Entrepreneurs of new startups often get excited about building a team from scratch and encouraging collaboration, but maintaining a productive, happy team is about more than just finding a good culture fit. You’ll need to keep your employees healthy if you want them to keep working hard for your business—and fortunately, it’s cheaper and less invasive than you might think.

Productive and healthy employees

The Benefits of Healthy Employees

Employee wellness programs are designed to improve employees’ overall health, helping them eat better, exercise more, and get proactive treatment for the conditions ailing them. So why are these so important?

For starters, healthier employees are more productive employees. When people feel better and have more energy, they’ll be able to do more work for you, both because they’re motivated to work more enthusiastically and because they’ll miss fewer sick days. On top of that, employee morale will rise; it becomes evident that you care about their wellbeing, and they’ll appreciate the gesture and feel a stronger bond with the company as a result.

The problem is, many employee health improvements are expensive or time-consuming.

Businesswoman eating healthy

Inexpensive Ways to Improve Employee Health

Fortunately, there are plenty of approachable strategies that can improve employee health without completely disrupting your budget:

1. Choose healthy vending options

Chances are, you already have vending and snacking options at your office, so why not upgrade to healthier options? Instead of a typical vending machine packed with candy bars and potato chips, use The Jar to offer fresh, nutritious foods. Instead of junk food in the community kitchen, keep an array of fruits, nuts, and vegetables for snacking.

2. Make healthier celebration choices

It’s typical for offices to celebrate employee birthdays and other special occasions with donuts, cakes, and other unhealthy options. Instead, try something healthier. Cook a meal from scratch, and focus on nutritious elements, like vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.

3. Educate your employees

Nutrition education has never been good in the United States, so consider taking the time and/or effort to educate your employees on the importance of healthy eating. Bring in a professional teacher and talk about the importance of portion control, macronutrients, and micronutrients.

Walking meeting is good for promoting employee health and wellness

4. Take walking meetings

Meetings tend to be inactive times, with your employees sitting around motionless, listening to each other speak. Get your employees to be more active and encourage more interaction at the same time by hosting walking meetings; bring the team around the block as you navigate those complex professional problems.

5. Encourage biking to work

Do whatever you can to get your employees to bike to work. It doesn’t require any more time than a typical commute (and sometimes, is even faster), and just a few miles of biking a day can help anyone stay in shape. Install a bike rack, and do what you can to make it a community bonding event.

6. Allow frequent breaks

One of the biggest contributors to the obesity epidemic is the fact that the sedentary lifestyle is now the norm. People in white-collar jobs tend to sit for eight hours a day doing nothing exerting, and that’s hard on our bodies. Fight back against this by encouraging more breaks, which people can use to stretch, walk, and get their bodies in motion.

7. Invest in standing desks

Similarly, you can combat the problem by investing in more standing desks. They tend to be about the same price as a typical desk, but force employees to stand at least part of the time, reducing the burden of sitting for too long.

Company basketball team members

8. Create a company sports team

Getting your employees together to play a sport isn’t just about keeping them in decent physical shape; it’s also about teambuilding. Choose a sport that most of your employees like, and get together once a week or more often to practice and play.

9. Offer gym discounts

Subsidizing gym memberships doesn’t cost too much money, but could be the extra incentive your employees need to sign up. Having a gym membership will encourage your employees to work out more often, which in turn will keep them healthier and happier.

10. Improve your health insurance plan

This is probably the most expensive item on this list, but it’s still worth including, since upgrading your team’s health insurance will probably yield a positive return on investment (ROI). Better health plans encourage more preventative and early care, which can mitigate or eliminate many health conditions.

Health and wellness center
photo credit: Edson Hong / Flickr

Conclusion

Your employee wellness program doesn’t have to be comprehensive, nor does it need all the bells and whistles to be effective. Every step you take to improve employee health matters, so invest in what you can and support your employees to be the best possible versions of themselves.