The Benefits of Workplace Wellness Programs
January 27, 2023
As it stands, just over half of organisations take a strategic approach to employee wellbeing, yet fewer than 20% of employees are actually enrolled on physical wellbeing offerings.
Well, there are a number of pretty straightforward reasons—chief among them are that oftentimes, employers, leaders and HR teams simply don’t understand what wellness programs are, what should be included in them, and why they’re beneficial to their business.
But don’t fear—we’ll explore all three of those questions and more here. Let’s dive in.
What is a Workplace Wellness Program?
According to Healthcare.gov, the definition of a wellness program is, “A program intended to improve and promote health and fitness that’s usually offered through the workplace, although insurance plans can offer them directly to their enrollees.”
But outside of the dictionary definition, workplace wellness programs are meant to help employers decrease healthcare costs, increase employee retention, build productive workforces and promote healthy behaviours.
What Types of Benefits are Included in Workplace Wellness Programs?
Benefits typically included in workplace wellness programs include company-sponsored gym memberships or stipends, a mental health service, discounts or cash rewards. They can also include larger programs like weight loss challenges, elder care, preventative health screenings, disease management, nutrition education, smoking cessation incentives and more.
Additionally, physical activity challenges have taken enterprise companies by storm—allowing employees to get competitive, bond with their team and improve their health, all while having fun.
Another of the recent top employee benefits, especially when offered in the context of a holistic wellness program, is women’s health support. This can include healthcare offerings outside of traditional healthcare to help female employees navigate life changes like menopause or health issues like PCOS and endometriosis.
What are the Benefits of a Workplace Wellness Program?
So now you know what a workplace wellness program is and what is traditionally (or innovatively) included—but why is it important and beneficial for employees?
Here are just a few of the benefits of employee wellness for employers (plus stats to back them up):
- Increased Productivity & Improved Performance: Employees who participated in company wellness programs had an additional 10.3 hours of additional productive time annually, compared with non-participating employees.
- Decreased Turnover: Ignoring employee wellbeing amounts to 15% to 20% of total payroll in voluntary turnover costs, on average, due to burnout
- Improved Employee Health: 83% of employers reported increasing their workers’ health thanks to their companies’ wellness programs.
- Decreased Absenteeism: Wellness programs can reduce absenteeism by 14-19%, and 56% of employees who participate in these programs say they have fewer sick days.
- Decreased Presenteeism: Studies estimate that the cost associated with presenteeism due to poor employee health is at least 2 to 3 times greater than direct health care expenses.
- Boosted Employee Morale: 54% of employees say that their morale is the most improved metric after participating in a corporate wellness or wellbeing program.
- Increased Engagement & Connection to Company Culture: More than 80% of employees with wellness programs say they enjoy work.
To sum it all up, a RAND Employer Survey found that employers overwhelmingly believe that workplace wellness programs reduce healthcare costs, productivity losses and absenteeism.
How Do Employee Wellness Programs Benefit Employees?
But a corporate wellness program is not just a benefit for employers—it can also be a game changer for individual employees, often changing their lives for the better both personally and professionally.
Let’s explore how:
- Increased Belonging: 70% of employees report that when a company offers a wellness program, it is an indicator that their employer cares about them.
- Reduced Risk Relating to Chronic Disease: One recent study showed that, on average, wellness program participants experienced heart problems later than non-participants did.
When employers implement strategies to promote wellbeing in the workplace, they can genuinely set both their business and employees up for success.
How Do You Engage Employees in a Wellness Program?
Needless to say, employee wellness programs sound pretty great from both sides of the coin. But calling back to an earlier statistic: less than 50% of employees feel that their work environment allows them to maintain good health—despite their companies offering wellness initiatives.
This really isn’t shocking at all when you consider that 69% of employees cite that they aren’t participating in wellness programs offered by their employers simply because they… weren’t aware the program existed, to begin with.
So how can employers get their staff to utilise these stellar programs?
Firstly, communication is key when it comes to implementing a corporate wellness program. Host informational sessions, send messages in Slack, follow up via email, and offer prizes for getting involved—the options are endless as long as you ensure that there are tons of ways for employees to hear about your wellness program and get involved.
Secondly, ensure that there is adequate program management. Once you launch a wellness program, you need to make sure that you have someone to run it, ensure (and improve) engagement rates and report on success. This will ensure that the program can’t fall through the cracks.
Now let’s explore some other strategies to promote wellbeing in the workplace.
Other Strategies to Promote Wellbeing in the Workplace
Of course, there are other strategies that employers can adopt in addition to their workplace wellness program to build a culture of health and wellness amongst their workforce:
1. Encourage Healthy Habits
Encouraging healthy habits within the workplace means more than just offering nutrient-dense snacks in the kitchen. It also means encouraging employees to do things like take mid-day walks, try walking meetings, set work-life boundaries and even take PTO. All of this starts with managers and leadership modelling these healthy behaviours, too, though.
2. Set Company-Wide Goals
Setting company-wide wellness goals can be a great way to get everyone in your workforce bought in. For instance, goals relating to wellbeing include DEI-related goals like diverse hiring, implementing employee resource groups (ERGs) and increasing belonging (as measured by an employee survey).
3. Gamify Wellbeing
Everyone loves a good game. Encourage healthy competition amongst your employees by launching a wellbeing-related challenge. This could be anything from which team can take the most steps in a day to which department volunteered the most over a period of time. Get creative and offer fun prizes to the winners.
4. Provide Additional Education
Another strategy to promote wellbeing in the workplace is to provide employees with educational opportunities, like having a wellness speaker come to the office to give tips or even inviting a yoga teacher to give a class and explain the benefits of yoga in the workplace. This also includes HR offering meetings to review your company’s healthcare benefits and answer any questions so that employees feel empowered to take care of their health.
5. Establish Wellness Champions
A wellness champion can be as simple as someone who creates wellness events or sends messages in Slack or on Teams reminding employees of upcoming programs. It can also be a liaison between employers and employees that communicates what employees want in terms of wellness programs. At Peppy, we also encourage companies to appoint a specific type of wellness champion: menopause champions—who can facilitate open conversations in the workplace, educate employees and represent mid-life women with leadership teams.