We spend a significant part of our lives at work, which means our jobs play a significant role in our overall health and wellness journeys. And it’s not surprising that sitting at our desks and staring at computer screens all day isn’t necessarily the best for our health.
That’s why many organizations – even big players like Google and Microsoft – are implementing wellness programs to better support the health and wellness of their employees. Companies with wellness programs are going the extra mile to promote employee well-being in fun and engaging ways. And even better? They’re reaping the benefits that come from taking top-notch care of their employees.
If your company doesn’t have a wellness program yet, don’t panic. It’s not too late to get started. In this guide, we explore the ins and outs of employee wellness programs, share different types of wellness activities, and outline our best tips to help you get started.
Keep reading for the ultimate guide to creating an employee wellness program your workers and your overall organization will love.
What is employee wellness?
It’s no secret that employees are every organization’s greatest asset. But for employees to perform at their best, they need to take care of their overall health and well-being. That’s where employee wellness, which you’ll also hear referred to as workplace wellness, comes into play.
You can think of employee wellness as the overall well-being of your employees. Are they working in safe conditions? Are they maintaining and prioritizing their physical health and fitness? Are they looking after their mental health and emotional state?
But when we talk about employee wellness in a more specific sense, it refers to an organization’s method and policies that promote and support healthy behaviors and outcomes for its staff. Put simply, what are organizations doing to ensure that employees can experience and maintain a high level of wellness?
To ensure that wellness is a core focus (and not just lip service), many organizations create and execute a formal employee wellness program.
What is an employee wellness program?
Generally speaking, an employee wellness program refers to a variety of initiatives that an employer sponsors or leads to promote healthy lifestyles amongst employees.
This isn’t just about handing out step trackers or putting healthy snacks in the break room. Initiatives might include physical, mental, emotional, financial, or environmental aspects, to name a few. In some cases, an employee wellness program might even extend to an employee’s spouse or dependents, depending on the company’s size.
Employee wellness programs aren’t one-size-fits-all and can be customized to the needs of your employees and organization. Many of the best employee wellness programs incorporate a variety of activities and efforts that span all sorts of different dimensions of health. Rather than focusing strictly on exercise, for example, a more holistic employee wellness program might include initiatives around movement, healthy eating, managing stress, and financial planning.
You might be thinking, “An employee wellness program sounds like a lot of work! What do organizations get out of programs like these?” Let’s take a look at the benefits of an employee wellness program and why your organization should consider implementing one.
What are the benefits of a workplace wellness program?
Here’s an even more impactful question to ask: What pitfalls do organizations experience when employees have poor health?
According to Kaiser Permanente, poor health increases the risk of chronic conditions. And chronic conditions can increase your health insurance premiums and the cost of workers’ compensation, make it difficult to maintain productivity, and lead to more sick days. Not to mention that you could see increased employee turnover if employees need to leave their jobs and focus on their health. That’s a lot of extra money your organization has to spend.
When you have a workplace wellness program in place, you’re working against the long-term impacts of poor health (and saving money simultaneously). In a report published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, studies revealed that well-designed workplace wellness programs have an ROI ranging from $1.50 to $3 per dollar spent, in addition to other benefits like increased job performance, improved overall well-being, and happier employees.
Employees acknowledge and appreciate the benefits of workplace wellness programs too. In a survey conducted by United Healthcare, more than half of people with access to wellness programs claimed that those programs improved their health. Additionally, three out of four employees who did not have access to wellness programs wanted access to them, which means these initiatives may help boost retention.
What types of corporate wellness programs are there?
Remember that the most effective wellness programs cover multiple dimensions of health, which means there are many types of programs to choose from. Let’s dig in and take a look at corporate wellness programs through the lens of different health dimensions.
Physical corporate wellness programs include initiatives and activities related to movement, exercise, and physical well-being. Any activity that requires some level of movement or deals with the physical body (e.g., biometric screenings) is part of a physical wellness program.
Emotional and mental
Emotional and mental wellness refers to managing emotions and promoting positive mental health. These programs might emphasize healthy relationships in the workplace, stress management techniques, and overall emotional well-being at work and home.
Financial wellness programs are tailored toward activities that promote financial stability and smart money moves. Programs in this area are likely to be more educational, helping employees learn and understand financial literacy and behaviors around money.
Social corporate wellness programs can help your employees improve their social interactions at work and home. For example, team-building activities are a great way to improve social wellness.
Organizations have a unique opportunity to create environmental wellness programs to help promote sustainable living. In some cases, these programs might start with the immediate environment through sustainable changes in the office space before expanding more broadly.
Volunteer activities help support other elements of a holistic wellness program, including emotional, mental, and physical wellness. Sponsoring volunteer opportunities as part of your corporate wellness program is a great way to hit several wellness dimensions simultaneously.
Your employee wellness program can include as many or as few of these types of focus areas as you’d like. It’s also worth connecting with your employees to find out which ones carry the most weight with them.
