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Employee Wellness Programs: A Look at Some of the Best and Most Creative

Human Resources

Employee wellness is a concept that has slowly been embraced by most U.S. small businesses (and large ones, too). But what sets a handful of businesses apart is the attitude that the best culture is one "where employees choose to live a healthier lifestyle, rather than being forced to do so," according to Lindsay Rothfield of Mashable.

Here's a look at how several of the leading employee wellness programs are structured at inventive, forward-looking businesses:

Draper, Inc., among the world's largest manufacturers of projection screens and related equipment, was named the 2014 healthiest workplace in the U.S. by Healthiest Employers, LLC. The Indiana-based company features a Wellness Park on its grounds that includes workout stations, volleyball courts, and a one-fifth mile track. Employees take part in annual health fairs, Weight Watchers class, Zumba exercise sessions, and the services of a dedicated Safety and Wellness Director.

Late last year, the health website Greatist named "The 44 Healthiest Companies to Work for in the United States." Greatist studied various health benefits, fitness perks, healthy eating options, vacation benefits, etc., to make its determination. Here's a brief sampling of businesses that made the cut:

100 and Fewer Employees

The tech startup Asana, based in San Francisco, features an unlimited vacation policy, as well as three-months of paid maternity and paternity leave. Employees enjoy the services of a company chef, on-site yoga classes, and free gym memberships. Perhaps best of all, Asana offers employees $10,000 to create their dream work stations.

The Mission Continues, a New York-based, veteran-focused nonprofit, offers employees unlimited time off to cope with family and health issues. Each employee is assigned a life and health coach, and all may enjoy the daily afternoon "Tea Time," where work stops for 15 minutes at 3:00 p.m., so people can casually interact.

Voom Wellness in Kingston, NY, encourages employees to take part in "deskercises" or dancing for two minutes every hour (they also get free gym memberships). Two days a week, Voom employees work from home and spend a third day at meetings situated outside the office in a local coffee shop, at the park, etc.

100-499 Employees

Employees of Sparks, in Philadelphia, have their lunch subsidized by the company (they pay only $5 dollars a day). They also participate in departmental meetings that take place on a walking trail outside of their headquarters. There's also the popular Wellness BBQ, a day celebrating holistic health with exercise and healthy barbecued food.

At Seventh Generation, Inc., in Burlington, Vermont, employees have fully-covered preventative health screenings (no deductible required). There's also a policy of unlimited sick days and the benefits of having on-site chair massages by the resident masseuse.

Other businesses take an equally creative approach to employee wellness:

North Carolina-based SAS, an international software firm, has constructed a wellness program centered on its Recreation and Fitness Center (RFC). The SAS wellness program—open to employees, retirees and family members—encompasses health checks, smoking cessation programs, leisure activities, and a six-month "Your Way to Wellness" program.

The University of Alaska offers a "UA Health in Action" program to employees, a portal to a variety of health and wellness activities. University workers can take part in fitness events, health seminars, health coaching, and online health tracking.

There's no longer any question about the benefits of sponsoring a wellness program for employees. Not only does it boost productivity, such programs may serve as a key element in attracting and retaining the best employees around. If your business doesn't already have a wellness program, now's the time to start one!


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