Let worksite wellness energize your new year

Stephanie Michael

The new year is a perfect time to kick off a worksite wellness program. To support your efforts, the new county-wide Worksite Wellness Network will meet at 7:30 a.m., Feb. 7 at Brickstone Ballroom, 105 W. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver. Benjamin Prinzing will discuss essential elements for a winning program and how to gauge effectiveness. WWN meetings are free and open to everyone.

Cyndie MeyerAccording to Prinzing, a meaningful wellness program supports employees’ healthy lifestyle choices and increases morale, attendance and productivity. The best wellness programs focus on long-term, sustainable support. They establish policies and an environment that encourages healthy choices. Fun activities, education and programs can be part of the strategy to engage employees and boost participation.

Start with planning

  • When forming a wellness program, begin by assessing your workplace environment. Are there nearby walking areas? Do existing policies support wellness? Does your organization’s leadership support or lead the effort?
  • Identify employees’ interests, and gear your efforts toward them. Find out if employees have skills that can be mobilized. Can someone lead a class, work on publicity or coordinate meetings?
  • Evaluate your resources. Do you have space and funding for a yoga class? Can you afford stand-up desks? Do you have a source for free educational programs?
  • Finally, establish a wellness committee. A team approach ensures diverse ideas, supports sustainability, and may increase resources for selected programs.

Mobilize action

Implementing a new program can be time-consuming and challenging, so start with small steps. A trial run provides an opportunity to see how employees respond. You may want to choose a theme and organize activities around a specific focus. Five popular worksite wellness themes include:

  • Disease prevention: Post reminders about hand washing, flu vaccinations or annual check-ups.
  • Movement: Start a break time walking club or competition. Walking meetings are a great way to increase movement and support good health. Can you afford to provide pedometers – or even fitness trackers – so employees can track progress?
  • Education: Tools and encouragement help employees focus on health goals. Brown bag seminars can help employees learn about healthy habits. Quick videos, articles or infographics can be included in your company newsletter or sent as email updates.
  • Eating right: Healthy food in appropriate quantities provides energy, prevents illness and supports long-term health. Work with your vending company to increase healthy options. Stock the breakroom with fresh fruit or replace sugary soft drinks with flavored water. Adopt a healthy meeting policy to encourage healthy snacks at work. Look into offering an on-site weight management program.
  • Emotional mindfulness: Employees’ stress levels impact the work environment and productivity. Encourage employees to take breaks and walks, create a quiet place where employees can de-stress when needed, or offer a class on yoga, tai chi or meditation.

Review and improve

Following implementation, survey your workplace again. Are employees aware of the program and activities? Are they participating? Do your efforts meet their needs? Are information sessions entertaining, informative and well-attended?

Incentives can improve participation. Can you offer a door prize for attendance at an education session? Can your walking group sponsor a workplace-wide walking competition?

Keep your finger on the pulse of employees’ interests. Include their ideas as you build your program, and look for opportunities to adopt policies that support the sustainability of your wellness efforts.

Don’t forget to celebrate your success!

Resources

Clark County Worksite Wellness Network

The WWN meets quarterly at the Brickstone Ballroom, 105 W. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver. As noted above, the next meeting, Feb. 7 at 7:30 a.m., will help businesses to set the groundwork for a successful wellness program. Participants will walk away knowing essential elements of a wellness program and how to gauge the reach and depth of their programs. Network meetings are free and are open to all Clark County businesses and agencies.

The Worksite Wellness Network, in partnership with Clark County Public Health, the Vancouver Business Journal and other community partners, will help large and small employers establish and energize a sustainable, outcome-oriented, measurable program. WWN will host the annual Healthiest Business Awards in the fall. Contact Clark County Public Health for more information at Healthy.Here.Now@clark.wa.gov.

Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce

On Feb. 23, the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce introduces a monthly “Ready, Set, Go: Wellness Workshop Series” for small local businesses and their employees. RSG workshops will cover a variety of topics. On Feb. 23, Sherri McMillian of Northwest Personal Trainers will kick off the series with a presentation on personal wellness goals, “How to De-Stress the Deadline.” On March 27, the workshop will focus on “40 Ways to Sit (or Stand) While You Work.” Workshops will take place at noon on the fourth Thursday of the month at the Chamber, 1101 Broadway, Suite 100, Vancouver. All workshops are open to the public, and a $15 fee includes a healthy lunch. The series is presented by Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. More information can be found at www.vancouverusa.com.

National Healthy Worksite Program by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer training assistance, case studies and resources to help you facilitate an effective worksite wellness program. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion.

Workplace Wellness Toolkit by the US Chamber of Commerce Small Business Nation

The US Chamber of Commerce Small Business Nation has put together a brochure and video on helpful practices for employers. Check it out at www.uschamber.com/issues/health-care/workplace-wellness.

This Tip of the Week was co-authored by Stephanie Michael, Oregon Health Science University dietetic intern at Clark County Public Health, and Cyndie Meyer, program manager, Clark County Public Health.

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