Global Employee Health and Fitness Month: The Employer’s Guide

Global Employee Health and Fitness Month: The Employer’s Guide thumbnail

At the start of the year, many people set ambitious and optimistic health and fitness goals as part of their New Year’s resolutions. And, too many people also find that those goals tend to fade away as the year unfolds. Now that spring has fully bloomed in many places, employers can play an important role in helping employees reconnect with and recommit to their health and wellness goals. This article focuses on what employers can do to celebrate Global Employee Health and Fitness Month.

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What is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month?

Global Employee Health and Fitness Month is an initiative organized by the National Association for Health and Fitness.  The organization’s mission is to improve quality of life by promoting physical fitness, sports and healthy lifestyles. The group also champions environmental and policy support for active living, community involvement, quality physical education and developing workforce health promotion programs. By providing tip sheets and tools for encouraging accountability, the organization helps employers wishing to provide structured options for employees.  Visit https://www.gehfm.org/ for more on the group and to engage in the process for yourself, your team or your organizations.

Why Health and Fitness Are Important to Employers

So, why should employers directly invest in the personal health and fitness of their employees? Isn’t that, well, a bit personal?  Some managers are understandably nervous about engaging with this topic with staff – particularly with staff who are clearly not as healthy as their peers. It is natural to worry about setting oneself up for a complaint of some form of discrimination.

These are understandable concerns. But when handled appropriately, that risk can be managed with important positive outcomes.  Your employee comes to work as a complete person – mind, body and heart. Here are reasons why health and fitness are important to employers:

  • It shows your employees that you are invested in them as people, which may contribute to retention in the long term.
  • A healthy body supports a healthy mind – exercise gives people the opportunity to work through problems in a new way, and may spark creativity and problem solving. Few employees completely turn off work at night – many great groundbreaking ideas have occurred to people while jogging in the evening!
  • Health impacts the bottom line – Healthy employees may be less likely to need sick leave and may have fewer medical expenses.

Six Benefits to Running a Health and Fitness Program

Health and wellness programs can lead to increased happiness and productivity, directly benefitting both your organization and the person engaging in the activity. In addition to the three advantages introduced above, here are six more benefits to running a health and fitness program:

  1. The most important benefit of a health and fitness program is showing your employees that you care about them and appreciate them. Appreciation is a key human need – tracking exercise goals and celebrating achievements is a great way to show your appreciation for their success, whatever those personal milestones may be.
  2. An organized health and fitness event is a great teambuilding and staff development tool. Event organizers can develop project management skills in a safe environment and both planners and participants will naturally develop team skills through the process.
  3. Tying health and fitness achievements to an existing organization awards program helps remind employees of the benefits you already provide. And, If you do not already have an existing awards program, initiating one associated with a health and fitness program is an easy way to start such a program.
  4. Giving gifts to reward health and fitness progress can help publicize your organization. Give out sports gear or small gifts with the organization’s logo to mark key milestones. This shows appreciation for the goals that were achieved and gets your organization name and logo out in the world.
  5. You can also design a health and fitness program that engages the community – like sponsoring a run, or simply hosting an organized walk or other fitness event, like a special yoga class or other event. This demonstrates corporate responsibility and also get your name out into the world in a positive and productive way.
  6. You can use this event based month to kickstart a broader stress management program for your staff, which may extend longer than the month. Talking about the benefits of health and fitness as part of a broader conversation about stress management can help bring the topic to life in a positive and supportive way.

Eight Ways to Celebrate Global Employee Health and Fitness Month

Here are eight specific different activities that your organization could do to celebrate health and fitness month.  Many of these can be implemented by individual supervisors, managers or even employees on their own.

  1. Take a Walk! Encourage managers and team members to hold at least one walking meeting per week during Employee Health and Fitness Month. Many groups find that walking meetings allow them to be freer to talk about tough issues, and can spark creativity just by providing a new environment. These don’t need to be speed races! Just get outside. This can be done both by office workers in a group, or as a virtual team of teleworkers – with everyone simply walking separately and meeting over their cell phones!
  2. Offer employee memberships to the global employee health and fitness month website. A subscription provides access to a toolkit with many ideas for engaging and health and fitness activities, not only during this specific month but throughout the year. Employees can also report and track their progress on the site. This small award can go a long way in helping employees feel valued.
  3. Host a fitness social hour. We know one organization where everyone on the team is responsible for hosting a social hour at least once during the year. A group walk, stretching clas or doing a video exercise program together could fit the bill! Ask for volunteers to schedule such a social hour this month – planning an activity that most will be able to do and enjoy.
  4. Host group trainings and discussion groups on health and wellness topics. For example, Pryor has a seminar called How to Handle Stress at Work, which can give employees practical tools that they can use year round. Bringing this workshop in as a shared event can help keep its ideas alive and discussable.  For a seminar or brownbag event, listen together to Pryor’s audio program Life by Design and then hold a discussion about what people learned from it, with possible action steps.
  5. Hold a virtual cooking session or recipe sharing event. Part of healthy living is healthy eating!   If you have a lot of teleworkers, set some time aside for a breakfast, lunch or snack creation event, where everyone makes the same meal, broadcasting over video to each other.
  6. Create an online or in-person bulletin board on Health and Fitness. Provide a virtual (e.g., Microsoft® OneNote) or physical space for people to post motivational pictures or quotes, recipes, or success stories over the course of Health and Fitness Month.  This will keep the ideas of the month active and alive for the team.
  7. Offer Ergonomic Assessments. Offering this service can help your employees learn whether there are better ways to set up their computer and office in a way that better supports their health. In an industrial environment, there may be ways to adjust the equipment to prevent repetitive stress injuries or simply make the workstation more comfortable to improve efficiencies.
  8. Hold a clean out your workspace day. Cleaning out a desk and throwing out files involves a special type of exercise and movement and can lead to a healthier environment, by clearing the workspace of clutter.  Pryor’s digital download, Control Chaos and Clear out the Clutter and blog article Health and Wellness: Making Our Workstations Work! can provide insights for participants that would make this activity an educational one as well.

Action Planning

Any of the activities above could be initiated by any employee or manager. However, as an organization, you could also consider using the month as an organizing tool for an on-the-job training program in leadership and project management.

For example, a team of high potential leaders could be charged with designing and managing a series of Employee Health and Fitness activities.  You could supplement this hand-on learning with Pryor courses, such as Strategic Goal Setting; Managing Multiple Priorities, Projects and Deadlines; and Planning and Prioritizing Your Time Effectively.  Such an approach would develop their skills, while also serving the organization.

Once you are done reviewing these ideas and writing down an action plan – stop and go outside for a walk!  Happy Health and Fitness Month!

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