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Good for employees and the budget: low-cost workplace wellness ideas

By Tricia Mirchandani

A few weeks ago, we talked about the benefits of workplace wellness programs and how to get one started. But we didn’t dig into the costs.

As with most things in life, you could easily start down the road to workplace wellness and blow your budget before the first mat unrolls at your in-office yoga party. Or, you can approach wellness with the ROI in mind, choosing programs, activities, and components wisely and planning them out as you would any other project.

No matter where you are in your workplace wellness program journey, here are a few tips and ideas that encourage well-being for both your employees and your budget.

First: prioritize
Yoga and CrossFit classes. In-office exercise bikes and treadmills. Speakers, presentations, and prizes for office-wide competitions. We know from our own wellness pursuits that cultivating a culture of health can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be.

The first step to keeping your program affordable is to prioritize activities to those your employees show an interest in and avoid any that don’t spur excitement. After all, that state-of-the-art elliptical machine is a great way to exercise but it won’t move the needle on employee health if nobody uses it.

Next: look around
Once you’ve prioritized, look around and notice the people, policies, and processes you’ve already got in place to get wellness moving.

Policies
You won’t need to write any checks to create a new flexible-schedule policy that allows employees to fit exercise into their daily schedule. Or, to institute a midday break policy and encourage staff to take a walk, go to the gym, or enjoy a few minutes of quiet time. If you have policies in place already to address common stressors or health concerns, take this moment to send a brief email or create a quick flyer to make your teams aware of them.

In-house experts
Chances are, your colleagues have wellness ideas or tips that they’ve already incorporated into their daily lives. Rather than paying external experts to lead sessions, turn to the experts sitting among you. Ask employees to give talks on their favorite exercise, stress relief, or health-focused activities. Create a central place where anyone can share health tips, recipes, routines, and more. Empowering staff to share their ideas and educate team members about their own wellness topics will increase morale and knowledge at no cost to you.

Habits
Whether you make it an official policy or not, start office-wide wellness habits. Take it on yourself to set up walking or standing meetings. Lead whomever will join you in 5-10 minute breaks for stretching or walking around the block every hour or so. Be that team member who always brings healthy snacks to share at meetings. Starting a habit costs nothing but makes a big impact.

Then: evaluate
After your new policies and habits have taken effect and your experts have spoken, take a step back and see how the program is working. Pay attention both to what worked and what didn’t and see how well-being is progressing as a whole. You may find that you’ve uncovered particular needs or interests and now you know where to splurge when the time is right. Or maybe you find that your low-budget solutions brought your employees exactly the wellness they need.

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