Workplace Wellness Programs: Why More Companies Are Adopting Them
When was the last time you were able to focus on work when you were stressed out? Can you remember being a highly productive employee when you weren’t feeling your best? When you’re sick and tired, what’s your attitude like with your co-workers? It’s no surprise that when people are happy and healthy, they’re better workers — and that’s exactly why so many companies are implementing workplace wellness programs for their teams.
Employers know that wellbeing at work is important to their bottom line, just as employees recognize the need to care for themselves so that they can perform well. That’s why vacation and paid time off benefits exist. But especially during busy times, time off work simply isn’t an option.
Company wellness programs can create a much-needed framework that allows workers to balance their personal health with professional expectations throughout the year. As a result of participating in work-centered health initiatives, employees can feel good both on and off the clock.
Work Wellness Programs Help Workers Be Their Best
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that half of all workplaces in America offer some kind of health and safety program. One reason these types of initiatives are increasingly common is that studies have shown they help businesses make money while improving overall happiness in the workplace.
Health and wellness programs create a supportive work environment with tangible benefits for employers. These benefits include:
- Increased physical and mental health for employees
- Lowered risk for conditions such as heart attack or stroke
- Reduced medical costs for both employees and employers
- Decreased time away from work due to health-related issues
- Improved productivity
- Better recruitment and retention
What Makes a Good Wellness Program?
The best workplace wellness programs have science behind them, using proven strategies that help employees’ physical, emotional, and mental health. These initiatives may range from policies that promote healthy decisions to actual changes in the workplace.
The details depend on the needs of employees and the individual work setting, as a wellness program for a small office of sedentary employees will look very different from a health program in the mining industry.
Still, the motivation for employees can remain the same. Financial incentives for healthy behaviors, company-provided wellness materials and equipment, and paid time off for annual health assessments can improve participation numbers. Some employers even offer reduced health insurance premiums for those who can demonstrate their healthy behaviors.
Peers can work together to positively influence and encourage each other, building teamwork habits that translate to any industry.
To implement any wellness strategy for your workplace, it’s important to engage workers from the beginning. Survey the team to see what they think they need to improve their health, and use that insight to design a program that helps the most. Don’t make it a top-down mandate. Instead, create a committee of health-oriented individuals that can work with decisionmakers.
For success, there also needs to be a budget. This is what stops some employers from implementing a wellness program. But the money saved in engagement, turnover, and productivity will likely outweigh the money that goes into proven programs.
Wellness Options to Share with Your Team
Employee wellness programs vary greatly and are numerous. They include:
- On-site health screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, eyesight, hearing, and body mass
- Annual workplace risk assessments
- Physical activity programs, such as on-site yoga classes or walking groups
- Smoking cessation programs
- Ergonomic improvements for workstations
- Weight management programs
- Guided meditation groups
- Stress-reduction workshops
- Regular stretch breaks announced throughout the shift
- Planned group outings, such as Friday afternoon trips to nearby nature preserves
- On-site chair massage therapy
- Healthy cooking classes
- Gym and fitness equipment available for workers to use for free
- Integrated games and fun for stress release, such as a ping-pong table
- Deep breathing workshops
- 24-hour mental health assistance
- On-site child care, parenting classes, and family-focused activities
- Physical fitness challenges
- Perks like fitness trackers, gift cards for healthy foods, or gym memberships
These types of programs can exist either in-person or virtually. Classes with specialists can be scheduled throughout the year. Challenges can range from participation in a virtual 5K to even getting enough sleep. Some employers may be willing to underwrite employees’ health expenses or reimburse the purchases of specific equipment. Or, the vending machine could include some healthier options such as nuts and sparkling water.
Just as employers should survey their staff about their needs and ideas before the program begins, they should also check back during and after certain initiatives take place. Staying flexible and open will make it easier for employees to feel supported and engaged in the process of improving their health.
How Can Employees Request These Benefits?
Often, approaching employers with ideas for general morale improvement and benefits for employees requires numbers and analysis — but it can be hard to create metrics on the dynamic nature of health and wellness. Still, there is some common sense that comes with the understanding that healthy, happy employees are more desirable for everyone than a sick, miserable team.
To request a program, you should be prepared to answer some common questions. Think through the who, what, where, when, and why. That is:
- Who will be able to participate in the program?
- Who will run the program? Will there be professionals brought in to help, or will it be peer-led?
- Who supports the initiative? Showing strong employee and management support goes a long way.
- What are the details of the program? Ask for a specific strategy — perhaps as part of a larger wellness initiative.
- What is the budget?
- Where will it take place — in person or online?
- When will it take place, and how long will it last?
- When will you know if it’s helping?
- Why do you wish to have this program? Share a personal reason to be able to fully explain your reasons.
Think Long-Term for Workplace Wellness
While some companies may just hand out health-related perks, effective employee health and wellness programs demand dedication and strategy to truly change the culture of the company. Employers must commit to long-term support to help their team get healthy — and improve their productivity as a result.