10 employee wellness programs for a healthy and happy workplace

by Vaishali Badgujar
employee wellness programs

Employee wellness programs are a hot topic these days due to the increased spotlight on employee health and wellbeing. 

Wellness activities not only focus on improving an employee’s physical health, but also deal with social, psychological, financial, and other forms of wellness.  

In this article, we’ll cover what employee wellness programs are and highlight ten initiatives you can implement in the workplace. We’ll also show you how to design a wellness program and cover some wellness programs benefits for employees and employers. 

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Let’s get started. 

What are employee wellness programs? 

Employee wellness programs are usually healthcare initiatives companies implement to improve their employees’ health and wellbeing. 

These initiatives aim to:

  • Reduce absenteeism due to illness. 
  • Prevent chronic disease. 
  • Help employees minimize health risks. 
  • Increase productivity. 

Traditionally, such initiatives were under the domain of health insurance companies who would conduct regular health screening through employee health fairs. 

However, these days, employees expect their employers to encourage healthier behaviors.

As a result, more than 50% of companies surveyed by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) offer a wellbeing program to improve health in the workplace. 

Wellness programs don’t just focus on physical health — they also focus on other wellness dimensions and life concerns. 

For instance, an employee who is a new parent might worry about their child at home, while another might need mental health support. These concerns can keep an employee from giving their best in the workplace and increase their stress levels. 

That’s why most worksite wellness initiatives today focus on all aspects of health and wellbeing — physical, mental, emotional, psychological, financial, and more. 

Let’s explore some effective workplace wellness programs you can implement today. 

10 effective employee wellness programs

Here are ten wellness initiatives that help encourage employee wellbeing and healthy behavior in the workplace: 

1. Offer remote work options 

The flexibility, trust, and ease it offers employees make remote work an excellent employee wellness program. 

Remote work can also significantly decrease pressure on presenteeism. Rather than relying on and saving up sick leaves, your employees can rest and work from home. 

At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive, but in the long run, you’ll notice reduced absenteeism, improved engagement, and increased productivity. 

Now there are multiple ways to carry out a remote work program. 

You can either go fully remote or implement a hybrid work model

Additionally, you can let your employees choose which days they’d prefer to work remotely according to their individual preferences. 

A remote work option can help employees create a healthy work-life balance. It can give employees time to spend with their loved ones, take care of personal chores, and even sleep in. 

All these factors can go a long way towards reducing stress and preventing burnout. 

2. Implement flexible working hours 

employee working flexible work hours

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the very nature of work has changed over the past year. 

Companies are moving away from the strict 40-hour workweek towards a more flexible and relaxed approach. Doing so creates an environment of trust and dependability. It also removes the temptation to micromanage, which can be extremely costly in the long run. 

When you offer flexible work schedules, you’re also opening your workforce to include people from different time zones. 

Moreover, some employees may have to look after kids/elderly members at home or attend college classes. These employees can now complete tasks according to their schedule as they don’t have to worry about strict workday timings. 

A flexible work environment also gives employees space to work when they’re at their productive best, which may not always be the case when you have traditional work hours. 

3. Promote mental health awareness 

Workplaces often have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding mental health. Similarly, a culture of “otherness” can often surround employees who speak up about their issues. 

Such exclusion can be extremely harmful to the affected employee’s wellbeing, especially since about one in four adults lives with a mental illness. 

As an employer, you can dispel these harmful notions and behaviors through mental health education campaigns. 

These may include:

  • Seminars or webinars on common mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, etc.
  • Workshops on active listening, empathy, and interpersonal conflict resolution. 

By destigmatizing these topics, you create an inclusive company culture and open the floor for mental health discussions. 

Additionally, you can partner with mental health practitioners to provide therapy, grief counseling, or smoking cessation program aid through the workplace. 

You can also introduce “mental health days” and encourage your employees to take a breather when needed, no questions asked. 

As a manager/employer, another option is to open up about your journey and experiences. Leading by example helps your staff feel more comfortable seeking mental health services in the workplace. 

