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Employee Wellness Programs: Boosting Productivity & Happiness

Your team members are the driving force behind your organization’s success. They help you innovate, solve problems, and reach your business goals. But they can’t do their best work when they’re blocked by something in their personal life. 

Whether dealing with a health crisis, financial stress, or simply feeling burnt out, every area of their life may be affected.

Employee wellness programs can give your team members the space and resources to prevent or address these challenging points in their lives.

What is an employee wellness program?

An employee wellness program is a workplace initiative to improve and promote employee health and well-being. 

Programs are typically designed to support each employee’s physical, mental, social, and financial wellness so that every team member can be the best version of themselves.

Reasons to invest in a good employee wellness program

Nearly two-thirds of organizations (64 percent) plan to invest more in their employee wellness programs in 2023, while 35 percent expect the same level of investment, and one percent plan to invest less.

This increased investment is no surprise considering the many benefits of a robust employee wellness program:

  • Boost employee retention. Your team members want great benefits; most workers will leave to get them. Offering a competitive employee wellness program can help you reduce turnover.
  • Improve company culture. A healthy workforce leads to a healthy company culture, further perpetuating employee wellness and enabling your team members to thrive. That’s why 42% of companies are investing in mental health and wellness to improve company culture.
  • Increase employee referrals. Employees who feel cared for at work are 3.2x more likely to be happy and 3.7x more likely to recommend working for the company. This can boost employee referrals and your employer brand.
  • Attract candidates. Workplace wellness initiatives are in high demand and can help you attract job candidates. For example, 8 in 10 remote workers would leave their company for one that prioritizes mental well-being, and 6 in 10 workers say well-being benefits are a top priority when looking for a new job.
  • Help mitigate medical expenses. Employee wellness programs promote preventive health and disease control, saving your organization and team members money. In fact, workplace wellness programs can reduce healthcare costs and workers’ compensation and disability management claims by 25%
  • Reduce absenteeism. Healthy, happy employees are less likely to miss work due to physical and mental health conditions. In fact, workplace health programs lead to 25% less absenteeism.

What to include in an employee wellness program

Wellness encompasses many things, including physical, mental, social, and financial health. 

A comprehensive employee wellness program should address these areas in a way that makes sense for your team and for your organization. 

Healthcare benefits

Sixty-four percent of employers offer medical insurance, but many have an opportunity to expand their benefits and increase employee health and wellness. 

For example, employers could offer:

  • Dental and vision insurance 
  • Holistic care coverage for treatments like chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage therapy
  • Health risk assessment
  • Smoking cessation program
  • Medical flexible spending account or health savings account
  • Diabetes prevention program
  • Telemedicine

Mental health care

Mental health problems are more common than ever. One in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, and 58 percent of workers say their job is the main source of their mental health challenges.

 It’s no surprise that 91 percent of employers are increasing their investment in mental health this year. 

Mental health benefits could include:

  • Counseling and therapy services
  • Stress management courses
  • Employee assistance program
  • Text-based therapy apps
  • Mindfulness and meditation apps

Lifestyle spending account

Gym membership reimbursement has been trending downward since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

Many employers appear to offer lifestyle spending accounts instead, with 47 percent of employers investing more in this area in 2023. 

Lifestyle spending accounts help employees pay for health and wellness expenses that are the most appealing to them, such as:

  • Fitness equipment
  • Spa memberships
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Meditation retreats
  • Financial seminars
  • Health coaching
  • Ergonomic office supplies
  • Weight management program

This flexible wellness benefit is a great way to offer inclusive, personalized benefits that appeal to varying employee interests and needs.

Financial support

Inflation, rising interest rates, and a looming recession are causing stress and anxiety for many people. Financial stress and money worries can majorly impact workers’ mental health, sleep, physical health, productivity at work, and attendance. 

In response, 65 percent of employers are increasing their investment in financial wellness initiatives this year. Providing fair, competitive compensation is a great place to start, but additional benefits can help your team members achieve financial literacy, build financial resilience, and reach financial goals.

