5 Employee Wellness Activity Ideas on a $0 Budget

Employee wellness program catered lunch with lots of vegetables

The number of employee wellness programs out there can feel overwhelming, and there are so many ideas and solutions that it can paralyze your ability to get started. But creating a wellness program doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking that’s been vetted and perfected. That takes time, and I would argue that your program can evolve to that over time. Starting with some simple wellness activities can give you a foundation to build and open the door to feedback and suggestions. Here are five ideas to help you get started that won’t break your budget either.


Hydration Challenge

Adding more water to your day can significantly impact your energy levels, hunger, and sleep, to name a few. Run a water challenge to encourage employees to drink more water. You could have fun with it throughout the challenge and have presentations around ways to drink more water (adding fruit, seltzer water, and setting a timer to take a break and get water).  

Typically a challenge would be for a month as that’s when employees will start to see more benefits of drinking water. You can split employees into teams and have them report on how much water they drink daily. Having a point person at each location can help with administration if you have multiple locations.

Bonus: this challenge can even be done with a remote workforce.

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Healthy Potlucks/Recipe Exchanges 

Healthy diets involve adding, not restricting. Adding vegetables, switching up lunch routines, exploring new spices. A potluck and recipe exchange exposes employees to new dishes and tastes, which can help inspire them to try something new at home. This program is also great because it only takes a little administration from the Human Resources team. Every employee brings a dish, plus copies of their recipe, and the fun begins.

Tip: Do you have a remote team? Do a virtual recipe exchange and have employees commit to making one of their coworkers’ recipes. Each person will wind up trying something completely new to them. I’ll bring my favorite vegetarian chili!


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Mindfulness Minutes

Mental health is just as important as overall health, and with all the “things” that our employees are dealing with today, prioritizing mental health is so important. Cue a group meditation, which only takes a few minutes, so it doesn’t create stress by having yet another weekly meeting. I’ve done Mindful Mondays where anyone wanting to gather would join in my office. We’d listen to a guided meditation through an app and spend 15 minutes meditating. We also got to pick the meditation based on the group mood that day.

Tip: This is an employee wellness program you can run with a remote team as well. You could have everyone join remotely with their cameras off, listening to the guided meditation. 


“Exercise Snacks”

In one of my previous roles, we had an employee that started a plank challenge. We would meet at 2:00 every day and do a plank. We’d meet at different parts of the office to plank and invite others to join in. It was a great way to get moving at a time of the day when you are likely to hit an energy lull.  

Implementing an exercise “snack” each week can get people moving. You’ve heard that “sitting is the new smoking.” Getting people moving in a day where they’re sitting all the time will increase energy, focus, and more. The exercises can be anything. You don’t have to do the planks, but something that works for your organization. An afternoon walk is always great (weather permitting) or desk stretches. Team calf raises! 

Tip: Yep, this is also something you can implement remotely. You may even have employees that are yoga instructors, health coaches, fitness coaches, and more that would love to help in the wellness initiatives.


Quality Office Snacks

Vending machines are an easy way to grab something unhealthy when you hit that afternoon lull. If you have vending machines in your office, working with your vendor to clean them up will be an excellent step for your employee wellness program. If you offer other snacks, check to ensure that healthy options are available. 

A word of caution: Make it about options, not restrictions. I tried this technique at one of my previous companies by replacing the chocolate at the front desk with apples, and I missed the mark. In removing the chocolate, I failed to give the employee a choice. I also disrupted an essential social ritual where employees went to the front desk to get chocolate throughout the day and chatted with the Office Manager. Learn from my mistake. Add options rather than taking them away! 

These programs are all elementary and take a broad approach to wellness. To work for your business, like everything else, customize them for your team and your culture. Don’t throw out the chocolates when the chocolates are essential to your culture and rituals. Involve employees and get feedback before changing or replacing rituals. Make it a community decision — because community is wellness, after all.