4. Conduct financial literacy programs 

Did you know that about 80% of adults have faced financial insecurity and severe hardship during the pandemic? 

When employees stress about making ends meet, it’s likely to spill over into the workplace. 

As a result, employees may notice a deterioration in their mental health, especially if they’re working parents struggling with rising childcare costs. 

Providing effective and timely financial education can mitigate these concerns. 

Your staff may include recent graduates to senior employees on the cusp of retirement. As such, a financial wellness program should accommodate specific age groups and their needs. 

For instance, you can bring in an expert to help employees budget and save every month. If interested, they can also learn how and where to invest. You can also provide one-on-one confidential financial planning sessions with an outside third-party professional. 

5. Create employee recognition programs

Just as you would celebrate your company’s milestones, you should celebrate your employee’s achievements. 

Praising a job well done or noticing employee accomplishments can significantly increase your employees’ sense of belonging. 

A small “good job” may only take a few seconds for you, but it can mean the world to your employee. 

By providing positive reinforcement, you encourage the employee to continue their good work and aspire for more. Additionally, it sends a message to other employees that you’re aware and interested in their achievements. 

As a result, you create a culture of positivity, encouragement, and goodwill. 

Remember, when hard work goes unacknowledged, it can lead to job dissatisfaction and an intention to leave. You can avoid this situation by recognizing and celebrating each employee’s hard work and effort. 

6. Build collaborative workspaces 

workplace flexibility

There’s plenty of research suggesting that collaborative workspaces boost both innovation and creativity. 

You can facilitate these connections by creating open-plan offices if you have an in-office team. 

These physical spaces in the office create the perfect environment for breaks, brainstorming sessions, and networking. 

Simply getting to know their coworkers can help employees feel more at ease. Such camaraderie can also foster good friendships — crucial for employee wellbeing. 

Additionally, having even just one workplace friend is a contributing factor in employee retention and productivity.   

However, some may find open offices distracting. So we recommend providing a space where your employees can work together if they wish. 

Innovative office spaces can also help you adopt fitness wellness challenges ideal for weight management and reducing blood pressure. These can further improve productivity, happiness, and wellbeing in the workplace. 

7. Organize community outreach programs

Online culture today is highly focused on social and cultural change. Employees, regulatory bodies, and customers pay close attention to a company’s social and environmental policies. 

It’s no longer a bonus but a requirement. 

Engaging with the community also has many benefits. It can boost your company image and attract new talent. And existing employees will take pride in their company’s involvement in community programs.  

Volunteering also provides a clear employee benefit by reducing stress and increasing self-esteem.

They can also help improve communication about important health issues — especially during a pandemic.

You can implement outreach programs by signing up for a volunteering day or weekend with a nearby organization. You can also encourage individual employee participation through a wellness program incentive, such as time off every month.   

8. Provide parenting programs 

With most employees working from home, the line between home and work can get blurred. 

Working parents are particularly affected as they have to juggle different responsibilities with very little support. Work stress may follow them home while home stress follows them to work. 

Through carefully selected parenting programs, you can show care towards working parents and help them manage this stress. 

An employee assistance program may include:

  • Increasing access to parenting support groups.
  • Onsite daycare services.
  • Pickup and dropoff services.
  • Parenting coaching classes. 
  • Workshops to reduce family conflict. 
  • Specialized sessions for families with mental health needs. 

Parenting programs have many benefits for your employees, their families, and you. 

Firstly, your employees get access to important resources and parenting support groups to share their experiences. These support groups are essential for new parents who might live away from their families. 

Additionally, access to these resources can show parents how to navigate everyday situations, such as their child going through puberty or accommodating a child with special needs. They can also help parents communicate with their children and resolve conflicts empathetically. 

All this can significantly reduce parental stress and help your employees feel more in control of their lives. 

When this happens, parents will likely be happier, more confident, and committed to the workplace. Providing childcare services to working parents can also help you retain employees, particularly women.

Your employees can transfer the communication and conflict resolution skills they learned to their interactions with coworkers and superiors. 

