10 Tips For Implementing Successful Employee Wellness Programs

Angela Kambouris
November 21, 2019

In today’s digital world, wellness is more than eating a kale salad, encouraging a gym membership, or offering health classes. Companies must look at their entire workforce and workplace culture to understand how the company can best support people to invest in a holistic approach to employee wellbeing. 

Building an employee wellness program takes time. People spend a significant amount of time in the workplace, and when companies correlate wellness goals with work/life balance, they lead to driving business incomes. 

Employee wellness program design must not be a one-off. Engaging employees from the start and inviting insights, allows the company to look for overall trends and preferences. What works for one company won’t necessarily work for another. A wellness program must be designed to the needs, aspirations, and interests of the workforce. 

Employee wellbeing programs must continue to evolve to meet the needs of the people to allow them to step into their best selves. Healthier and happier employees can support a company to cut rising healthcare costs and set the scene for the company to become the competitive edge that attracts and retains top talent.

Deloitte Research predicted that the wellness market is projected to be worth $11.3 billion by 2021. Wellness programs are a critical part of brand and company culture. WebFX reported that wellness programs save almost six times as much money as you invest in them. Promoting employee wellness can yield bottom-line benefits that excite both people and businesses. 

Here are 10 tips to help Office Managers and HR professionals ensure their wellness programs have a positive impact on their employees:

1. Emphasis On The Whole Person

Employee wellness programs must include a combination of interconnected elements that influence a person’s ability to lead a fulfilled life. Healthy habits must touch upon spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, social, professional, and health. People spend so much of their time at work, pursuing their aspirations that companies are in the perfect position to translate employee wellness ideas into meaningful action. Companies must get clear on employee’s needs, interests, and concerns.

Asana invested in ‘nap rooms’ to allow employees to rest and recharge. The company also provide unlimited paid time off to support employees bringing more harmony into all areas of their life. From daily yoga programs, free gym memberships, and an in-house culinary team, Asana doesn’t hold back in creating a holistic experience. Asana also offers mentor programs that provide executive coaching along with monthly workshops with different health-themed focuses.

2. Deliver What You Say

One of the primary focuses must be that the employee wellness solution must deliver what it says it does. Companies must be transparent with their primary objective, whether it be employee engagement, retaining and attracting top talent, or improving company culture and morale. They must communicate their ‘why’ the company is investing in a wellness solution and how it supports all aspects of wellbeing.

3. Build A One-Stop-Shop

Having a central place of employee wellness solutions increase engagement, employee use, and creates ripples throughout the company. A company must explore a platform that employees can navigate with ease and grace, that provides access to reporting and data to be able to paint a more accurate picture of what is happening in real-time. By asking quality questions around ‘how frequently employees return to the platform, for what duration, and what they find most appealing’ provides company insight into how certain groups are using the program and the impact on both people and business.

4. Bringing People Together

Before jumping in the deep end of a wellness program, a company must conduct a needs assessment, whether it be through a survey or facilitated discussion, to understand their employee’s primary wellness challenges and goals. By hosting roundtables, asking for opinions, and gathering more data, creates a sense of involvement.

By involving your whole team in the design and implementation of your wellness program, they will feel a sense of ownership and inspiration to participate. Workplace managers can present the program to their teams in a way that makes it relevant, accessible, and alluring. Inclusive programs are vital for facilitating participation and for providing support to people engaged in the problem.

5. Company Leaders Must Be All In

To build a culture of wellness, employees must see their executive teams practicing what they preach. Leadership messaging needs to be clear about what it’s about, the purpose of the employee wellness program, and to share a story that represents what wellness means to the company.

Employees must sense that wellness is part of the culture. Efforts must feel authentic as employees won’t implement or follow through with activities if they don’t believe that the company cares. When company leaders don’t actively encourage employees to participate, it can be just as harmful to employee engagement even when managers don’t discourage employees outright. Managers can make or break how employees engage with programs. 

6. Attitude Is Everything

Workplace managers must be authentic in conversation when engaging people about wellness. Identifying wellness champions and committees at the workplace to be the voices of the program and to promote wellness at a grass root level is far more potent versus human resources pushing on employees.

A starting point may be to establish a committee to focus on wellness. Engaging staff members to identify individual wellness goals, promote workouts, and mindfulness activities that strengthen the body and mind can become part of everyday conversations. Senior leadership participation rouses staff engagement, and wellbeing becomes ingrained within the employee experience where all people have an opportunity to learn and grow.  

7. Communication Plan

A strategic communication plan must be tailored to ensure all levels are clear of the company’s commitment to personal and company wellness. Employees demand clear and concise communication about coverage, cost, choice, and benefits. Employees prefer activities that are personalized and targeted to their specific needs that support work/life balance. 