Employee wellness activities: inspiration to get you started
Incorporating employee wellness activities into your wellness program doesn’t have to be daunting, complicated, or expensive. Many activities require little effort and coordination, yet they remain effective and practical for meeting wellness goals. Here are a few employee wellness activity ideas to help you get started:
- Create a walking challenge. Walking challenges are a simple and accessible way for organizations to encourage more physical activity. The benefits of walking are endless, and this type of activity is perfect for in-office and remote employees.
- Offer free fitness classes or gym memberships to your employees. On-site fitness classes and covered costs for gym memberships can help your employees incorporate more physical activity into their routines. Additionally, on-site fitness classes give employees a chance to mingle outside of work conversations.
- Host a heart-healthy lunch for your staff. Hone in on healthy eating by providing a healthy lunch for your employees. Add educational components to teach them about nutritional habits and changes they can make to their diets.
- Conduct meditation sessions for stress relief. Stress management is an essential part of wellness in the workplace. Encourage and help employees manage their stress by offering coordinated meditation sessions and breaks.
- Bring in financial experts to discuss planning for retirement. Educate your employees on how to prepare financially for a stress-free retirement.
- Promote smoke-free lifestyles and smoking cessation programs. Through expert seminars, incentives, and more, you can help employees leave their smoking habits behind and implement more positive habits and routines.
When it comes to employee wellness activities, the possibilities are endless. And thanks to the internet, remote workers can participate in employee wellness activities, too.
Employee wellness activities for remote workers
While many wellness activities can easily be adapted and modified for the remote workforce, here are some specific wellness activities to consider for your distributed workers:
- Offer subscriptions to on-demand fitness platforms. Remote workers might not be able to attend on-site fitness classes. So instead, consider offering on-demand fitness accessibility so they can exercise at their leisure.
- Send healthy snacks to your employees to enjoy at home. In place of a healthy in-person lunch, try using a subscription service or curating your own healthy snack box to send to employees.
- Empower your employees to adopt meditation habits with an app. Apps like Headspace and Calm can help teach your employees wellness skills while being part of a dispersed workforce. Consider offering subscriptions to employees for self-learning.
Tips for implementing a workplace wellness program
Are you ready to start implementing a workplace wellness program? These tips will help ensure your corporate wellness program is set up for success.
1. Conduct assessments to understand what your employees want
Rather than put together an entire program based on what you think your employees want, conduct assessments to figure out how you can best support their wellness needs. Employee surveys and health assessments can help you evaluate and understand your organization's wellness interests and needs so you can tailor your program accordingly. You can also conduct an environmental assessment of your workplace if it feels applicable.
2. Establish a strong wellness committee to support your program
Wellness programs shouldn’t fall solely on one person to manage and coordinate. While it may be the responsibility of an individual within your organization to lead an employee wellness program, you should establish a committee to support them.
This committee should help to plan and implement all wellness programs, monitor and evaluate wellness activities, empower team members to participate in wellness efforts, and coordinate any post-program incentives. Aim for cross-departmental participation for this committee so you get a well-rounded view of how your program is doing.
3. Determine how to make the most of your budget
An effective wellness program should be planned and well-managed, which means you should have a dedicated budget to consider how you’re going to spend that money ahead of time.
While some wellness activities have little to no cost, others may require more of your budget. Budgets may need to be used to cover vendor fees, program incentives, wellness subscriptions, snacks, or other essential program items.
4. Divide and conquer different components of your wellness program
Consider mapping out your program activities for the entire year. Determine which activities you want to include as part of your program and divide up the planning and scheduling efforts for those unique activities. Then, come back together and create your wellness calendar for the year ahead to share with employees, so they know what will be available to them.
5. Don’t forget to add rewards and incentives
Helping your employees change their unhealthy behaviors can be tough, but rewards and incentives can help them see success. In addition to incentivizing employees to participate in a wellness activity or stay involved in your wellness program from start to finish, rewards can boost participation rates.
Be mindful of the types of rewards you select for given activities. If an employee completes a healthy-eating challenge, a gift basket full of sweets may not be the best prize to help them stay committed to their changed behavior.
6. Test different activities and adjust your program along the way
After implementing your wellness program, continue surveying your employees to understand which wellness activities they like and dislike. Your program should be flexible to reflect the wants and needs of your organization over time. Don’t be afraid to test different ideas and activities to find what sticks.
How to organize wellness program for your company using Wrike
From understanding the different types of wellness programs to coordinating and scheduling wellness activities, there’s a lot of information you need to organize to best support the health and well-being of your employees.
- Lean into cross-team collaboration with your wellness committee
- Use team calendars to coordinate wellness activities
- Access our Communication Plan Template for rolling out your wellness program to your company
- Integrate with other tools you may need to make your wellness program a success
Making steps toward improved employee wellness starts today. Sign up for your free trial of Wrike and get working on your wellness program right away.