Employee Wellness Programs 101

by / ⠀NatureBox Employee Engagement How-tos Office culture Remote office culture Wellness / October 6, 2021

colleagues happily working together around conference table

So you want to create a workplace of wellness? It’s not too late to build an effective program that jumpstarts your employee’s health and performance, wherever they may be working from.

But before you begin to develop a plan to keep your team engaged, motivated, and well, you need to know the basics of what a wellness program is and why you need one in 2021.


What is an employee wellness program?

A wellness program is designed to improve and promote health and fitness. It is typically offered through the workplace and allows you to give your employees premium discounts, cash rewards, gym memberships, and other incentives to participate.

In the most broad sense, wellness programs exist as a preventative measure. A healthy employee is more motivated, productive, and engaged at work and beyond. Plus, by helping your team avoid illness, you can minimize sick days and reduce overall company healthcare costs.

The most successful wellness programs are educational, focus on the long-term value of your employees’ wellbeing, and ultimately lead to a more positive and supportive work environment.


Why you need an employee wellness program

If you’ve thought of wellness programs as a luxury rather than a strategic essential up until now, it’s time to listen to the facts. There are various tangible and intangible benefits to a comprehensive wellness program.

When your team is healthy, your company is directly impacted. Employees take fewer sick days, deliver higher performance, and have lower rates of burnout and turnover. On the other hand, when their wellbeing suffers, so does your company’s bottom line.

You can also look to industry examples, like Johnson & Johnson, to outline the advantages. According to Harvard Business Review, “Leaders estimate that wellness programs have cumulatively saved the company $250 million on health care costs over the past decade; from 2002 to 2008, the return was $2.71 for every dollar spent.”

Sounds great, right? If you’re ready to create a wellness program with similar results, let’s discuss the steps to help you get there.


How to create an effective wellness program

What are the 7 essential steps to design a comprehensive and engaging employee wellness program?

1. Understand the needs of your employees

You can do this by sending out a survey or asking for feedback directly from your team.


2. Get clear on the purpose

Is this program educational or community-driven? Is the purpose preventative care and developing healthy habits or disease management? Answer these questions to get clear on the type of program that will address your employees’ needs.


3. Identify objectives

Once you’re clear on the purpose, it’s important to identify measurable objectives. This way you can later evaluate the effectiveness of the program (and make changes as needed).


4. Outline the details

These details include who is eligible, information on the use of specific facilities or technologies, the content of the program, anticipated costs, a schedule or timeline of the rollout and program itself, and expected results.


5. Base the program on best practices

If you want a framework to base your plan off of, this is the one to model. Of course, be sure to make adjustments that make sense for your team.


6. Ensure your team and fellow leaders are on board

Leadership and employee buy-in is key to make sure the program continues long after it’s implemented.


7. Make changes as needed

Rigidity is not the name of this game. You can only improve the program if you know how helpful it is (or isn’t). Get feedback from your team so you’re only making necessary changes rather than simply guessing.


15 ideas to improve employee health and performance

Want to improve your employees’ health, see productivity skyrocket, and watch you and your team reap the rewards? The answer is to cultivate an effective wellness program.

The effectiveness of the plan will depend on your individual employees as well as your company as a whole. But if you need ideas, here is a list of 15 physical and mental health initiatives to add to your wellness program:

  1. Healthy snack options
  2. Smoking cessation
  3. Diabetes management
  4. Stress management
  5. On-site workout rooms or fitness class stipends
  6. Company-sposored sports teams
  7. Immunization and preventative health screenings
  8. Nutrition classes
  9. Health education workshops 
  10. Personalized gifts
  11. Employee wellness challenges
  12. 30 days of gratitude
  13. Flexible work arrangements
  14. Pet-friendly Friday’s
  15. Workplace healthcare services

A reminder that promoting, supporting, and boosting your employees’ health and wellness is a long-term strategy. While your company will experience direct benefits on the bottom line, the biggest advantage is a happy and healthy team.

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