Our top 8 tips for stretching your wellness dollar further

Whilst senior business leaders are increasingly recognising the importance of investing in employee wellbeing, unfortunately this doesn’t always translate into dollars spent, particularly in the initial stages.

Let’s be honest. A wellness strategy is not going to run itself! An effective strategy requires investment of both time & money to achieve maximum results. But it doesn’t have to break the bank. There are a lot of low cost or shoestring strategies that can easily be incorporated as part of your strategy.

However, just because an initiative is free or low cost, doesn’t mean it is right for your organisation. Ask yourself – is your time & efforts better spent elsewhere? This will ultimately come back to the needs identified for your strategy in the first place.

So how do you make your wellness dollar stretch further? Whether you are just embarking on your wellness journey, or well along the road, hopefully these tips will have both your employees & Finance Manager smiling.

Tip # 1. Look for low hanging fruit

When embarking on your wellness journey, you will want to quickly get some runs on the board. Are there any opportunities for quick wins? Or is there the potential to combine & package what is already available with some new initiatives thrown in? Not only will this serve to elevate the profile of existing initiatives, but for relatively little effort, enable you to get the wellness ball rolling.

Tip # 2. Engage your wellness partners

Existing or prospective wellness partners can provide a wealth of expertise, resources, support & practical assistance. As the saying goes, surround yourself with experts! Your strategy will be better for it. So if you haven’t already, pick up the phone & chat with your employee benefit provider/s (e.g. private health insurer), not-for-profit organisations (e.g. Heart Foundation), local gymnasium or recreational facilities, local retailers & government groups.

Tip # 3. Seek funding & /or sponsorship opportunities

If you’ve got the time & energy to hunt them down, there are a growing number of funding & sponsorship opportunities available to support your wellness journey. In a number of states across Australia, this includes grants and free initiatives as part of the Federal Government Healthy Worker Initiative. For further information, visit www.healthyworkers.gov.au. Again, look to your wellness partners for potential sponsorship of select wellness initiatives or events.

Tip # 4. Share responsibility

As stressed in previous blogs, both employers & employers must take responsibility for health in the workplace. It’s a two-way street. Workplace wellness works best when core initiatives (such as health risk assessments & flu vaccinations) are funded by the organisation, & ancillary programs such as onsite yoga classes are either subsidised by the organisation or paid for by employees. Not only will this help stretch your wellness dollar further, but in my experience, it increases ownership of, & commitment to your strategy. It also stops an entitlement culture creeping in & the infuriating issue of ‘no-shows’.

Tip # 5. Seek research & /or practical support from universities

Could you do with an extra set of hands or expertise for an upcoming project? If so, I encourage you to become friendly with your local university. Firstly, make some enquiries regarding hosting some practicum students. The Human Movement Studies or Public Health department of the university is a great place to start, as they often have well established practicum programs. Not only will this provide you with hands-on support, but provide a valuable injection of new ideas, expertise & enthusiasm. Secondly, chat with universities regarding potential joint research projects & /or clinical support which can be a great means of adding more rigour to your strategy.

Tip # 6. Think outside the box

I’ve delivered many wellness strategies over the years that have started (& sometimes continued!) with a shoestring budget. This requires flexible, creative & innovative ‘out of the box’ thinking.  If you don’t have the budget initially to roll out the initiative you want, why not start with a smaller pilot program? Not only will this provide an opportunity to iron out any kinks before rolling out a larger scale initiative, but subject to its success, will then enable you to seek more funding to roll out your strategy more broadly.

Tip #7. Make healthy choices the easy choices

Supporting flexible working arrangements, implementing a smoke-free policy, providing healthy snack options in your vending machines, or hosting walking or standing meetings as a way of discouraging sedentary behaviour. These are just some examples of cultural, policy & environmental initiatives that are relatively easy to implement without hurting the company’s hip pocket.

Tip #8. Stay focused

Finally, & most importantly, remember the old adage, quality not quantity. Don’t stretch your wellness efforts too thin (& potentially jeopardise your own wellbeing in the process!), & concentrate on initiatives which will provide the best value-on-investment.

USEFUL RESOURCE: For other low cost ideas for your workplace wellness strategy, check out the Heart Foundation Healthy Workplace Guide: 10 steps to implementing a workplace health program. (2011)