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Four ways to keep your employees healthy and happy

Written by: Gabrielle Smith
April 30, 2021 at 8:30 AM

As an employer, you likely check in with your employees to make sure they’re staying productive and on-task at work—but are you keeping track of how happy and healthy they are, too?

As it turns out, many studies show that your employees’ health goes hand in hand with their workplace performance. That means the effort you put into your employees’ wellness doesn’t just benefit your employees, but it also influences the overall success of your organization.

Not to mention the extra effort you invest in your employees’ personal health is a proven way to recruit and retain employees long-term.

In this article, we’ll cover four ways you can focus on the health and happiness of your employees:

  1. Encourage physical activity
  2. Incentivize good nutrition
  3. Monitor employee stress levels
  4. Offer competitive health benefits

1. Encourage physical activity

The first way to prioritize your employees’ health is by encouraging and incentivizing physical activity.

A study in Denmark looked at employees across a wide range of industries and occupations, (including dentists, office workers, healthcare professionals, airline pilots, and more) and measured the effect workplace exercise had on their overall health and productivity.

The study found that all participants showed improved cardiorespiratory health and muscle strength. In addition, each of the participants also showed increased productivity and fewer lost work days through illness.

While all of these perks sound great, one of the biggest challenges employees face when it comes to physical activity is simply making time for it.

As an employer, there are several ways you can encourage activity during the workday:

  • Have flexible working hours so your employees can attend a fitness class or go for a run during the workday
  • Offer a corporate gym membership or discount to a local fitness center
  • Start “cycle to work days” where employees are encouraged to bike to work
  • Try standing or walking meetings instead of sitting in a room

2. Incentivize good nutrition

The natural companion to exercise is good nutrition and eating habits—and just like exercise, the positive effects employees experience are both physical and mental.

One study by the British Journal of Health Psychology found that the more fruits and vegetables people ate, the happier, more engaged, and more creative they tended to be.

This is largely because fruits and vegetables have nutrients that help our body produce more dopamine—a feel-good neurotransmitter that plays a key role in our ability to experience curiosity, motivation, and engagement.

What’s more, Medical News Today reports increased heart health, reduced cancer risk, improved gut health, weight loss, and diabetes management as just a few of the top physical benefits of healthy eating.

While offering healthy snacks at the office used to be a good solution for employers, more and more organizations have fully remote employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So how do you encourage good nutrition when your employees are working—and eating—from home?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Start an organization-wide virtual recipe book for employees to share healthy recipes
  • Send your employees gift cards to healthy restaurants and grocery stores
  • Promote virtual cooking classes and webinars that teach healthy eating strategies
  • Assign “lunch buddies” for employees to motivate and encourage each other from afar

3. Monitor employee stress levels

When talking about your employees’ health, you can’t forget about their mental health, and stress management is a big part of that.

While working from home has its perks, the lack of distinction between home and work can lead to earlier exhaustion and mental fatigue from your employees.

In fact, Eagle Hill reports that 58% of employees in the U.S. say they feel burnt out—to put that in perspective, that’s a 13% increase compared to what was reported during the early days of the pandemic.

This is unsurprising, given that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 45% of remote employees surveyed reported working more hours at home than they did in the office.

So what can you do to help? We’ve got some ideas:

  • Keep a close eye on your employees’ workload to ensure they aren’t overloaded
  • Encourage work breaks and virtual connection between coworkers throughout the week
  • Be available for your employees to talk openly about their stress and give them reassurance
  • Provide resources to virtual counseling and stress management techniques

4. Offer competitive health benefits

Lastly, the best investment you can make in your employees’ health and wellbeing is in their health benefits. After all, the top most requested benefit from employees is quality healthcare.

For small employers, offering competitive health benefits can seem out of reach, especially compared to the expensive group health insurance plans of larger competitors. That’s why health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) are such an attractive option.

Through an HRA, employers can give employees tax-free money to purchase insurance and medical expenses on their own that meets their personal needs. You set the allowance amount, and any unused allowance at the end of the year goes back to you.

PeopleKeep offers three HRAs that cater to any company size or budget:

Take our quiz to find out which HRA is best for your organization

Conclusion

Focusing on your employees’ health and happiness offers a wealth of benefits for your employees’ productivity, workplace satisfaction, and overall wellbeing—plus, it’s just the right thing to do. Showing your employees you care goes a long way in establishing your organization as a caring and supportive environment your employees never want to leave.

This article was originally published on March 5, 2015. It was last updated April 30, 2021.

Topics: Small Business, Human Resources

Additional Resources

Get 11 insider tips on how small employers can retain employees.
New to HRAs? Learn which is best for you in our comparison chart.

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