Health Tips from 10 Top Corporate Wellness Programs
Corporate Wellness Programs
Gone are the days when employers tacked up a few inspirational posters of cats hanging from laundry lines and called it a day. ("Hang in there!") Most companies realize our work/life balance is out of control, and since cutting back on those long hours doesn't seem feasible, many businesses are finding other ways to help keep employees happy and healthy.
Our favorite focus? Corporate wellness programs and healthy perks that encourage workers to stay healthy even while working late. These ten companies are making efforts to boost employee wellbeing by providing greener, mind-and-body-supporting fixtures or features. And just in case you can't jump ship to reap these benefits, we've explained how you can follow their lead and implement these benefits in your own workplace.
Idexx Laboratories, based in Maine, provides a sprawling produce garden for its employees to tend. Multiple studies, including one recent review from the U.K., have shown gardening supports mental health. But if you can't squeeze a tomato patch into your cubicle, just adding an indoor plant may boost your attention and improve your mood, shows research from Cornell University.
Let the Light In
Domain name company Verisign is one of many employers that have pledged their commitment to creating workspaces featuring abundant natural light. Why is that a good thing? Exposing your eyes to a little sun-strength "white light" can improve your sleep—by helping your body regulate its sleep-wake cycles—and help you feel energized for physical activity, shows a study from Northwestern University. If you can't move your desk close to a window or skylight, a light box for your office can take the sun's place, experts say. Try the Verilux HappyLight Liberty 10K ($100; verilux.com).
Get Off Your Butt
A 2012 Australian study found the more time you spend sitting during the day, the higher your mortality risk soars. And that's just one of a handful of recent reports linking lots of chair time to serious health risks. The antidote? Stand up. Cutting your sitting time to three hours a day could add years to your life, finds a study from Louisiana State University. Many companies, including San Francisco-based Asana, help their employees pay for standing desks.
Hit the Gym (or Spinning Bike, or Climbing Wall)
You'd expect nothing less from Nike when it comes to showing employees how to be healthy: At the company's Oregon headquarters, staff have access to a gym, a pool, stationary bikes, a basketball court, and a climbing wall —and those are just a few of the workout-centric resources. If you don't work in an office with a built-in facility, many companies and insurers offer discounts to gym memberships. One recent study from Georgia State University found simply living near a gym lowers your risk for obesity (although we really encourage you to go inside as well).
Google provides tons of free snacks to its employees, and even makes an effort to steer them away from the cookie jars: Candy and junk food is stocked in opaque containers featuring prominent nutrition warnings, while healthy fuel like fruit and vegetables are displayed in glass jars, plain as day. It's all part of their corporate wellness program's efforts to guide employees toward healthy options. A good tip to take from this: Avoid keeping junk food on or near your desk, and you'll cut way back on mindless eating, shows research from Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab. (And try these 15 Smart, Healthy Alternatives to Junk Food.)
Meditation has been linked to everything from improved focus and lower stress to a better night's sleep (plus, these other 17 Powerful Benefits of Meditation). At Apple, employees are granted regular meditation breaks, as well as access to meditation rooms and frequent in-office practice instruction. If you can find a quiet spot for 20 to 30 minutes a day, that's just enough time you need to reap the practice's many rewards, studies show.
Blackrock, a New York-based financial planning company, gives its employees access to menu planning resources, as well as fitness-tracking software showing them how to stay healthy throughout the day. Good news, since one UK study on menu planning found those who wing it when it comes to mealtimes tend to over-eat. By thinking ahead about what foods you want for lunch or snacks, you can significantly cut back on calories, the study suggests. If your company doesn't offer meal-planning perks like Blackrock, try one of these 7 Super Sites to Make Meal Planning a Snap.
Take Two Wheels, Not Four
Biking to work is good exercise and eco-friendly. With those perks in mind, companies like Boston-based construction management firm Shawmut provide employees with free access to company-owned cycles, safety gear, and locks to use commuting to and from work and job sites. Another good reason to ride instead of drive: Research shows driving—especially in traffic—ups stress and sours your mood. (Don't own your own set of wheels? 5 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Bike.)
Many employers, including Practice Fusion, a cloud-based health data company based in San Francisco, provide their employees with FitBits or other wearable activity trackers. Not only are activity trackers au courant, but people who use them also take an average of 2,183 more steps per day than those who don't, according to a study in the journal JAMA. While some research has found phone apps are just as good at tracking activity as a fancy bracelet, that research was based on early models of wearables.
Double Encore, a Denver-based mobile design firm, offers its employees access to video games, foosball, and darts in a company game room. Sounds risky, but it's actually a smart move. One recent study from the City University of New York found that allowing workers daily breaks for fun "leisure" activities improves their motivation and productivity throughtout the day. Video games in particular may be savvy for companies in creative industries: Playing 30 minutes a day boosts your brain's memory and "strategic planning" ability. Gaming can even combat stress and anxiety, shows research from the National Institutes of Health. Spending a slice of your lunch break unwinding with online games or darts at the bar around the corner probably beats shopping online.