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Last updated June 8, 2017

Implementing a Workplace Wellness Programme can help prevent burnout by supporting staff to stay happy and healthy on a daily basis. If you’re thinking that Wellness Programmes are only for the big corporates, think again. No office or project is too small, or lacking in money not to have one!

Here are a few of my favourite ideas for developing a Workplace Wellness Programme. Most are easy to implement, cheap, sustainable and fun. There’s bound to be something that will fit your organisation.

Spring Clean the Snack Box
Lots of workplaces have a snack box in the staff room full of all sorts of goodies. It usually operates on an honesty basis and offers a convenient way for people to grab something for morning tea. However, many of these snack boxes are full of unhealthy food that does nothing to support staff wellbeing.

Consider installing healthier options like those from www.nothingnaughty.kiwi.nz  or  www.provender.co.nz/online/healthy_products.csn, or suggest staff take turns making their own snack boxes.

Allow them to fill it with healthy goodies of their choosing and price each item so they more than cover their costs. For health and safety reasons items need to be sealed pre-purchased products such as muesli bars or bags of nuts, but a quick trip to the health store or supermarket will give you lots of options. At the end of the year, award prizes for healthiest box.

Go Loopy
Set up a 5 – 10 minute ‘walking loop’, preferably outside, to help staff overcome frustrations or mental blocks, and stay alert and focus. Encourage staff to take walking breaks when their workload becomes overwhelming.

If staff need added encouragement, try:

  • Putting a container at the half way mark and having staff pop in a named token when they pass. At the end of each week you can gift prizes to those who achieve 5 loops or more.
  • Regularly take them on the loopy walk before or during meetings
  • Give staff pavement chalk and have them write nice messages for each other on the footpath.

Work Place Play
Set up Petanque, Foosball, table tennis or something similar in the staff room. Put everyone into three or more teams and enjoy the team bonding and laughter that emerges. Think of games that require movement but are not so strenuous they can’t be done in a dress. If the Google offices do it, it must be good!

Call in the Experts
Invite in a REPs (registered personal trainer) to do workouts or lunch time seminars for staff. Some Personal Trainers are now also registered with the nationwide SMEAEP (Stress Management) Programme, which is fringe benefit exempt. For more information visit: www.stressmanagementexercise.co.nz/employers/

Give Fitness
When giving gifts of appreciation, ditch the chocolate and wine and look for things that help with well-being. Think Personal Training sessions, fitness magazine subscriptions, vouchers for yoga classes, or a box of fresh fruit. Staff will end up fitter and healthier and end up taking less sick days.

Grow Plants
Real plants may take more work than plastic ones but they’ll help people to feel good and stay healthy.  Allow staff to choose their own plant for the office and become responsible for them flourishing.

Share a Standing Desk
While standing desks are the current trend not everyone needs one to reap the benefit. Set up one with an adjustable bar stool and encourage staff to take turns, tagging in someone else in when they’ve finished.

Drink Great Coffee
There are pros and cons to drinking coffee, but if your staff love it then my advice would be to provide chemical-free, organic, trade aid versions, preferably beans or freshly ground over instant. It’ll taste better, be better for you and make you feel good about helping others. Have your shots 30 minutes or more either side of a meal as caffeine can inhibit the absorption of micronutrients (the good stuff) in food.

Allow Sleeping on the Job
Admittedly that may not sound ideal, but for some a wee nap every now and then can do wonders. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%. If people are tired and can’t have a nap they may instead opt to go home for the rest of the day. If they do stick around they will perform less efficiently, experience a drop in their immunity due to the extra stress, and most likely end up with more sick days than others.

Being tired doesn’t necessarily mean someone has been out partying all night either. It could well be someone’s been up with their children or completing a work project late into the night. Or maybe they just work best like Thomas Edison and Einstein did – with a nap in their day.

Talk to staff to see if it’s something they’d use, and the various options on how to include a napping zone. Maybe some noise cancelling headphones and a comfy neck pillow in the staff room would do the trick?

Put a Trouble Tree at the Entrance to Work
A Trouble Tree is a tangible object that people can metaphorically ‘hang their troubles on’ when they leave work each day. Inspired by the carpenter’s story on page 43, the Trouble Tree is a great reminder not to carry your work issues home.

The author of the story may be unknown but the message is clear. What a useful act it would be if we were all to touch the branches of a Trouble Tree at the end of each day.

If you don’t make it a priority, your Workplace Wellness Programme can easily fade into the background as a good idea that didn’t quite work. Decide to make it a priority and mark your diary to try a new idea every month.

Broni McSweeney
Broni is the owner of Catch Fitness, providing free ongoing education and support for exercise professionals. She is the creator of the nationwide 20 Week Challenge ™ and winner of  the Outstanding Contribution to the Industry Fitness NZ Awards. She has been involved in the fitness industry for almost 20 years, now lecturing on the Personal Training Course at AUT.

For more information email info@catchfitness.co.nz or call 0800 000 929.