When assessing your organizational culture in these unprecedented times, start by asking two questions: “What is wellness to our company?” and “What is wellness in our company?” Do these answers match?

Many companies say they support employee wellness, with some even building it into their  core values. But actions speak louder than words — perhaps now more than ever — as employers worldwide adapt their operations in response to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. With health and well-being top-of-mind for many, your commitment to employee wellness must be authentic and go beyond the mission statement. Today’s workers consider wellness more than just a perk, so build it into your company culture.

Here are four recommendations for creating wellness programs that attract, engage and retain employees:

1. Make wellness part of your talent strategy.

Both culture and wellness are hugely important to today’s workers: studies show 23% of candidates choose one employer over another because of company culture. Meanwhile, 60% of organizations say a focus on well-being improves employee retention, while 61% say it boosts productivity and bottom-line business results. Building a culture that supports wellness can have a profound impact, helping you both find and keep top talent. 

In fact, for many workers, wellness offerings aren’t just nice-to-haves — they’re an expectation. According to a recent survey, 75% of 25- to 40-year-old professionals believe it’s their employer’s responsibility to contribute to their health and well-being; 88% are more likely to recommend an employer who contributes; and 58% are more inclined to accept a job that offers a fitness and wellness package. What’s more, 58% would be more likely to stay with their current employer if these benefits were offered.  

2. Think big when it comes to well-being. 

Wellness involves choices and possibilities: workers are motivated by the prospect of better care, fitness, schedules, stress-reduction methods and ways to care for their families. When creating a wellness program, think big to maximize appeal and participation. 

Incorporate both on- and off-site offerings that cover all aspects of well-being, including: 

  • health and fitness
  • financial stability
  • career and personal growth
  • learning and development
  • stress reduction
  • family needs 

Offer daily classes, micro-learning modules, financial coaching and other optional wellness opportunities. You can even give credits for outside learning that doesn’t directly involve your business, from cooking to coaching. Supporting employees’ pursuit of activities that meet their personal preferences and lifestyle shows that your company respects them as individuals. 

3. Support the needs of a modern workforce.

It’s important that your employee benefits programs meet the needs of today’s workforce. Do your programs fully support diversity and inclusion? Do they represent the needs of workers of all ages, ethnicities and sexual orientations? 

For example, many millennials split parenting responsibilities, and public figures from Mark Zuckerberg to Prince Harry have talked about the need for fathers to take time off. Consider expanding maternity leave to include paternity or family leave. The same goes for caregiver leave for other age groups besides children. Boomers and Gen-Xers are reaching their professional peak, and your best executives may also need to care for at-risk populations — including their elderly parents and family members — especially during the coronavirus outbreak. Give workers at all stages of life the support they need and deserve.  

4. Bring the C-Suite down to earth.

Democracy and a sense of shared empathy are hallmarks of a healthy workplace. So it’s important that leadership knows what life is like on the ground, whether it’s the experience of new hires starting entry-level jobs or how well the engineering team is navigating your new conferencing app. 

Human resources staff can help build a bridge between the C-suite and the rest of the company. Leaders need to have an understanding of issues such as how hard people are working, the challenges managers face and whether remote workers feel included. 

In today’s interconnected, global economy, employer needs and pressures are constantly evolving. Above all, build adaptability, flexibility and scalability into your wellness culture. We’re changing faster than we know — but we must always care for our people, since they devote so much time and energy to us.  COVID has changed many things, but not that; if anything it has made it more important than ever.