confide about it to a manager requires a strong bond of trust.  

Why is employee wellness important?

  • In a study by Harvard Business Review, employers who invest in health and wellness got an average of $6 in healthcare savings for every dollar spent.
  • Furthermore, some researchers have found that employees who are satisfied with their workplace are 16% more productive and 18% more likely to stay. 

The message is clear: employee wellness pays off. Healthy employees simply cost less, and if the workplace doesn’t provide a robust wellness program, it can take a toll on the employee, and thus indirectly on the company as well. Here are nine low-cost ideas to help you build your employee wellness program for remote and office employees. 

Nine employee wellness ideas for your program

#1. Do micro changes for macro results

In corporate wellness, small steps can go a long way. As an example, let’s start with your office.  

  • Does your workplace consist of closed, dark cabins or rows of desks under fluorescent lights? Small changes such as access to fresh air and incorporation of natural light can be a game-changer. 
  • No space for gym equipment or pool tables? Mandate walking meetings and calls.
  • What’s an easy way to keep employees fresh and boost their productivity? You can motivate them to stop, take a break and exercise for five minutes with an hourly “fitness alarm”.
  • According to the Washington Post, office workers spend an average of 10 hours glued to their seats. So does your office furniture provide good back support? Ergonomic chairs and tables have massive benefits for your employees’ wellbeing.

As shown above, you don’t have to turn the workspace upside down to instil employee wellness. Simple solutions can work as well.

People are frustrated with everyday designs - Don Norman, The Design of Everyday Things (1)

#2. Add personality to your workspace

Let’s admit it, it is frustrating to be stuck with a workspace and unable to control how it looks. In a survey by Harvard Business Review, data from over 300 employees in five different countries found that when they felt a sense of ownership about their work area, they felt more comfortable in the space, more collaborative, and more enthusiastic about their work.

According to researcher Don Norman, a human-centric design gives the user “a feeling of control, of mastery, and of satisfaction or even pride.” Which are all strong positive emotions.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to spend dollars on a redesign. On the contrary, you can simply adjust your workspace policy to be more flexible; to allow employees to customize their workspaces. You can add a few standing desks and bean bags to make the office feel even more welcoming.  

#3. Move, move, move!

A 9 to 5 job equals to 9 to 5 slouching. And it strips away a great chunk of physical movements that keep our bodies (and minds) healthy. Some simple fitness hacks like the ones below will be tremendously helpful.

  • Encourage your employees to speed walk to their desk, errands, cafeteria, conference room – anywhere they can. This will make movement a natural part of their day.
  • Incentivize such activities as a virtual fitness challenge with weekly and monthly goals. Through apps like Stridekick or Espresa,  you can track progress and reward employees who complete each challenge.
  • Schedule a 15-minute group workout (in-person or on Zoom) after lunch hour to shake off the post-lunch snoozes.
  • Find a marathon event in your community, and offer to sponsor employees who decide to participate.
  • Offer tele-health consultations for employees. They are cheaper to subsidize than in-person or emergency room visits.

Reduced stress, better sleep, better brainpower, improved self-confidence – what more do you need? So take the first step, move a bit more than you did yesterday!

#4. Bring in a smoke-free workplace

According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), requiring all workplaces to be smoke-free would reduce smoking prevalence by 10%. Furthermore, smoke-free workplaces not only protect non-smokers from the dangers of secondhand smoke, but also encourage smokers to quit or to reduce consumption. Here are some strategies you can use:

  • Gradually implement a smoke-free workplace policy, and advertise it with smoke-free signs, notices, emails and posters. 
  • Incentivize going smoke-free, if possible. The incentives need not be monetary, either.  According to a Wharton University study, employees who are incentivized to quit are 3 times more successful at ditching the habit. 
  • Don’t stigmatize employees who smoke. If necessary, you can designate a separate, well-ventilated area for smokers.
  • Extend your employee health benefit program to support smoking de-addiction.

#5. Put healthy food within reach

Proper eating is 80% of nutrition, but this can be difficult to follow in the office. This is doubly so for employees whose routines have been disrupted by the pandemic. You can help by creating an employee wellness program that rewards employees for eating healthy. Here are some ideas to inspire you.