9. Sponsor office destressing activities 

We know that stress can accumulate in the body, manifesting through irritability, sleep difficulties, neck and shoulder pain, poor posture, and even depression. 

Regular physical activity can lessen the impact of these symptoms and get the endorphins flowing. 

However, about 80% of adults don’t get the recommended amount of exercise per week. 

Through worksite wellness programs, you can address these issues and encourage a healthy lifestyle. 

Schedule a light workout session, yoga class, or even a mindfulness session so your employees can leave their troubles at the door. 

These health plans can also promote teamwork and help new employees integrate easily. 

They have the added health benefit of regulating your employees’ sleep schedules. As a result, your employees are happier and more productive.  

Installing a ‘no-work break room’ allows employees to relax and socialize with each other. Drive healthy eating behaviors by stocking this room with healthy snacks. 

You can also install a nap room supplied with comfortable mattresses, blankets, and blackout curtains. Encourage your employees, especially new parents, to use this room for power naps.

10. Encourage healthy time management

time management for work

As remote work becomes common, employees often find themselves working late hours and unable to unplug. Similarly, there’s an expectation that employees are always available to answer emails outside of regular work hours.  

However, this can negatively affect an employee’s health. 

To ensure your employees create and maintain a healthy work-life balance, you have to start from the top. 

For instance, if you sign out once you’ve completed your work for the day or take time off when needed, your employees are more likely to follow your lead. 

You can also use an employee productivity management tool like Time Doctor to help employees manage their time better. Employees can use the tool to track the time they spend on tasks and identify areas of improvement.

Additionally, Time Doctor has a Work-Life Balance Widget that helps managers and employers identify signs of employee burnout early on. 

You can use the widget to know if employees are: 

  • Working overtime too often.  
  • Working on weekends. 
  • Working long hours at a stretch. 

These insights can help you understand if employees are overworking and at risk for burnout. You can then take the right steps to prevent burnout — which helps reduce workplace stress, increase employee engagement, and boost productivity

Check out a walkthrough of this feature here.

Now that we’ve explored some popular employee wellness programs, let’s see how you can create one of your own. 

How to design a corporate wellness program 

Here are some general guidelines you can use to create your own employee wellness programs:

  • Conduct a health risk assessment through anonymous surveys. 
  • Form a wellness committee responsible for implementing, continuing, and introducing new employee wellness program ideas. 
  • Decide the program budget and expected ROI (return on investment). 
  • Establish the short-term and long-term goals of the program. 
  • Form a wellness plan after considering legal compliance requirements. 
  • Offer financial incentives, perks, and rewards to increase employee participation. 
  • Spread the word about the program. 
  • Periodically assess the program for improvements. 

If you follow the process outlined above, your workplace wellness program is sure to be successful among your employees. 

What are the benefits of wellness programs? 

Here are some wellness benefits these programs offer for both employees and employers: 

A. Benefits for employees 

  • Better overall health. 
  • Inclusive work environment. 
  • Access to support resources. 
  • Promotion of healthy habits.
  • Improved interpersonal relationships. 
  • Increased job satisfaction. 

B. Benefits for employers

  • Reduced healthcare costs. 
  • Engaged and loyal workforce. 
  • Reduced absenteeism. 
  • Increased employee productivity.
  • Collaborative team members. 
  • Boosted employee morale.

Investing in a wellness initiative also makes financial sense as employers who do so witness a six-to-one ROI. The bottom line: you can save $6 in health care costs for every dollar invested in a wellness program.

Wrapping up 

Employee wellness programs are essentially a commitment from the company towards the employees’ health and wellbeing. 

A good workplace wellness program helps your employees implement healthy behaviors in their professional and personal life. It focuses on overall growth and development, allowing employees to feel better about themselves. 

Happy and healthy employees are motivated and eager to work. As a result, you notice an uptick in productivity and engagement. 

When done right, an employee workplace program can improve your overall company image and encourage employees to create a healthy work-life balance.

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