In a month known for monsters and candy, the best trick is treating your employees to better health and wellness. Employee wellness opportunities can help staff feel better, live healthier, and be more present for the children in your program. Healthy adults model healthy living for children.
We traditionally think about eating healthier and exercising more, but the opportunities for wellness expand beyond those benefits of well-being. Wellness includes physical, emotional, social, environmental, intellectual, career, and financial health. This Mealtime Memo will discuss employee wellness benefits, simple steps to start the process, and examples of offerings your employees might enjoy.
Benefits of Staff Wellness
It is not surprising that many Americans’ health is not optimal. Half of all adults have at least one chronic disease (like diabetes or high blood pressure). More than half are overweight or obese and don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables or get enough exercise. Workplace wellness initiatives can help make a difference!
Benefits of wellness initiatives:
Improve employee health and fitness
Increase staff productivity, performance, and morale
Improve staff recruitment and retention
Fewer days of missed work
Better adult modeling for improved engagement with children
Build a Staff Wellness Program
Starting small is a good idea if you don’t have a staff wellness program. The following steps will help you get the process going. If you already have something in place but want to expand it, see the resources in the reference section for more detailed information.
Build support: You’ll need the support of your program leadership and staff. Use this Mealtime Memo as a tool to get the conversation started. Building support is an ongoing process; you will identify more people to engage with as your initiative moves forward.
TIP: Most wellness programs start with something small, like a walking competition and then expand over time.
TIP: There are many no-cost and low-effort options that can support staff wellness. Don’t let a lack of resources prevent you from getting started!
Find a wellness champion and team: If you want to lead this initiative, great! If not, find someone with an interest and expertise to take it on. There may already be a group you can ask to help. Is there a group of employees that walk during lunch or that organize a yoga class after work? These are great people and groups to ask to help. It would be best to start small, but having at least a few people on the team will increase the likelihood of success.
Gather information: Talk to staff and find out what aspects of wellness most interest them. You can also create a short survey to collect information. It can include interest questions about various wellness topics; preferred times, locations, and format; and motivators and barriers to participating.
Plan for success: Using the information collected, meet with your wellness team to explore the options, and decide where to start. Create a plan to execute the activity. Be sure to include specific, achievable, and realistic action steps to guide you. Remember to keep in mind cost, staff availability, and time.
Communicate your plan: Once you determine what to do, ensure everyone knows the plan. You may need to communicate information more than once and in multiple ways. For example, announce plans at a staff meeting and include information on a bulletin board, via email, social media, and/or internal communication.
Possible Wellness Topics
Execute the plan: Follow through on what you said you would provide, even if initial interest is low. These things can take time to build momentum.
Evaluate: As you move through the plan, discuss how it is going as a team. You may need to adjust based on feedback. Don’t be discouraged if the first effort isn’t as successful as you had hoped.
Maintain momentum: Keep meeting and discussing ideas. Go through the above process as many times as you need to. Find additional resources (see the References section) to help you grow and progress.
Examples of Wellness Offerings
Ideas for wellness offerings are endless! The best source of suggestions will come from the interests of your staff. Below are a few offerings in different categories. You will see that the ideas vary from simple to more involved. Remember that starting small is okay! The resource Healthy School, Healthy Staff, Healthy Students has a long list of ideas in Appendix 1.
Post signage to use stairs
Hold active staff meetings (with physical activity breaks)
Offer on-site fitness classes
Hold an exercise challenge or form exercise clubs
Promote local fitness opportunities (e.g., 5K races in the community, reduced gym/class memberships for teachers)
Implement a policy about food brought into your program
Hold a hydration challenge to increase water intake
Sponsor an on-site farmers’ market
Grow a garden
Provide nutrition classes for staff
Hold nutrition challenges
Increase natural light or time outside
Offer sleep coaching or sleep hygiene classes/webinars
Hold a sleep challenge
Provide sleep resources and information
Offer financial literacy workshops or webinars
Offer group and individual financial planning workshops
Provide financial resources and information
Offer mindfulness meditation breaks
Include employees in decisions about workplace issues
Hold social events
Start mentorship programs
Provide stress management information
Provide information about community screenings
Offer health assessments or screenings (check with your insurance provider or local hospital/clinic)
Offer condition-specific support groups (e.g., diabetes, weight loss)
Offer mental health screenings
Mealtime Discussion Prompts
Mealtime is an excellent opportunity for staff to talk about healthy changes they are making and model this behavior for children. Here are some ways to share and discuss healthy behavior changes.
I joined a walking group in the evenings, which makes me feel good. What are ways you like to move your body?
I’ve realized I need more quiet time during the day. What do you like to do in your free time?
I’ve started eating five fruits and vegetables every day. What fruits and vegetables do you like to eat here and at home?
The CACFP meal pattern provides a model of healthy meals and serving sizes that staff can use as an example of good nutrition.