In the Happy Healthy Nonprofit, we shared many stories about how nonprofits are bringing wellness and wellbeing into the workplace with little or no budget.
Recently, colleague Neil Parekh of the United Way called my attention to the United Way of Central Ohio and its employee wellness initiatives focused on healthy eating. I followed up with Christina Patel, the agency’s relationship manager to learn more.
Four years ago, the United Way of Central Ohio created a staff committee that focuses on balanced well-being, which also includes healthy eating. The committee includes of staff members interested in workplace wellness.The committee structure includes a chair, financial coordinator, communication coordinator and other members so the work is distributed.
Christina, who previously worked for the local Y association where she led wellness initiatives, recently became the chair. She was motivated by both an interest to improve her skills leading a team and to better understand her organization’s work culture. She works closely with HR to manage the committee’s work which now consists of 12 staff members who volunteer their time. She recruits new members for two year terms by promoting it as professional development opportunity.
The committee gets feedback from the agency’s 90-plus staff members to design workplace wellbeing initiatives. These are implemented with a very modest budget of $7,500 which comes from their health insurance. Most programs and activities have minimal or no costs.
The agency has offered a wide range of events, benefits, and other incentives to support employee well-being, including:
- Reimbursements – The agency will reimburse staff for wellness related expenses such as gym membership, equipment, registration fees for participating in running or walking events, and other related expenses.
- Healthy Food Events – The agency will cover the cost of for purchasing fruit as snacks for staff through a program called “Fruit Fridays.” They also do Lunch/Breakfast and Learn, providing healthy food from a local restaurant and presentations on health topics such as training for running or walking events. The agency has also partnered with a local organization, Local Matters, with a mission of healthy communities through food education to host a cooking demo and challenge.
- Mindfulness Activities – The agency offers “Yoga Tuesdays,” workplace yoga, weekly 45 minute sessions from January to June and guided meditations taught by trained staff.
- Bike Share Events – The agency partnered with a local bike share company to create a series of events about using the bikes to ride during lunch or commute to work.
- Challenge Events – The agency also does step challenges using trackers and gives out gift cards to winners.
- Kickball – The agency covers the registration fee and shirts for a weekly kickball team which according to Patel has helped with employee engagement and brand promotion.
One of their most popular programs with a partner, Local Matters, a nonprofit that offers nutritional education, to host events. One event was called “Eat the Rainbow” where employees learned basic cooking techniques from local professional chefs to prepare healthy meals. They also organized a healthy cooking challenge where four staff teams competed to create a winning dish from a mystery set of vegetarian ingredients.
In addition to the above programs, the committee develops and implements strategies to engage employees including reaching out personally to new employees to introduce them to the wellness initiatives. The committee also developed a policy for healthy food at meetings and breaks.
Employee participation is strong. The agency uses incentives such as offering food at events during meal times. In addition, events take place during normal business hours and included as part of being on the clock. Senior leadership participates on the committee and also attends events which in turn spurs staff participation.
Overall, the number of events has grown significantly during the past few years. The agency measure success based on biometric screenings which helps them secure an annual budget from their health insurer.
This is a terrific example of how design and implement a workplace well-being program with a minimal budget and maximum staff engagement and participation. Does your nonprofit have organize activities and programs that focus on well-being? Share your example in the comments below!
If you are thinking about starting one, be sure to pick up a copy of the Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout for tips and ideas to get started and come join the NTEN Community Book Club!