Workplace wellness initiatives that make a difference

Recent years have seen a resurgence in workplace wellness initiatives. It makes sense — after all, many Americans spend most of their waking hours at the office. Such initiatives promise to save employers big bucks when done right, as sick days and workplace injuries cost employers $225.8 billion yearly.

The workplace wellness discussion is also important for credit unions, since branch spaces lean on customer service professionals that are feeling empowered and at peace while working in person. What should savvy leaders consider for their growing teams?

Here are five workplace wellness initiatives that make a difference.

1. Natural Light Makes a Difference

There’s a reason the big cubicle office layout has been lambasted in the past couple of decades. Stereotypically drab and lacking windows, these workplaces have a reputation for demotivating employees in an uninspiring environment. Branch spaces can make positive moves toward workplace wellness by first incorporating it into their design.

This doesn’t mean credit unions need to completely rebuild and start from scratch. If a space could use more light and more life, then renovations like updated lightbulbs can help revitalize the branch for both employees and members to enjoy.

First, credit unions can practice human-centric lighting to combine natural light and artificial lighting systems that feel natural and comfortable. If possible, knock down the walls separating workers from windows and remove heavy blinds. Consider installing skylights if it’s an option.

Those who rent and can’t make such upgrades can install artificial lighting that doesn’t disrupt the team’s circadian rhythms, helping them maintain optimal health. This means using eco-friendly LEDs, trying softer light and slightly dimming or brightening light as the day progresses.

2. Making Fitness Convenient

More employees today work longer hours for more of the year than previous generations did. For example, three-quarters of millennials work more than 40 hours a week — and work 46.8 weeks per year, as compared to 43 weeks worked by the typical worker in the 1980s.

With free time at more of a premium, it’s easy for employees experiencing stress to put wellness on the back burner. What’s an employer to do to help their employees access wellness options?

There is significant value in bringing fitness to the workplace. Employees can sneak in a quick 10-minute workout during their morning and afternoon breaks, leaving a few minutes for grabbing drinks and using the restroom. Organizations that can’t afford an onsite facility should partner with a nearby gym to encourage staff to stop for a workout on their lunch break.

There are also quick wins to help make desk and customer service jobs comfortable and healthy. Managers could also coordinate with HR to requisition variable-height desks, inflatable exercise balls and under-the-desk cycles that encourage more movement. Some people swear by variable-height desks for easing the backaches that often follow long computer sessions.

3. Embracing Flexible and Remote Work

The onset of the pandemic has brought about a significant preference for flexible and remote working options in professional industries. Credit unions and other financial services have had to learn how to incorporate flexibility for their employees while providing stellar service to their communities.

Fortunately, such arrangements can benefit employers and workers equally. Multiple studies suggest some workers are more productive from home, although the percentage of increase varies.

Flexible and remote work benefits employees in the following ways:

  • It allows more downtime: The average commute was 54 minutes before the pandemic. That’s nearly an hour your employees could otherwise use exercising, taking their kids to the park, practicing yoga and meditation, or preparing healthy meals.
  • It allows for health care needs: Most doctors don’t work evenings or weekends. Combining limited hours with a lack of paid leave means many workers skip out on vital checkups because of time, money or both. Flextime is especially inclusive to workers with disabilities, who often require multiple specialist appointments and follow-ups with their primary care physician to manage their conditions.
  • It decreases stress: Daycare costs many workers nearly as much as their monthly housing payment. Rushing from the office to pickup Junior in time to avoid a late arrival fee raises stress levels and adversely affects health outcomes.

Even if your organization cannot accommodate work from home for every position, finding opportunities to allow for flexible scheduling and personal time can make a positive impact on wellness while helping you retain talent.

4. Encouraging Health Care Through Meaningful Benefits

The U.S. remains the only wealthy nation without a universal health care coverage system, leaving many employers to provide healthcare coverage as an employee benefit. Given the critical importance of the health care benefit to an employees’ medical and health options, reviewing this package can be one of the best ways to step up wellness in the workplace.

Consider a comprehensive package — including dental and vision care — if possible. After all, a lack of proper oral hygiene contributes to heart disease and dementia. Some employers are additionally pursuing partnerships with mental health organizations to enrich counseling and therapy options for their employees.

5. Create a Healthier and Happier Workplace

Multiple factors contribute to why workplace wellness initiatives sometimes fail. While traditional workplace wellness has often centered on weight loss, this has proven ineffective at best and harmful at worst, alienating employees and specifically singling out those who may be dealing with medical and mental conditions that make a focus on weight loss damaging.

Workplace wellness initiatives that focus on holistic wellbeing can be more successful. Credit unions are well-positioned to consider how physical space, time to destress and convenience can help employees feel supported and refreshed at work.

Evelyn Long

Evelyn Long

Evelyn Long is a writer and the editor in chief of Renovated. Her work has been published by the National Association of REALTORS®, Training Journal and other online publications. Web: Details