A common excuse for the lack of employee wellness structure in a workplace is the cost. Healthy snacks, events and exercise equipment is too expensive for a business with a small staff to purchase and maintain – or is it?
The Iowa League of Cities and its staff of around 30 employees have an annual budget of just $1,100 for wellness programs, half of which is reimbursed by the Iowa Municipalities Worker’s Compensation Association for the portion used to support staff dedicated to that program. But keeping it simple seems to do the trick.
“We started the wellness committee about three years ago,” said Alison Deiter, an accountant at the Iowa League of Cities. “The committee meets quarterly and gives out monthly updates on wellness-related items.”
The League’s wellness committee also hosts annual wellness competitions.
“Two years ago we tracked activity time and weight loss,” Deiter said. “Last year we tried something different called Creating Healthy Habits. It was a point system for starting healthy habits. Exercise, eating fruits and vegetables, getting 8 hours of sleep and drinking plenty of water were all accounted for in the challenge, and the winners would receive gift cards.”
As far as healthy eating goes, the budget allows $50 a month to be spent on the healthy snack days, which is usually more than enough. Any amount left over goes toward a larger purchase or a bigger lunch for the staff.
Annual outings are also included in the League’s wellness plans, and the outings have consisted of volunteer opportunities around the holidays or trips to Gray’s Lake for team building activities.
More regular wellness activities are important, too, and one of the easiest ways to do so is a simple 30-minute walk each day.
"Employees have the option to change into more comfortable clothes on our walks. Obviously Iowa summers can be hot, and Iowa winters can be cold. We don't want employees to be turned off by the idea of getting outside,” said Tiffani Williamson, an accounting assistant at the Iowa Municipalities Workers’ Compensation Association.
Another cost-effective strategy the League of Cities took up to increase employee activity is a FitDesk Under Desk Elliptical - a $170 investment available at https://www.thefitdesk.com. Employees reserve the elliptical like they would a conference room, allowing them to share the device instead of buying one for everyone.
According to Ron Sinnwell, Loss Control Coordinator, it’s more difficult to worry about employee wellness in non-profits than it is for businesses in the private sector.
“The League is a not-for-profit, so every dollar counts,” said Sinnwell. “It’s a big difference.”
To small staffs with even smaller wellness budgets, a lesson can be learned from the Iowa League of Cities: keep it simple, and something is better than nothing.