Healthy Behaviors Shape Your Practice Wellness Program

Shaping the culture in your workplace can be both an individual and a management-level effort. When you model a healthy behavior, you set a good example for your staff and colleagues. When the entire office or team models healthy behavior, a culture of wellness is supported and can continue to grow in the workplace.

Here are easy and relatively inexpensive ideas to start your wellness journey. Ease into the process: Pick a category, try one suggestion, and build from there. You may even be inspired to create your own wellness traditions in the workplace. For help getting started, check out the By the Month Planning Calendar.

As you put together plans for your veterinary clinic’s workplace wellness program, be sure to consider all aspects of wellness. Your wellness initiative – and your veterinary staff – can benefit from projects and policies that affect all areas of wellness, from physical health to emotional/spiritual happiness, and from intellectual stimulation to financial security.


  • Provide healthy snacks.
  • Hold a healthy potluck.
  • Share healthy recipes; consider creating an office “healthy recipes” cookbook.
  • Make sure drinking water is freely and easily accessible to your staff all day long. Distribute water bottles to all staff members so they can always have water with them.
  • If you have vending machines on site, stock them with healthy food options, or encourage the building management to do so. The CDC publication Healthier Vending Machine Initiatives in State Facilities (PDF) has ideas and information that might be helpful.


  • Expressions of Gratitude: Choosing to express gratitude is the antidote to negative emotions. We invite you to find three or more words of gratitude for each day in your life; these can be based on your work life, home life, or both.
  • Meditation can be helpful; you can use a group or self-guided meditation program such as Headspace, which guides you through 10-minute daily meditations. Mindfulness-based stress reduction practices also can be helpful, such as this simple breathing exercise demonstrated by Dr. Dan Siegel during a keynote address at the 2016 AVMA Convention.
  • Do something for others. Participate in a food or clothing drive or partner with a local church or civic organization and find ways to help those in need. Not only will this provide a tangible benefit to the recipient, it will develop comradery and teamwork within the workplace walls.

Physical Fitness

  • Schedule a walking meeting.
  • Set up a walking club that meets daily for a 15- or 30-minute walk at a set time right before or after work.
  • Encourage employees to pair up with walking/workout buddies. Be willing to coordinate lunches or breaks so the “buddies” can get regular exercise time together.
  • Perform stretching exercises at your desk.
  • Expand your network to local associations; get to know your colleagues in the area.
  • Participate in local events as a team; group support works!
  • The wellness champion can work with other team members to gather and post information about local clubs and opportunities.
  • Encourage people to find an activity they enjoy.


  • Box breathing, or 4 square breathing, is a 4 cycle, 4 second per phase breathing routine.
  • Schedule recess time. Go digital free during recess.
  • Create a “work-free zone”. Have a space at work where there is “no shop talk”. This could be as simple as transforming an empty office space or even a corner of a little-used room.
  • Create an inspirational message board. This could be virtual or “analog” and should be open for all to participate in. has a multitude of suggestions.


  • Post accomplishments on a board; state your goals and support one another.
  • Encourage creativity with collaboration spaces.
  • Encourage employees to take regular breaks during the work day. Coordinate scheduling to ensure there’s ample time between appointments to make this possible. (Leave enough time for your workers to get outside the building and take a short work, not just take a washroom break.)
  • Ensure that scheduling allows time for all employees to get a lunch break, and insist that they take it.

Team-building and Emotional Support

  • Debrief as a team at the end of each day. Talk through any events that were traumatic, as well as difficult conversations you had with clients. Encourage staff to share ideas and advice, but also to be supportive of each other personally.
  • Create a supportive environment that encourages employees to make physical and mental wellness a priority, and also encourages staff to talk about their feelings.
  • Organize a training program to help employees learn techniques for managing difficult conversations and/or conflict resolution. This could be a formal management training class, conducted either in person or online, or it could be a one-time session with a local counselor or communications professional. You might contact colleges in your area to see if they have faculty with the needed expertise.
  • Invite your employees to participate in decision-making when possible. A good starting point could be a team meeting to talk jointly about what your staff members would most like to have included in your wellness program.

Encourage Intellectual and Professional Growth

  • Talk with employees about how they would like to tailor their jobs. As much as possible, look for ways to allow them new opportunities.
  • Encourage staff to identify their own strengths, interests and skills. Help them enhance their opportunities to employ these at work, and support them in finding growth and enrichment opportunities.


  • Fitness challenge: Can each member of the team walk, bike, or run 1 mile/day?
  • Sleep challenge: Can each member of the team achieve 7 hours of sleep/day?
  • Have team challenges such as trying to eat five fruits and vegetables a day, or going 30 days without eating sugar.

Cool Perks/Benefits

  • Think of creative perks to give to staff. Schedule a babysitter or pet sitter, arrange for a cleaning service or send dinner to their home so they can enjoy some down time.
  • Arrange to have a financial planning expert give a workshop for your staff.
  • Offer benefits that support workers' self-care. This can include paying a portion of a monthly gym membership (or negotiating a group discount), or allowing unpaid time off when an employee's pet dies.
  • Connect with a counselor or social worker in your area. See if you can arrange discounted services for your employees, or perhaps a one-time workshop on coping with stress.
  • Include coverage of your employees’ continuing education costs as a worker benefit. Allow paid time off for professional training.
  • Establish a formal employee assistance program that offers access to counseling and/or other services to help employees address issues that affect both their work performance and their own well-being.
  • Offer a flexible work schedule. Would some employees like earlier hours and others prefer to work late? Look for ways to accommodate these preferences.
  • Consider allowing job sharing if you have employees who would like to reduce their work load to spend more time with their families.

Just for Fun

  • Have a themed clothing day – be creative. How about "pink sock" day or "funny hat" day?
  • Celebrate an obscure food. Look around on the web – there are tons to celebrate, like popcorn day or gyro day.

Workplace Facilities

  • Make sure the ergonomics of your workplace meet employees’ needs. The AVMA’s Introduction to Ergonomics policy includes guidelines for ergonomics in veterinary workplaces.
  • Take a look at your break room, and consider whether a spruce-up could turn it into a better stress-relief space.  Even the color of the paint, type of lighting, and presence of plants can help.
  • Look for a space in the office that could be used for stretching, light exercise or even yoga. Even a small portion of your break room could work if there’s enough space. Place an exercise mat on the floor or rolled up in a corner. If possible, put in a stand-up screen or other temporary partition to separate the space from the rest of the room.
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