Financial benefits could include:

  • Financial education courses 
  • Financial wellness coaching
  • Retirement benefits
  • Disability insurance
  • Student loan assistance program
  • Life insurance
  • Emergency savings program

An investment in financial wellness can pay off, as 80 percent of workers are more likely to stay with an employer committed to helping them strengthen their financial resiliency. 

Peer support

Social wellness is a growing concern, as just 28 percent of workers felt socially connected last year, compared to 41 percent in 2019. People spend so much of their time at work that it’s important for organizations to support social wellness. 

Peer support can promote social well-being and foster a healthy company culture that boosts overall employee wellness.

Ways to promote peer support include:

  • Sponsor employee resource groups
  • Organize a lunchtime walking group, yoga class, or other types of physical activity
  • Hold regular team-building events
  • Build a culture of recognition
  • Provide training and support for a peer counseling program
  • Offer mentoring and sponsorship opportunities

Ample paid time off

Time away from work gives your team members the opportunity to recharge and take care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. 

Offer ample paid time off so your team members can take time off when needed to manage their wellness however they need.

For example, many companies offer time off benefits such as:

  • Vacation time
  • Parental leave
  • Mental health and wellness days
  • Medical leave
  • Floating holidays
  • Volunteer time off
  • 4-day workweeks

How to maximize the success of your employee wellness program

An employee wellness program is an investment, and setting it up for success will help ensure that it benefits both your employees and your organization.

Design your workplace wellness program around your organization’s unique needs

Most employers (83 percent) say their employee benefits decisions are significantly influenced by a desire to create competitive benefits plans. And 64 percent of companies say decisions are significantly influenced by a desire to match employer and employee interests.

If these are key focus areas at your organization, review your competitors’ benefits and survey your team to learn what they’d like to see in a benefits plan, then use those findings to inform your program.

Cost is also top-of-mind for employers, with 82 percent citing the rising cost of benefits and 37 percent citing macroeconomic conditions as significant factors in benefits decisions. Half of employers say measuring return on investment (ROI) from benefit plan changes is a top factor when building out programs. 

As a result, many employers are decreasing their investment in benefits that require in-person interactions in favor of less costly virtual alternatives that better meet the needs of modern teams.

Consider your organizational goals and the benefits and costs of various wellness activities to build a program that meets your unique needs. 

Communicate about your employee wellness program early and often

Whether you’re launching a wellness program for the first time or making small changes, ensure all employees know the services and resources available to them. 

Discuss your wellness benefits during all-hands meetings and follow up with a written email so your team members can reference what was said later. Some organizations send a regular employee wellness newsletter highlighting key benefits and best practices to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Regular communication will keep your wellness program top-of-mind, making your team members more inclined to live a healthy lifestyle.

Assess your progress and iterate

Regularly measure the effectiveness of your employee wellness program and make adjustments as needed. 

An employee survey is a great way to assess employee wellness, learn which wellness activities are most valuable to your team, and get ideas for new initiatives. 

Data-driven HR teams may track additional key performance indicators (KPIs), including program participation rates, employee engagement, and absenteeism rates, to use as a proxy for wellness and measure ROI.

Reconsider employee benefits your team isn’t using or those that can be replaced with a better solution. Your employee wellness program should adapt as your team and work environment change.

Invest in your employees and promote overall wellness

Employee wellness programs have become increasingly popular as organizations recognize the importance of employee well-being and its impact on the organization. In fact, 68 percent of senior HR leaders say employee well-being and mental health is a top priority.

Give your team members the space and resources they need to take care of themselves, so they can have a happier, healthier lifestyle that enables them to excel in every aspect of their lives.

The Learning Cloud from WorkRamp is the single platform for all your employee and customer learning needs. Prioritizing continuous learning and improvement is another way to invest in your employees’ success.

Want to learn more? Contact us to schedule a free, personalized demo. 


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Jen Dewar

WorkRamp Contributor

Jen Dewar is a marketing consultant in HR technology, focusing on developing educational content for HR professionals and recruiters. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion, lifelong learning and development, and treating people like people throughout candidate and employee experiences. Outside of work, you can find Jen snowboarding in Tahoe, enjoying a glass of wine in Sonoma, or hanging out at home with her family.

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