Elements of a Worksite Wellness Program

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Physical Activity

Activity Breaks During Meetings

If you incorporate physical activity breaks into your meetings, you will find that participants have increased energy, attention span and participation, and less fatigue. Taking a few minutes to move around can save much time in lost productivity.

Increasing Physical Activity in the Worksite

The primary purpose of workplace interventions is to encourage employee education and physical activity. Regular physical activity is one of the most effective disease prevention behaviors. Physical activity programs can range from simple to extensive, with varying implementation costs. Some of the benefits of physical activity include:

  • Reduced feelings of depression
  • Improved stamina and strength
  • Reduced obesity, particularly when combined with diet
  • Reduced risks of cardiovascular disease (i.e., high blood pressure and cholesterol, stroke, and type 2 diabetes)

Create a Stairwell Campaign

Encouraging employees to choose the stairs instead of the elevator is a quick way for people to add physical activity to their day.

Make sure the stairwells are well maintained and safe, with no broken steps, handrails, or tripping hazards. The CDC Stairwell to Better Health initiative addresses topics such as stairwell appearance, signage, and safety.

Measuring flights of stairs creates simple staff challenges and competitions. For example, groups can set goals such as “climbing the Empire State Building” or convert steps to miles and walk.

Walk and Talk Meetings

Conduct meetings while walking around the building, field, or campus. This will provide workers with a break from stationary desks and repetitive movements.

  • Set enough time for the meeting so that people can prepare for walking.
  • Bring a notepad to jot down notes from the meeting, if necessary.
  • Let people know in advance so they can bring a water bottle or coat and wear appropriate shoes.

How to Designate Safe Walking Routes

Walking while at work is a great way to increase physical activity. It is important to make sure that the walking environment is safe and attractive. Walkability is the idea of quantifying and improving the safety and desirability of the walking routes. At work, these can be streets and sidewalks between buildings on your campus; city blocks if you work in a downtown area; or even nature trails at your work. Many people work on campuses that have more than one building, and they may work in one building and have meetings in another. Creating a walkability audit can broadly assess pedestrian facilities, destinations and surroundings along and near a walking route, and identify specific improvements that would make the route more attractive and useful to pedestrians.

For additional information, please contact the State Employee Wellness Program Director at 601-206-1559.

Stretch Breaks

Standing or sitting for long periods of time can take a toll on your muscles. To prevent or reduce stiffness and pain, try simple exercises and stretches from the National Institutes of Health throughout the day. Employers should encourage employees to take frequent stretch breaks and lead group stretch routines. Stretch breaks should also occur before and during meetings.

Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSD) are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. Examples of work conditions that may lead to WMSD include routine lifting of heavy objects, daily exposure to whole body vibration, routine overhead work, work with the neck in chronic flexion position, or performing repetitive forceful tasks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers tools and resources to help employers implement health related programs to reduce and prevent WMSD.

Other Physical Activity Strategies

Please refer to the CDC Workplace Health Promotion Tools and Resources for walking campaign tools and worksite walking campaign tools.

Please refer to the CDC Workplace Health Resource Center for a variety of worksite wellness examples/recommendations/strategies for employers

Food and Nutrition

Hosting an Onsite Farmers’ Market

Businesses and organizations can host an on-site farmers' market to help introduce their employees (and customers) to healthy eating. Local farmers provide fresh vegetables and products, and you provide the facilities – indoors or out.

Steps to Success:

  1. Enlist the help of your Wellness Committee to conduct an employee interest survey to determine whether hosting a farmers' market is a viable option
  2. Once you have decided to host a market, visit the Mississippi Farmers' Market to identify the farmers' market manager in your area and let them know you want to start a market at your worksite. The manager can assist you with farmer recruitment; your role at the worksite will be to provide space and promote the market.
  3. Once your farmers' market is ready to go you will need to promote it. Here are some tips:
    • Get the information to your workers. Use email, flyers, and posters to get people talking.
    • Provide and distribute reusable, insulated bags to your coworkers.
    • Set up fun activities like food demonstrations. Provide taste testing to give workers the opportunity to discover different kinds of foods.
    • Ask employees to submit their favorite recipes using foods from the market. Share them with other employees, through email or monthly newsletters.

For information about hosting a farmers' market, contact the Office of Preventive Health at 601-206-1559.