Accenture appreciates both the minds and bodies of their employees. They offer employee assistance programs to provide confidential support for issues like stress, substance abuse, and mental health illness. When it comes to fitness, Accenture promotes employees setting healthy goals and offer rewards for completing healthy activities. They provide special company rates and discounts for fitness centers as well as an online fitness program.

8. Follow Best Practices

Employee engagement and participation underpins the success of an employee wellness program. Best practices must include:

  • Gaining employee trust, and this must start from the top.
  • Implementation of rules of engagement to maximize the return on investment 
  • Adopting a program that speaks to all interests and concerns of employees. Aligning corporate goals, and linking to incentives that are meaningful to employees. 
  • Encouraging behavior by modeling and embracing a “we’re all in this together” approach.
  • Opting for positive approaches that encourage and reward healthy behavior.
  • Engaging vendors that are open and provide a simple user experience.
  • Implementing a clear set of rules regarding data, safety, security, and compliance to inspire confidence in the program.
  • Supporting a communication strategy, by generating attention around the program rollout.
  • Designing a wellness program logo and motto. 
  • Ensuring visible endorsement and participation by senior leaders.
  • Building multiple avenues of communication and keeping the message fresh with new information and ideas.
  • Discussing legal considerations and consider acquiring informed consent from all employees who participate in the program.
  • Highlighting a clear statement that employees assume the risks of their wellness activities.
  • Measuring program success, effectiveness, and identify critical questions to see the return on investment on wellness.

9. Consider The Types Of Support Your Employees Need

According to SHRM’s 2019 Employee Benefits Survey, 64 percent of employers provide wellness resources and information, and 58 percent of organizations offer wellness programs. Some wellness programs support people to deal with preventative and chronic conditions such as obesity. Some programs focus on incentive benefits to motivate employees to create health and wellness activities such as health risk assessments. Other programs focus on preventative health and wellness by providing varied channels of wellness publications to bring awareness to the topic. Different companies implement massage services, onsite nap rooms, or 24-hour nurse line. 

Before deciding what wellness activities will add value in the company, consideration must be given to possible costs, levels of employee participation, and if there are any legal concerns. 

10. Include A Wide Range Of Wellness Activities

Your people are your most valuable asset, and their wellbeing is the key to bringing your company vision to life. One way is to use The Well Workplace Checklist from the Wellness Council of America, to find out where your company is ready to shine and where you have opportunities to improve. 

If your company is too small to launch and sustain such a program, another alternative may be to adapt wellness principles and activities such as:

  • Vaccination clinics to prevent flu in winter months.
  • Healthy eating options by designing menus in the workplace, offer healthy foods at staff meetings or develop healthy recipes to swap. Fund weekly healthy lunches.
  • Walking before and after work, during meal breaks, or designated exercise breaks throughout the day.
  • Contribute to memberships at a fitness center. 
  • Promote health screenings through health care providers to measure blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, or body mass index.
  • Identify self-health educational materials.
  • Offer onsite classes through weight loss providers.
  • Ensure ergonomic desk equipment are accessible.
  • Organize vendors to offer online programs that support people working with coaches to address lifestyle management challenges.
  • Sponsor campaigns such as providing staff with pedometers and having them pledge to walk 10,000 steps a day.
  • Provide access to telephone quit-lines to stop smoking.
  • Encourage mindfulness breaks at the end of meetings
  • Stand-up meetings and reinforcing the importance of breaks, including lunch breaks.
  • Implement Employee Assistance Programs to address employee stress.
  • Propose flexible work schedules.
  • Provide Stress Management resources such as books, meditation in the workplace and online resources.
  • Onsite nap rooms.
  • Offer gift cards to improve health-related behaviors.
  • Deliver financial wellness training programs on how to better manage and understand your finances, such as reducing debt, managing assets and investments. Another training option is planning, and budgeting for life-altering circumstances such as having a baby, buying a home, and retirement. 
  • Adopt an unlimited vacation policy.
  • Integrate outdoor or outside of the office meetings weekly.
  • Host workshops – online and offline about mental health and stress reduction
  • Partner with sports facilities.
  • Organize on-site group activities.
  • Support paid time off for community service contribution or volunteering

Employee Wellness Must Become Part Of Everyday Conversations

The development of any employee wellness program must encapsulate the vital elements into the company’s HR strategy, employee development efforts, and any offerings. The company must provide tools, resources, and support to employees to increase the confidence of people to get started. No matter how small, any wellbeing habit can be a force multiplier, amplifying positive change with long term sustainable impacts. Small steps can support positive behavior changes and can have a meaningful impact on both people and business.

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