An introduction to employee wellness
Employee wellness can affect every aspect of the workplace. When employees are ill or experience stress, it can lead to more serious health problems in the long-term. Poor health can result in sick days, doctors’ visits, hospital stays or costly medical procedures. Incorporating an employee wellness program can help reduce the effects of workplace stress and encourage employees to make healthy choices.
Wellness at work can also impact productivity and performance. Having healthy and happy employees can contribute to a more productive business and ultimately result in meeting objectives, achieving business goals and delivering quality work. Employee wellness plays a role in reducing stress and overwork and encourages a healthy work-life balance.
What are workplace wellness programs?
Wellness at work programs are initiatives to support the overall well-being of employees. They often include a variety of programs that help your employees maintain or improve wellness, typically with an emphasis on weight management, stress management, healthy eating, physical activity, disease prevention and mental wellness. They might include services, programs, classes, health evaluations, coaching and challenges to develop healthier behaviors. Some workplace wellness programs offer a discount on health insurance premiums as an incentive for participation.
Benefits of wellness programs
Setting up a wellness program for your employees can offer various benefits:
- Motivate employees: Wellness programs can help motivate employees to make healthier choices and provide support and care to mentor employees throughout their progress.
- Save on costs: An employee wellness program can help a company save on overall health insurance costs and provide ways for employees to save money on their health benefits and wellness appointments.
- Encourage participation: Workplace health and wellness programs can be integrated with team building activities, retreats and training events to help educate employees on mindful approaches to collaboration in the workplace.
- Increase productivity: Wellness programs at work provide ways for employees to improve their lifestyle. With better health comes more alertness, energy and stamina, which can result in higher levels of productivity.
- Improve employee satisfaction: Having access to wellness programs in the workplace can increase job satisfaction and help improve employee retention. It can be especially important to people who value health and wellness.
Creating your workplace wellness plan
It might seem intimidating, but creating wellness programs that work doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these steps to plan your wellness activities:
1. Determine your goals
List the goals you want for your company and your employees. This might include increased productivity, lower health insurance premiums and less absenteeism. Create concrete goals and KPIs related to those goals, so you can measure your progress. Use these goals to brainstorm ideas for wellness programs that can help you achieve them.
2. Create a budget
Determine how much money you can put toward your employee wellness program. Initially, you might not have much to invest, but you can add to the program over time.
3. Decide how to run it
You can either self-manage your wellness program or hire an outside vendor to administer it. Doing it yourself can take a lot of work, but it may save you money on the process. Consider your budget, the scope of activities you want to include and the availability of staff members to manage the program.
4. Choose your activities
Narrow down your ideas to the activities you want to implement. Identify what you need to do to implement those programs.
5. Pick incentives
Participants in your program can get the benefit of improved health, but many companies offer additional incentives, such as discounts on health insurance premiums, extra days off, gifts or points to exchange for rewards. Your budget can help determine the incentives you offer.
6. Write an outline of the program
Put the details of the program in writing. This creates a reference for you and your employees.
7. Tell employees about it
Promote the program to your employees once you’re ready to launch. Describe the components they have access to and the benefits they get from participating in the wellness program.
8. Get feedback
Your wellness at work program can evolve as you evaluate what’s included and how well employees are responding. Track statistics on how many people use the program and what type of improvements you see in your employees. Conduct regular employee surveys to get direct feedback on the offerings.
Best practices for managers when integrating wellness practices
When incorporating an employee wellness program, it’s important to maintain best practices that will encourage employees to use the program. These might include:
- Team leaders can set examples by practicing healthy habits and behaviors, developing practices like exercising on lunch breaks and ensuring employees have the resources they need to remain consistent in the program.
- Managers can incorporate motivational techniques to encourage employees to embrace wellness routines and healthy practices at work.
- Allow employees to provide their input and share their ideas for creating a health-conscious work environment and company culture.
- Create a mindful company culture focused on making health and wellness a part of the overall work environment rather than simply introducing a wellness program as an extension of company health benefits.
- Implement daily or weekly communications to answer employee questions, offer additional support and share ideas for improving health and wellness.
- Seek out additional ideas for wellness initiatives to expand your program.
What are some examples of employee wellness programs?
The following ideas are examples of employee wellness programs for the workplace:
- On-site health and wellness services: Mindfulness and meditation instruction, weekly yoga sessions, basic checkups like blood pressure and weight monitoring and even once-a-month massages are low-cost options to consider.
- Office gym: You might set aside a large office space and bring in low-cost or used gym equipment like a weight bench, yoga mats and balls and treadmills. This can help keep employees motivated to exercise during breaks and before or after lunch.
- Exercise clubs: A similar option is to organize exercise clubs at the office. You might start a lunch hour running club or sponsor a company recreational softball team to encourage physical activity.
- Employee assistance: Incorporate employee assistance programs, so your staff can contact counselors when they feel the need for additional support or resources for coping with stress and other mental health issues.
- Health challenges: Organize monthly wellness challenges where everyone can win. For example, you might have a step challenge where everyone who reaches a minimum number of steps wins a prize.
- Healthy snacks: Offer free healthy snacks and drinks in your break room to encourage employees to make healthier choices. You might also have vending machines stocked with healthier options.
Employee wellness FAQs
Because of the variety of approaches to integrating an employee wellness program, consider the answers to these frequently asked questions when creating yours:
How do you decide what to include in a wellness at work program?
Wellness programs that work meet the needs of the participants. Evaluate your employees’ needs, preferences and health concerns when considering health and wellness ideas in the workplace. If most of your employees are in excellent shape and emphasize health, you might host advanced fitness classes or create monthly challenges that push them. If several of your employees have chronic health conditions or are overweight, you might focus on nutrition, chronic illness support and weight loss. Get feedback from your employees to determine what types of programs they want to see.
How do you encourage employees to participate?
Some employees may be hesitant to participate because they don’t want their employer to have their health information. People who are overweight, smoke or have health issues might worry that they could lose their jobs if they don’t participate. To encourage participation, be transparent about your motivation for the program, which should be to support your employees’ health and well-being. Establish a policy about protecting their personal health information as part of the program, and ensure you follow through with that protection.
Are wellness programs tax-deductible?
Various wellness program incentives may be tax-free for employees and most are tax-deductible for employers. For example, if an employer pays part of their employees’ health insurance premiums or increases their portion of HSA or HRA contributions, these amounts can be written off as expenses on the company’s corporate taxes.