Employee wellness has taken on a greater importance in the workplace over the past decade. Workers want to feel like their organizations are committed to them beyond measuring their productivity and contributions to the bottom line. They want a tangible connection between themselves and the company, and part of that is knowing that the organization cares about their well-being.

Employee wellness initiatives fall under the realm of HR and, as such, today’s HR professionals are coming up with strategies that support and promote the health and satisfaction of their workers. These can take many forms (there are even no-cost options) and each company will end up creating programs to fit their culture, but the central mission remains the same.

Just the facts

If you ask your employees what stands in the way of wellness, the  honest ones will tell you that life in the office doesn’t help. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, of the 45 percent of workers who believe they’ve gained weight at their current jobs, many attribute their weight gain to their work environment: sedentary work (53 percent), not enough free time to exercise (34 percent) and the dreaded candy basket (21 percent).

What can you do to change the script and promote health and happiness in your office?

1. Experiment with fitness program possibilities

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to creating a wellness program. You can focus mostly on fitness, health (physical and mental) or a combination of the two. You can’t force employees to exercise or eat better, but you can help your employees adopt a more healthy lifestyle through motivation and by providing access to tools and services that can get them started.

On-site fitness classes or workout facilities won’t be feasible for every business, but it may be possible to partner with a gym nearby and ask for discounted rates for employees who join. Holding fitness competitions, starting a fitness club or walking group, or hosting guest speakers who are experts on fitness and nutrition can provide the jump start employees need.

2. Encourage smart eating

We all know how easy it is to grab a candy bar or bag of chips from the vending machine. And who can resist a piece of cake or cookies that our co-workers stick in the break room? While these treats are fine on occasion, employers need to make sure there are plenty of healthy options available.

If you have vending machines, stock them with healthier snacks like trail mix, granola or protein bars, pretzels or crackers. If your company has access to a cafeteria, work with the food service company or chef to incorporate low-fat, low-salt and gluten-free items into the menu. And when holding a company event that involves food, consider limiting the number of sweets people can bring, or provide an incentive to the employee or department that brings the most appetizing and healthy dish to share.

3. Think creatively about wellness

Remember, wellness takes many forms. It’s not always related to physical health and fitness. For example, programs that promote and support mental health and financial wellness are equally as important to our overall well-being. Confer with HR heads and representatives of other departments to devise such wellness initiatives that are sensible for the entire workforce.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up

Coming up with the right wellness program for your company can take time. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different options until you find the programs and services that are most effective and successful. And make sure you change up what you offer from time-to-time so employees don’t get bored and abandon what they start. Wellness may seem like a huge undertaking, but the productivity gains and reduction in healthcare costs from a happier and healthier workforce should be all the motivation you need!

TIP: an HR platform with a communications portal or collaboration capabilities can help to promote your wellness programs while providing employees tools to keep them motivated, provide feedback and measure success.