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How to Create an Employee Wellness Program


Businesses lose a lot when their employees are ill. The CDC Foundation found in 2015 that “productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion annually in the United States, or $1,685 per employee.” And the real cost of sickness is certainly higher when you think about sick or stressed employees who do show up to work yet are nowhere near their full potential.

Employers should be doing what they can to promote wellness in the workplace, and there are plenty more steps they can take beyond offering an office yoga class or gym benefits. Employers should consider creating an employee wellness program, but a good program requires careful planning and forethought from the beginning just like any other workplace project. Here are some important steps to make it work.

Have a Diverse Wellness Team

Management can create all the health initiatives they want, but they are worthless if the employees are not buying into them. It is important to create a health wellness team which can decide what health measures fit your company the best, and so you must make that the team represents a diverse cross-section of your employees. HR, management, finance, and regular works should all be on the team, and every member of this team should be passionate about promoting health.

You can make your own suggestions about how to promote health such as these tips provided by Inc., but let your wellness team loose in suggesting their own ideas and how to implement them. An empowered and diverse team can create good health goals which suits your company’s culture and supply your employees with all the necessary sports supplements and equipment they need.

Look at your Company Culture

A bad workplace culture can promote habits which lead to poor health in many different ways. Workplace bullying and low morale can lead to stress, depression, or even suicide. Demanding excessively long hours means that employees are less likely to eat well or sleep enough, and are uncertainly unwilling to go the extra mile. And your wellness team’s efforts will go nowhere with a bad company culture.

Fixing workplace culture is a topic in and of itself, but it starts at the top. Praise employees for doing good work instead of berating them for bad work. Set an open door policy so that employees can come to you and report bullying. Work collaboratively as much as possible.

From a health perspective, consider cutting employee hours by mandating that no one can be in the office past a certain time. The Harvard Business Review notes that working excessively long hours can harm total productivity in the long run, in part because overwork leads to health problems.

Promote the Program

New wellness initiatives means change, and people do not like change unless they know what is in it for them. And while the benefits of some programs may seem self-apparent, the wellness team will likely have to educate and motivate employees about the benefits.

First, make sure that new employees are aware of the program by communicating with them. If you have a good cross-section of employees like noted above, they can each talk about the program in their own departments. Management should also send out email and company newsletters to help teach employees how they will benefit. It is important to keep any program as simple as possible at the start to persuade workers to sign on.

The Power of Technology

Employers such as BP are incorporating wearables into their wellness programs for good reason, and that is because they have done more than just hand out Fitbits to employees. In BP’s case, the company used the data tracked by the Fitbits to give rewards like better health plans to those who took the most steps or exercised.

BP understands that healthy competition is one of the best tools to motivate employees and they combined it with technology to create good results. Your wellness teams will likely be enthusiastic about introducing technology, but remember that technology is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Make sure that the team has a plan for how to incorporate wearables.

Get Feedback

Good business leaders should know the importance of feedback in all of their programs, and a wellness initiative is no different.

Feedback in this case should take two forms. The first should be to track how well the initiatives are succeeding and whether they are fulfilling goals set by the team at the start of the program. Are employees using the company gym more? Are they smoking less? Are they taking less sick days? Use quantifiable metrics to determine which programs are the most effective.

The second and just as important form is figuring out what employees think about the program. Take employee surveys or talk to them in person about their thoughts and what they would like to see changed. You have to make sure that your wellness program is satisfying your employees and keeping them healthy in measurable ways.

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