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Staff and Workplace Wellness

Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN)

October 12, 2023

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In a month known for monsters and candy, the best trick is treating your employees to better health and wellness. Employee wellness opportunities can help staff feel better, live healthier, and be more present for the children in your program. Healthy adults model healthy living for children. 

We traditionally think about eating healthier and exercising more, but the opportunities for wellness expand beyond those benefits of well-being. Wellness includes physical, emotional, social, environmental, intellectual, career, and financial health. Our partners at ICN explain employee wellness benefits, simple steps to start the process, and examples of offerings your employees might enjoy. 

Benefits of Staff Wellness 

It is not surprising that many Americans’ health is not optimal. Half of all adults have at least one chronic disease (like diabetes or high blood pressure). More than half are overweight or obese and don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables or get enough exercise. Workplace wellness initiatives can help make a difference! 

Benefits of wellness initiatives: 

  • Improve employee health and fitness 
  • Increase staff productivity, performance, and morale 
  • Improve staff recruitment and retention 
  • Fewer days of missed work 
  • Better adult modeling for improved engagement with children 

Build a Staff Wellness Program 

Starting small is a good idea if you don’t have a staff wellness program. The following steps will help you get the process going. 

  1. Build support: You’ll need the support of your program leadership and staff. Use this Mealtime Memo as a tool to get the conversation started. Building support is an ongoing process; you will identify more people to engage with as your initiative moves forward. 
  2. Find a wellness champion and team: If you want to lead this initiative, great! If not, find someone with an interest and expertise to take it on. There may already be a group you can ask to help. Is there a group of employees that walk during lunch or that organize a yoga class after work? These are great people and groups to ask to help. It would be best to start small, but having at least a few people on the team will increase the likelihood of success. 
  3. Gather information: Talk to staff and find out what aspects of wellness most interest them. You can also create a short survey to collect information. It can include interest questions about various wellness topics; preferred times, locations, and format; and motivators and barriers to participating. 
  4. Plan for success: Using the information collected, meet with your wellness team to explore the options, and decide where to start. Create a plan to execute the activity. Be sure to include specific, achievable, and realistic action steps to guide you. Remember to keep in mind cost, staff availability, and time. 
  5. Communicate your plan: Once you determine what to do, ensure everyone knows the plan. You may need to communicate information more than once and in multiple ways. For example, announce plans at a staff meeting and include information on a bulletin board, via email, social media, and/or internal communication. 
  6. Execute the plan: Follow through on what you said you would provide, even if initial interest is low. These things can take time to build momentum. 
  7. Evaluate: As you move through the plan, discuss how it is going as a team. You may need to adjust based on feedback. Don’t be discouraged if the first effort isn’t as successful as you had hoped. 
  8. Maintain momentum: Keep meeting and discussing ideas. Go through the above process as many times as you need to. Find additional resources (see the References section) to help you grow and progress. 

Examples of Wellness Offerings 

Ideas for wellness offerings are endless! The best source of suggestions will come from the interests of your staff. Below are a few offerings in different categories. You will see that the ideas vary from simple to more involved. Remember that starting small is okay!  

Physical Activity
  • Post Signage to use stairs
  • Hold active staff meetings (with physical activity breaks
  • Offer on-site fitness classes 
  • Hold an exercise challenge or form exercise clubs 
  • Promote local fitness opportunities (e.g., 5K races in the community, reduced gym/class memberships for teachers) 
  • Implement a policy about food brought into your program 
  • Hold a hydration challenge to increase water intake 
  • Sponsor an on-site farmers’ market 
  • Grow a garden 
  • Provide nutrition classes for staff 
  • Hold nutrition challenges 
  • Increase natural light or time outside 
  • Offer sleep coaching or sleep hygiene classes/webinars 
  • Provide sleep resources and information 
Financial Wellness
  • Offer financial literacy workshops or webinars 
  • Offer group and individual financial planning workshops 
  • Provide financial resources and information 
Social-emotional Health
  • Offer mindfulness meditation breaks 
  • Include employees in decisions about workplace issues 
  • Hold social events 
  • Start mentorship programs 
  • Provide stress management information 
Health Screening
  • Provide information about community screenings 
  • Offer health assessments or screenings (check with your insurance provider or local hospital/clinic) 
  • Offer condition-specific support groups (e.g., diabetes, weight loss) 
  • Offer mental health screenings 


For more tips, read ICN’s October Mealtime Memo!