4 themes for your 2015 corporate wellness plan.

There have been many articles written on wellness solutions, and I am pleased to see companies have implemented one form or the other, be it a Health Day, Health Week or a more sustained solution.

So going into 2015, what should your company do to help you achieve tangible benefits from your wellness initiatives?

With the advent of the many new and wearable health technologies coming on line this year, tracking and measuring health information is going to be within reach to more people.

Here are 4 themes that are popular among our clients, and I suggest these could form a good framework for you in planning your wellness program in 2015, taking your existing initiatives to the next level.

1) Get moving, and be competitive

Steps challenges have been very popular in the US and Europe for many years as many studies show that they do encourage a person to “get moving”, it is the simplest group activity that can enable habit changing and non-active people to walk more. International studies show that we should walk 10,000 steps or more every day. A person in average walks around 5,000 steps, so we are only about half way there.

However, just giving a pedometer to staff and asking them to fill in the number of steps taken would only generate mild interest. We suggest companies to implement a steps challenge, and introduce a level of competition by pitting departments against each other. There are programs such as our partnered WalkerTracker system, where a fictitious path (e.g. walk across the Great Wall of China, or across the Sahara Desert) can be mapped out, and teams can be challenged to compete against each other on these treks. They can be made more interesting by having checkpoints along the way, and quizzes and spot prizes given to groups and individuals to keep the interest level up.

Staff can use their smart phones as their pedometers, but companies genuinely serious about improving the health of employees should invest in providing a quality wearable device such as a Fitbit, Jawbone Up! or similar devices to help staff consistently track progress. Some companies even setup synch stations around the staff tearooms so just by wearing the device and going into the synch areas around the office would automatically sychronise your data to the central server.

Taking this to the next level, you could consider organising extra outdoor activities such as weekend hikes or lunchtime walks (e.g. walk with the CEO) and go for regular 30 minutes or more walk around the office rather than sitting in front of the computer to have lunch.

2) Healthy eating challenges

We all love to eat in Hong Kong, but for most of the time, we do not eat that healthily! Although it is a big task to change a person's eating habit, we have found that constant education could be the best way to encourage a behaviour change.

For example, we partner with Green Monday to encourage employees to not eating meat on Mondays. Green Monday states – “If all 7 million people in Hong Kong go meatless one day a week, we can help reduce carbon emissions by 1.5 million tonnes, which is equivalent to the carbon absorption capacity of 65 million trees.”

Information sessions on these and talks about deciphering food labeling, or debunking the myths of what is “healthy eating” are all effective tools to educate employees to take healthier steps in their dietary choices.

You can again use group or individual competitions to encourage staff to make some healthy changes to their meals – from recipe challenges to the Hong Kong favourite – taking a picture of their healthy meals and submitting the best healthy eating photo.

3) Involve family and friends

Healthy living is not just about individual. It is important to engage the employees’ family and friends, so the wellness message can be carried into the daily lifestyle habits of every one. A popular activity is to ask staff to bring their children into the office, to see where their parents work. We have arranged children’s activities like making picture frames and then giving framed photos to their parents at their workstations for our clients. We have also arranged family carnival days to enable staff to bring their families to meet their colleagues and socialise over carnival activities and BBQ. .

Such gatherings can reduce a lot of workplace stress, tension and confrontation as staff can network and socialise with their co-workers outside the work environment. Families can also have more understanding on the workplace demands.

These initiatives help with mental as well as physical wellbeing of the staff.

4/ How healthy is your office?

In addition to individual’s health, the healthiness of the workplace could feature as a key theme. The basic ergonomics of having the right lighting, computer station setup to right chairs are standard issues nowadays in many offices. But a lot of staff are not aware of how to setup their workstation to be functionally and ergonomically correct. Back pain and eye strains are regular complaints that can be eliminated by arranging an industry expert to come to the office and provide practical directions to staff.

You can also pay attention to the air quality in the office, as well as the snacks and food available through dispensing machines or just at the staff canteen. All these contribute to a healthy or otherwise positive office atmosphere which is a key part of employee health. Consider running a competition for staff to make positive suggestions to improve the workplace and put the best ones into action not only would employees feel empowered, the whole morale of the workplace will also be improved.

Most importantly, have a plan, and stick to it.

The most important thing for a workplace wellness program is to ensure that it is not a one-off initiative, but a committed long-term one. Results do not come from one yoga class or one health talk, but from sustained awareness and commitment on a healthy workforce. Only from such programs that you can get behaviour and habit changes for the better from your employees.

Providing such programs can take up valuable internal resources, staff might not have access to the latest information and contacts for operation. Companies should consider using quality specialist consultants and providers to bring in the best programs in a cost effective manner, and not to lumber internal staff to reluctantly source perhaps not the best solutions and initiatives. A specialist provider not only has access to the latest trends and initiatives, they can also be held accountable to deliver solutions to you that will make an impact.

Feel free to contact me at Total Loyalty Company on sam@totalloyalty.hk or +852 5131 6338 if you have any questions or needs for your company to develop a stand out corporate wellness strategy.

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