Healthy Vending

Businesses can decide what foods are in their onsite vending machines. Creating healthy vending policies or initiatives emphasizes that an employer is making the health of the workforce a priority. Many groups, including food vendor specialist groups, have put out models and sets of nutrition standards. Some guidelines are stricter and stronger than others in promoting healthy food. Businesses should choose a standard that is evidence-based as well as realistic. Listed below are evidence-based procurement standards and guidelines:

In the case of vending machines in state facilities, the authority and key partners are largely determined by the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936. Under the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program, State Licensing Agencies (SLAs) have the authority to recruit, train and license people who are blind or visually impaired as operators of vending businesses in government facilities.

In collaboration with the Mississippi SLA representative, the Mississippi State Department of Health trained vendors in the National Automatic Merchandising Association's (NAMA) Fit-Pick model. As a result, healthy product purchases have increased over time, and Mississippi's healthy vending machine initiative has found appeal in other worksites, including the NASA Stennis Space Center and some interstate roadside rest areas.

For more information contact the Office of Preventive Health at 601-206-1559. Please visit the resources section for additional toolkits and nutrition templates.

Healthy Catering for Meetings/Events

Employers, community groups and faith communities can make it easier for people to make healthy food choices by providing healthy food at meetings and other events they sponsor.

According to the Maine Cardiovascular Health Program, more than 45% of money spent on food goes to foods eaten away from home. These foods are higher in fat, sodium, and calories and are lower in fiber and calcium. Foods eaten away from home have become a much larger part of Americans' lives. This has a major impact on the quality of the American diet and contributes to the obesity epidemic. Employers can support healthy eating behaviors by selecting caterers who serve healthy food options or by implementing a healthy catering policy. Please visit the resources section to review The Mississippi State Department of Health's Healthy Catering Policy.

Tobacco Cessation

Tobacco Cessation in the Workplace

The two major purposes of tobacco cessation programs in the workplace are encouraging tobacco users to quit, and reducing employee's exposure to second-hand smoke. Establishing tobacco-free workplace policies and decreasing the numbers of employees who model tobacco use will reduce tobacco use initiation among employees and, in addition, may influence tobacco use in employees' families.
Read more about tobacco cessation interventions in the workplace

The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) works to address the impact of tobacco use through the Office of Tobacco Control (OTC).


Creating a breastfeeding-friendly worksite will lead to healthier mothers and babies. It benefits employers by making it easier for new moms to return to work. It benefits working new moms by giving them the peace of mind that they can still provide ideal nutrition for their infants. The CDC provides a Lactation Support Toolkit with examples of a comprehensive lactation or breastfeeding support program for nursing mothers at the worksite.

Worksites should strive to create a formal policy to enable breastfeeding employees the ability to express their milk during work hours. A written policy that supports breastfeeding employees includes:

  • Milk expression breaks: Breastfeeding employees are allowed to breastfeed or express milk during work hours using their normal breaks, and at meal times.
  • A place to express milk: A private room (not a toilet stall or restroom) shall be available for employees to breastfeed or express milk.
  • Education: Employees must be provided with information and resources pertaining to breastfeeding awareness.
  • Staff support: Supervisors are responsible for alerting pregnant and breastfeeding employees about the organization's worksite lactation program and for negotiating policies and practices that will help facilitate each employee's infant feeding goals.

A sample breastfeeding policy can be found in the Business Case for Breastfeeding from the HHS Office of Women's Health.

Healthy Babies, Healthy Businesses

The March of Dimes' Healthy Babies, Healthy Business program is designed for employers looking to improve pregnancy outcomes within their workforce. The cornerstone of the program is My 9 Months, which provides employees with customizable, easy-to-read pregnancy health education online. The unique aspect of this information is that it starts with preconception health to get your employees thinking about lifestyle changes before they become pregnant, increasing their chances of a healthy pregnancy and positive birth outcomes.

It's a great way to engage employees in wellness activities and promote a family-friendly work environment at no cost.

Please contact the March of Dimes State Director of Mississippi if you have any questions or if you would like to have a personalized My 9 Months toolkit designed for your organization.

Dina W. Ray
State Director of Mississippi Chapter MOD

Healthy Messages

Offer workers information about your wellness program. Include educational information about physical activity as well as motivational support. Some tips for effective messaging include:

  • Promote your messages through paycheck stuffers, brochures or handouts, posters, or wellness bulletin boards.
  • Hang posters in high traffic areas. Try the break room fridge, or the restroom.
  • Change posters, bulletin boards, and paycheck stuffers often.
  • Have a wellness display in the employee break room. Include brochures and healthy recipes.