  • It’s hard to avoid reaching for snacks during crunch time. So make sure to stock up on healthy alternatives to traditional junk food.
  • Create a healthy recipe board in office or virtually. Employees can contribute their favorite quick and healthy recipes; you can even make a contest out of it.
  • Enable employees to make their meals in the office with the above-mentioned recipes.  A decent kitchen space can enhance employee wellness – especially when they are working late or on the graveyard shift. At the very least, you can provide a fun storage space for employees to store their food.
  • If you have a small kitchen and employees don’t have the time to make food, you can use a service for the delivery of prepped meals like Factor to improve nutrition in the office.
  • Keep water dispensers within easy reach. You can also configure the laptops with funny pop-ups to remind them to take a break and hydrate.
  • Work hard, party healthy. Be selective about what you provide at office events. A little research can give you lots of ideas for delicious, healthy party appetizers and snacks. You can also do potluck lunches or dine at an organic farm.

Employee wellness tip: nap breaks

#6. Take nap breaks

A lot of office cultures frown on sleeping at work. But did you know that companies like Google, Nike, Uber, and Zappos provide a snooze-friendly policy for their employees?

While taking naps might sound counterproductive, a quick nap can boost productivity, alertness, concentration and thereby reduce mistakes.

According to recent studies by sleep researchers, we are designed to take a mid-afternoon nap. While people earlier believed that the noon daze was caused by heavy lunches, it has more to do with the number of hours we sleep.

Here’s how to create a nap-friendly space:

  • Find a dark, quiet, cool place – away from the main areas or conference rooms. This will be the designated “nap pod”.
  • Keep a timer in the pod to time the break. The best naps are 15-20 minutes long. Longer times can lead to inertia and fogginess that’s hard to shake.
  • Make employees comfortable with the idea of communicating that they are on a power nap. This can be as a status update or a simple Post-It note.
  • You can also issue “nap passes” which entitle employees to a set number of naps every month. That will ensure that people don’t abuse the privilege!

#7. Meditate the stress away

If you’re thinking yoga and meditation will only shave off another hour from your work, you’re wrong. Because all you need is a 5-minute meditation break or a 2-minute pranayama session.

A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that mindful meditation cause changes in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is responsible for learning and memory. It also states that mindfulness practices increases grey matter density. So basically, you become smarter and less stressed out! Here are some ideas for including meditation as part of employee wellness: 

#8. Create time for recreation

If you can’t treat your eyes to the greenery of nature, you can treat them to the green of a snooker table! Recreation refreshes us and boosts our energy.

However, you don’t need to build a whole indoor stadium for that! Here are some cost-effective ideas:

  • There are tons of indoor games like table tennis and snooker which require less space.
  • You can also stock up on board games or a dartboard. Even a punching bag will work as a solid stress relief.
  • Your teams can combine recreation and learning with a mini-library. Your employees can use this library to read or even borrow books using their employee ID.

#9. Check in with your employees

The best wellness ideas will come from your employees themselves. Here are ways you can use online surveys to manage employee wellness.

  • Use surveys to get ideas for employee wellness programs like lunch menus, treats, exercise programs and more.
  • Craft effective surveys to get a rich insight into your employee satisfaction.
  • Evaluate employee engagement on a monthly or quarterly basis and take corrective action.
  • Use weekly employee check-ins to know how they are doing and understand their issues.
  • Deploy the Employee Wellness Survey to measure the response of your employees towards your wellness programs.
  • Use 360 degree feedback to get a comprehensive picture of their performance, and any factors that could be affecting their wellbeing.

You can test out all of these templates with a free account.

Wrapping Up

So that’s about it, folks!

Employee wellness should be something that every employer/company takes seriously. But as we demonstrated above, there’s no need for a huge makeover for progress. 

As the saying goes, it’s the small things that matter the most. Even a sunlit desk can bring a smile. Or maybe it can be the soft music that plays in the background. Or even taking some time out to gather with colleagues to have a good laugh. So what are you waiting for? Change the game!

Kate Williams

Product Marketing Manager at SurveySparrow

Excels in empowering visionary companies through storytelling and strategic go-to-market planning. With extensive experience in product marketing and customer experience management, she is an accomplished author, podcast host, and mentor, sharing her expertise across diverse platforms and audiences.

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