With an uptick in healthcare costs and scrutiny over the prevalence of sedentary desk jobs, employers are seeking answers on how to make the office a healthy and balanced environment.

Workplace wellness programs are a wealth of opportunity. Not only can they promote healthy lifestyles, but they have other positive outcomes such as camaraderie, employee retention and reduced health care costs due to insurance discounts. Crain’s Chicago Business cites a 2010 study in the journal Health Affairs, which found that every dollar spent on wellness programs reduced corporate medical costs by $3.27 and cut absenteeism costs by $2.73.

Employee health and wellness is a growing priority among many businesses in North America and below are a few ideas about how to promote it at your company.

  1. Make physical fitness accessible and fun. Company gyms are convenient, but there are less expensive solutions to providing physical activity programming. Consider implementing a fun, friendly competition to engage employees of all skill levels, like a step challenge that uses pedometers to track activity, or organize a running club that meets outside of business hours.
  1. Provide mental breaks. A psychologically healthy work environment not only benefits the individuals, but it is cost effective through outcomes like raised productivity and reduced absenteeism. Encourage mental breaks and socialization by occasionally providing stress-reducing activities like free professional massages, group yoga or a staff lunch.
  1. Encourage healthy eating. It’s easy for healthy eating to take a back seat during the hectic work day. Office managers can offer simple solutions like providing nutritious choices in the kitchen and vending machines. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends snacks like fruit, yogurt and pretzels to satisfy cravings. Consider creating a small potted garden on the office patio to supply fresh veggies and herbs. Employees can reap the relaxation benefits of helping nurture the garden while also picking tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers for a healthy salad.
  1. Offer up experts and services. Bringing in third party experts or services is an excellent way to provide education and add value. For example, many offices host flu shot clinics, a convenient option for employees that reduces illness. Additionally, consider holding seminars on topics like staying fit while traveling or packing a healthy lunch.
  2. Build wellness into the workday. How many hours do you think you spend sitting each day? Research suggests that we’re sitting down more than ever in history – an average of 9.3 hours daily. To get employees up and on their feet, encourage walking meetings and implement a few standing desks that staff can reserve for periods of time. For a new take on the traditional office chair, inflatable exercise balls can serve as a welcome alternative, helping promote balance and good posture.

Employee wellness programs should be more than just a series of perks. Instead, they should be a thread that runs through your company culture. In the end, it all boils down to accessibility – offering convenient and engaging opportunities for employees. Think about what your organization has to offer and invest in a program that will positively impact your workforce and company culture.