Evidence-Based Strategies

Evidence-Based Worksite Wellness Strategies

Implementing policy, environmental, and systems (PSE) strategies that address physical activity, nutrition, and tobacco use in the employee population can lead to more comprehensive worksite wellness programs. Examples include:

  • Tobacco control: Tobacco-free campus policy, subsidized quit-smoking counseling (quit lines, health plans, others).
  • Nutrition: Worksite farmer's market, nutrition counseling/education, menu labeling on healthy foods, healthy foods in cafeterias and vending, weight management counseling.
  • Physical activity: Stairwell enhancement, physical fitness/lifestyle counseling, walking trails/clubs, flextime policy.

Please visit CDC Workplace Health Promotion for additional information related to policy, environmental, and systems strategies. The Community Guide provides interventions related to chronic disease prevention, physical activity promotion, and reducing tobacco use.

Low-Cost Employee Wellness Strategies

The following ideas for worksite wellness can implemented with limited resources. Credit: Moda Health

Physical Activity

  • Encourage employees to walk to a specific location and log individual miles.
  • Participate in community walks (i.e., March of Dimes or walks for heart disease or cancer).
  • Map out indoor and outdoor walking trails accessible to employees of all abilities. Measure the distance in halls and around buildings to help employees set walking goals.
  • Encourage managers to hold walking meetings when gathering with a small number of employees.
  • Offer flexible lunch periods and breaks to encourage individual, group, or buddy walks.
  • Promote stairwell climbing competition. Convert stairwells to walking areas by improving the lighting and adding colorful posters.
  • Suggest that employees stretch for one minute before work each day. Announce a one minute stretch on the intercom system.
  • Encourage physical activity breaks during long meetings and conferences.
  • Identify places within the worksite or around the building for physical activities.
  • Start a running, biking, walking or line dancing club.
  • Have a goal of the week or month (e.g., I will exercise every day for a week). Keep a chart of weekly or monthly exercise goals in the office.
  • Negotiate corporate discounts for health club memberships.
  • Place physical fitness bulletin boards in strategic areas.
  • Advertise an exercise equipment swap.
  • Purchase fitness CDs and DVDs that employees may borrow.
  • Invite consultants from retail shoe stores or shoe manufacturers to be on-site for a day.


  • Ask your vending machine company to add healthy foods.
  • Place incentive stickers on low-fat items in vending machines and on healthy choice selections.
  • Develop a cookbook of employees' low-fat items in vending machines and on healthy choice selections in the cafeteria.
  • Hold recipe contests.
  • Celebrate Free Fruit Day and give away some produce.
  • Have a homegrown fruit and vegetable exchange.
  • Host healthy cooking demonstrations.
  • Suggest that employees keep a list of healthy, low-fat snacks to use when shopping.
  • Encourage employees to bring healthy snacks into work.
  • Provide healthy food options during office meetings or company functions.
  • Conduct support group for weight management.
  • Offer information on packing healthy brown bag lunches.
  • Encourage people to drink water and have office water coolers readily available.

Stress Management

  • Offer chair massages at health fairs.
  • Take stress relief breaks (i.e., meditation, walking or just closing the office door).
  • Encourage employees to take time for themselves.
  • Provide employees with relaxation music.
  • Email computer break tips to employees.
  • Promote stretch breaks.
  • Promote EAP employee benefits.
  • Host a Bring Your Child to Work day.


Program Support

  • Hold contests: Wellness Project of the Month, or Set Your Goal competition, employee/management and interdepartmental challenges, health trivia game with prizes, and other fun worksite competitions.
  • Set up health displays in employee break rooms.
  • Host a lunch and learn on emergency preparedness plans.
  • Announce and publicize a monthly theme or National Health Observance.
  • Provide flu shots at the worksite or make schedules of community clinics available.
  • Provide information on back care and other ergonomic principles (i.e., the correct way to lift, stretch, and exercise), as well as work-related musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomics.
  • Network with other worksites for discounts at health clubs.
  • Create a wellness newsletter or highlight employee healthy lifestyle success stories.
  • Conduct annual health fairs that contain assessments, follow up, and evaluation.
  • Partner with local financial institutions to conduct employee financial education.
  • Conduct a handwashing campaign.
  • Attend worksite wellness meetings or conferences to learn about evidence-based strategies.
  • Network with other city, county, and state worksites and share best practices and/or lessons learned.
Last reviewed on Sep 6, 2023 request edits
Mississippi State Department of Health 570 East Woodrow Wilson Dr Jackson, MS 39216 866‑HLTHY4U Contact and information

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