It’s common sense that a happy and healthy employee will be a more productive, and therefore, valuable one. But even so, it may come as a surprise to learn just how much of a difference good employee health and wellbeing makes.

An Australian government study found a shocking difference between the healthiest and least healthy employees. With the combined effects of self-rated work performance and absenteeism data, it revealed the healthiest employees were working roughly 143 effective hours per month, compared with just 49 hours for the least healthy.

With such a stark contrast in productivity and work motivation, there can be no understating the benefits of employee health and wellness programs.

Here are five actionable employee health wellness initiatives you can implement in the workplace.

Enter charity races

Most major cities offer countless fun runs and charity races throughout the year, and you don’t need to be a marathon runner to enter. In fact, some participants prefer to simply walk the track if they’re not up to running.

Not only will signing up and training together create a camaraderie between participants, it will get them exercising while supporting a good cause at the same time. Plus, branded company team shirts and a donation to the cause can be great for your business profile.

Offer options

It’s all very well to offer to pay for employee gym memberships but not everyone in the workplace will be a gym junkie.

Ask your staff what interests them, do your research, and offer alternative options. Perhaps you could give them the choice of a gym membership, a healthy food box delivery, or cover their tennis club fees? Many employees wish to escape the office partake in group personal training in the park.

Create fitness challenges

There’s nothing like a little healthy competition to get people moving, and when there are prizes involved, it only becomes more exciting.

Invest in fitness bands or pedometers for all staff, and issue a walking challenge. Consider setting the challenge up with teams, and award prizes for the team with the most steps each month, and for individuals.

Importantly, make sure the challenges are accessible for all. Walking and step-counting is easy for anyone to join, and doesn’t take special equipment or a gym membership to start.

RELATED: 4 apps to boost your happiness at work

Host stretching meetings

You’ve heard of standing meetings but how about stretching meetings?

Instead of sitting around a table, stand up and start stretching. Whoever is talking at the time has to choose a stretch and everyone must follow. Be sure to keep the stretches simple and appropriate for work attire.

Offer flexible hours or work-from-home days

Employee mental health is just as important as physical health, and one thing that can help with this is giving staff more control over their work schedule.

If your projects aren’t confined to the typical 9-to-5 workday, consider giving employees the opportunity to start and finish earlier, or start and finish later. This may give them the break from routine they need to deal with life admin, catching up on some sleep, or get out of the office early on Friday for a refreshing weekend getaway.

Alternatively, if all they need is a laptop and internet connection to complete their tasks, allow for work-from-home days to let them work from the comfort of their home to get their tasks done.

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