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Americans have grown more concerned with their wellness in recent years.1 In fact, a recent Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey found that 80% of those surveyed in North America self identify as being actively committed to a healthy lifestyle.2 However, health and wellness are not synonymous. Health refers to the body’s physical state, while wellness is more abstract and includes mental and emotional considerations too. The workplace plays a big role in American wellness, from our environment to our stress levels. These three tips are a great foundation for placing more emphasis on employee wellness in the workplace.

Healthy Snacks

It’s an interesting juxtaposition that 80% of today’s Americans fail to eat the recommended daily helpings of fruits and vegetables, yet a study conducted by NPR found that 75% of respondents still claim to have excellent, very good, or good diets.3 By bridging the gap between employees’ desire to live healthy and their knowledge of what that means, employers can add real value to the lives of their employees. Providing food in the office increases morale, but providing healthy food also helps employees reach their wellness goals.

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Business owners looking for healthier office snack options than candy bars and potato chips have more options today than ever before, thanks to services like SnackNation, Healthy Vending, Green BEAN Office, Fruit Guys, and more. Start by surveying your employees to learn about any dietary restrictions or concerns, then pick an option that is likely to have something for everyone.

Walking Meetings

Encouraging your employees to take their meetings to the sidewalk can have more ROI than simply helping your team engage with their fitness goals. Both their concrete work habits and their critical thinking skills benefit from the change in environment. Research conducted by Stanford University found a strong link between walking and creative thinking.4 Researchers saw an increase in associative thinking, the practice of making connections between a topic and all present relevant factors, while participants were walking. They were able to move freely in thought and conversation between ideas with less inhibition to their memory, and draw more readily on past experiences. Employees with strong associative thinking skills could be quicker to draw intelligent conclusions and brainstorm innovative solutions to problems.

Walking meetings can also help break down the walls between employees and management. According to the CEO of Western Union, Hikmet Erset, employees are more likely to open up when you walk with them. As he says: "People become much more relaxed, and they talk from their hearts if you go for a walk with them. And they get to the point they want to make much more quickly."5

If you want to make walking meetings part of your culture, it might be best to start small. Some employees may find walking for long periods uncomfortable, meaning maybe you only start meetings with walking and settle down for more meaty discussions.

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Gym Memberships

Not only do employee health costs go down when employers provide office wellness perks and programs, the morale of your team can increase. As the Harvard Business Review points out, healthy employees are more likely to stay with your company, but only if your wellness program engages them. A study by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health found that organizations with highly effective wellness programs report significantly lower voluntary attrition than those whose programs have low effectiveness (9% vs. 15%).6

Healthy employees are more likely to stay with your company, but only if your wellness program engages them.

Reimbursing gym memberships is a simple way you can get your employees engaged in their wellness outside the office. However, it’s important to know that the IRS considers "fringe benefits" like a gym membership to be taxable income for your employees if the benefits are received off-site. Unless you’re in a position to provide an on-site gym membership through your office park or location, you can’t deduct the costs from your yearly taxes. Instead, you could consider approaching a local gym directly and see if they would give a discounted membership rate to your team based on the number of members who join. This way you encourage employees to join the gym, but don’t put your business or employees at risk of greater tax liability.7

By implementing employee wellness programs, your business can meet several pain points head on. The financial ROI includes less healthcare costs for employees, less turnover and onboarding costs, and tax incentives. On the other hand, the emotional ROI for your team is also strong. When employees are encouraged to improve their health and wellness at work, morale goes up and creative thinking can also increase. These changes don’t have to be done on a large scale all at once. Ask your employees what initiatives would make them most excited, and start there.