Starting a wellness program at work can seem like a daunting task, but with the right information, it can be easy to get started. This article provides everything organizations need to know about setting up and running successful employee wellness programs.
What Is Workplace Wellness Program?
An employee wellness program, also known as a workplace wellness program is designed to support employees in making lifestyle changes that may improve their health and fitness.
An employer that implements such a program typically conducts health risk assessments and provides health coaching and access to fitness resources. Some programs also offer employee health insurance, gym memberships, and incentives in the form of cash rewards or fitness gear discounts to the enrolees.
What Are the Potential Components of a Workplace Wellness Program?
Employee wellness programs are designed to improve the health and well-being of employees. While the exact components of such programs will vary depending on the needs of the organization, there are certain elements that are commonly included:
- Smoking cessation programs. Such programs may offer individual counseling or group support sessions, while others may provide educational materials about health risks associated with smoking and access to nicotine replacement therapies. Some smoking cessation programs may even offer financial incentives for employees who successfully quit smoking.
- Health education. This component can include workshops on topics such as healthy eating or stress management, health risks, disease prevention or early detection, or lunch-and-learns focused on the importance of staying active. Many companies also offer health coaching services as part of their health education programs.
- Emotional wellness. The goal of this component is to encourage team members to be aware of their emotions and to manage them in a healthy way. This can be achieved through offering training on emotional intelligence or providing access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that help employees deal with personal and work-related problems.
- Social wellness. This component is focused on activities and events that encourage employees to interact with each other and build relationships. Team members can participate in social wellness activities during their lunch breaks, after work, or on weekends. Such a program can be a great way to promote teamwork and morale.
- Intellectual wellness. As the name suggests, an intellectual employee wellness program is designed to promote cognitive health and development among staff. Some common activities include educational workshops, reading groups, and discussion forums. The goal of an intellectual wellness program is to create an environment that fosters lifelong learning and growth.
- Financial wellness. Financial employee wellness programs typically offer education and resources on topics like budgeting, saving for retirement, and reducing debt. Many employers also offer financial literacy workshops or seminars to help team members learn more about personal finance. In addition, some employers provide access to financial counselors or advisers.
- Spiritual wellness. Spiritual employee wellness can take many different forms, but it has one goal in common: to help team members connect with their sense of purpose and find meaning in their work. Spiritual wellness programs can offer a variety of activities and services, including meditation and yoga classes, prayer rooms, and chaplaincy services.
- Guided help programs. Guided support programs provide employees with resources and support to help them have a good work-life balance - staying on track with their professional development, while also managing their personal life. A guided help employee wellness program may offer weekly coaching sessions, access to an online community of other working professionals, and monthly webinars on topics such as goal setting and time management.
Importance of Wellness Programs in the Workplace
Employee wellness programs are increasingly becoming a staple in the modern workplace. And for good reason - such organizations have a competitive advantage over others. Here are some workplace wellness benefits:
- Physical health benefits. A study found that 57% of participants of a 6-month cardiac rehabilitation and exercise program, went from being high-risk to low-risk according to blood pressure, anxiety, body fat, and other measures.
- Mental health benefits. 1 in 5 American adults suffers from a mental illness. This statistic is especially alarming when considering that most adults spend the majority of their waking hours at work. Engaging in physical exercise can reduce stress and anxiety which is an important employee wellness benefit.
- Sense of community. When people are participating in activities together that promote physical wellness, they form bonds with one another. Employee wellness programs can create a sense of belonging by providing a place where team members can come together to share their experiences and connect with others who have similar goals.
- Financial benefits. Healthy employees are less likely to miss work due to illness or injury. It can also help team members identify health risks early and take steps to avoid them, which can prevent more serious and costly health problems down the road. For instance, Johnson & Johnson leaders saved an estimated $250million in healthcare costs due to their wellness programs.
- Increased productivity. Research shows that workers who exercise regularly are 15 percent more likely to have better job performance. Physical activity also has been shown to improve brain function and cognitive performance. In addition, when team members are healthy, they are less likely to miss work due to illness which leads to higher productivity.
- Attracting and retaining top talent. Employee wellness programs can be a major selling point for job seekers who place a high value on their own health. In addition, when employees feel like their company is invested in their physical and mental health, they are more likely to be loyal to the company and less likely to leave for another job.
Effectiveness of Workplace Wellness Programs
Numerous studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of workplace wellness programs and their potential to promote healthy lifestyles, reduce health care costs, improve work-life balance and employee engagement and create a positive company culture.
The results of these studies are mixed, with some finding evidence that wellness programs can lead to various benefits, while others find no significant impact. 5 For instance, in a particular study participants of such studies, were found to have improvements in blood pressure, poor sleep quality, emotional stress, and fatigue.
A lot of the studies that found no or non-significant results, were limited in time. For instance, a longer study that looked at a 5-year-long corporate wellness program reported 55% fewer sick days. This reflects increased productivity, reduced health care costs, and less absenteeism.
It can also be suggested that while wellness programs may not be a cure-all, they can also bring fruitful results when complemented with other aspects of wellbeing - financial, social, and emotional wellness and sense of purpose.
For example, a study from 2021 showed that mental health was the most common aspect of wellbeing that organizations focused on. This shows that while companies know the benefits of physical wellness, emotional health is a top priority in modern business.
Interestingly, financial wellness remained a neglected area of wellbeing. This shows that while companies are making progress in their wellbeing strategies, they need to take a more holistic approach in order to take care of their employees overall.
How to Create a Wellness Program in the Workplace
A wellness program is a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle for your team members. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when designing such programs:
- Gain buy-in. Consult senior staff, HR professionals, and other co-workers. This will ensure that the program is given the necessary resources, support, and new ideas. Making a business case for the program shows how investing in employee wellness will lead to improved productivity, lower healthcare costs, and reduced absenteeism.
- Consult with employees. This will help find out what type of program would be most beneficial. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to workplace wellness, so it's important to tailor the program to the needs of your specific workforce. Set up a meeting or focus group to get input on what types of activities or initiatives would be most popular with your team members.
- Create a committee. This committee can be responsible for developing the wellness program, overseeing its implementation, and evaluating its effectiveness. It should be made up of representatives from all levels of the organization. This will help ensure that the program meets the needs of all team members. The committee should have a clear vision for the wellness program that is aligned with the overall goals of the organization.
- Define your goals. Before you start developing your program, it is important to think about what outcomes you hope to achieve. Do you want to improve employee health, reduce absenteeism, or increase morale? For example, if you want to improve employee eating habits, you may consider subsidizing healthy meals.
- Develop a budget. It is essential to develop a budget and track ongoing costs to see whether the program is providing a return on investment. Start by estimating the cost of any new equipment or supplies that will be required and calculate the cost of any additional staff time that will be needed to manage the program. Don't forget to factor in the cost of any incentives and wellness challenges costs.
Which Companies Offer Employee Wellness Programs?
Employee wellness programs are a growing trend in the workplaces worldwide. Here are some of the most innovative companies that offer comprehensive wellness programs:
- Goldman Sachs. Among many other benefits, this organization offers a medical advocacy service for workers and their families that face serious health issues.
- Peloton. In 2021, full and part-time employed Peloton Members were surveyed. It was found that 87% of them felt an improvement in their fitness goals after joining the company's wellness program.
- LinkedIn. This organization offers countless benefits to its employees, including health insurance for staff and their families, EAP counseling sessions, and access to onsite gyms, fitness classes, and events.
- Asana. Among many other perks, Asana employed an in-house cooking team that provides its staff with healthy homemade lunch and dinner made from fresh, locally grown produce. It also provides employees with specialized nap rooms where they can get well-needed shut-eye.
- Johnson & Johnson. This organization is known for being inclusive and offering wonderful health-related benefits to both heterosexual and same-sex spouses, as well as transgender employees. The perks vary from adoption, fertility, and surrogacy benefits to health insurance coverage.
How to Implement an Employee Wellness Program
Once you have a well-crafted wellness program at work, you have to implement it. However, implementing a successful program can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Communicate goals. Inform all employees about the program so that they should understand what the program is trying to achieve and how it will benefit them personally. Try holding informational meetings where employees can learn about the various components of the program.
- Promote employee participation. One way to motivate employees to participate is by offering wellness challenges or incentives that can be monetary or non-monetary. They can be awarded for things like attending meetings, completing health screenings, or achieving fitness goals.
- Be flexible. Employees’ needs and preferences can change over time, so it’s important to be able to adjust the program accordingly. Finally, there may be unforeseen logistical challenges that arise, and being able to adapt on the fly will make it more likely that the program will be successful in the long run.
- Track progress. This will help to ensure that the program is having the desired effect. For example, if you see a decrease in the number of days employees are absent from work, it's a good sign that the wellness program is having a positive impact. In addition, if employees are getting more work done in less time, it's another sign that the program is helping them stay focused.
- Be open to feedback. After all, your employees are the ones who will be participating in the program and they may have valuable input on how it can be improved. You can send out a survey to get general impressions of the program. You can also hold focus groups or one-on-one meetings to discuss the program in more detail.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Workplace Wellness Programs Worth It?
While there is no doubt that wellness programs can lead to some positive individual-level outcomes, there is debate about whether they are actually worth the investment for employers.
Some argue that workplace wellness programs are a valuable tool for improving employee productivity and reducing healthcare costs. Others contend that the evidence for these benefits is not strong enough and that the programs often do not lead to sustained changes in healthy behaviors.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to invest in an employee wellness program depends on the specific goals and circumstances of each organization.
For best results, employers should also take into account other aspects of employee wellbeing, such as financial, social, and emotional wellness.
How Well Do Workplace Wellness Programs Work?
Workplace wellness programs are designed to promote healthy lifestyles and improve employee wellness. However, there are discussions as to how well these programs work.
Some experts argue that workplace wellness programs can have a positive impact on employees' health, while others believe that they are not effective in promoting long-term behavior change.
It can be suggested that longer-running wellness programs can bring a desired change. In addition, wellbeing programs could be more effective than those that focus only on physical aspects of health.
Do Workplace Wellness Programs Reduce Medical Costs?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that workplace wellness programs can help to reduce medical costs.
It was found that costs were reduced by $3.27 for every $1 spent on workplace wellness health programs.
What Companies Offer Employee Wellness Programs?
Many employers are beginning to offer employee wellness programs as a way to improve worker productivity and satisfaction.
These programs can vary significantly in scope and design, but often include wellness activities such as fitness classes, health screenings, and stress management resources.
Some of the companies that offer some of the best wellness programs are Google, Johnson & Johnson, Asana, Goldman Sachs, Peloton, LinkedIn, Expedia, and Nike.
Do Employee Wellness Programs Increase Productivity?
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests these programs can be effective. For example, a 5-year study showed that those employees that were highly engaged in a wellness program, had 55% fewer sick days, thus resulting in higher productivity.
How Do Employee Wellness Programs Benefit Employers?
Employee wellness programs can lead to a variety of benefits for employees, including improvements in physical and mental health, increased productivity, and reduced absenteeism.
In turn, these benefits can have a positive impact on employers, resulting in lower healthcare costs, reduced turnover, and improved morale.
Furthermore, employee wellness programs can also benefit organizations as a whole by promoting a positive company culture of health and wellbeing.
What Does ROI Stand for in Terms of Employee Wellness Programs?
ROI, or return on investment, is a key metric for evaluating employee wellness programs. By calculating the ROI of a wellness program, employers can determine whether the program is cost-effective and worth the investment.
There are a number of factors that can impact the ROI of a wellness program, including employee participation rates, health outcomes, and absenteeism rates.
For example, a wellness program that leads to significant improvements in employee health may have a high ROI, even if participation rates are low.
Conversely, a wellness program with high participation rates but little impact on health may have a low ROI.
Therefore, it's important for employers to consider all factors when evaluating the ROI of their employee wellness programs.
Are Employee Wellness Programs Mandatory?
While there are many benefits to employee wellness programs, some critics argue that they should not be mandatory.
One of the main arguments against mandatory wellness programs is that they violate employees’ privacy. For example, some programs require employees to disclose personal information, such as their weight or health history.
Others may mandate participation in health screenings or fitness activities. This can make employees feel uncomfortable or even humiliated.
Additionally, some experts argue that mandatory wellness programs may actually have a negative impact on employees’ health. For example, if an employee is forced to participate in a fitness program but does not enjoy it, they may become discouraged and more likely to give up on exercising altogether.
Ultimately, whether or not employee wellness programs should be mandatory is a complex issue with no easy answer. While these programs offer many potential benefits, there are also some significant drawbacks that should be considered.