An article by WellSteps reported that companies can enjoy an average of $3.27 in return for every dollar spent on employee wellness programs. They also elevate company culture and help attract and retain top employees. We asked the experts to share their best tips and ideas in promoting health and wellness in the workplace.
Here are 26 proven employee wellness program ideas from the pros.
1. Customize Your Wellness Program
Abby Guthrie, Content Manager, findcourses.co.uk
The most important thing to remember when designing your employee wellness program is that these programs are not one-size-fits-all. Your program must to be tailored to your employees, so you need to ask them what they are interested in. The best way to ensure participation is by offering activities that your employees actually want to do!
You may also need to adjust your thought process. Stop seeing employee wellness as an expense, and start seeing it as an investment. After all, studies show that wellness programs and working for an employer that “cares” has been shown to decrease employees’ work-related stress by 12 percent. This means fewer sick days and greater overall engagement!
2. Make Sure It’s an Activity That Everyone Can Participate In
Franklin Antoian, Online Personal Trainer/Wellness Expert, iBodyFit
Provide a fitness/health challenge that all employees can enter. Make the time frame short to keep boredom away (one month is good). Offer a prize to the winner(s). Promote teamwork. Include weekly updates. Take a before and after survey how employees feel after each challenge.
3. Create a Gratitude Practice
Sarah Moe, Company Culture Consultant, Flauk
People who express gratitude regularly are happier, have stronger immune systems, and are more productive (up to 50%) than those who don’t. To create a company-wide gratitude practice, start by encouraging people to write thank you notes and hand them to their coworkers. You can also create a gratitude board where people are encouraged to give someone a shout out for the work they did or the support they provided. You can also have everyone write down three things they are grateful for before leaving for the day. This builds a strong bond amongst your employees, but also boosts their individual well-being.
4. Offer Regular Yoga and Fitness Classes in Your Office
Alex Tran, Yoga Instructor and Founder, Schmiggy
A small or large conference room will work. Some companies also have outdoor classes when the weather permits. Having fitness equipment such as yoga mats, weights, blocks, straps and map cleaners are also beneficial to bringing wellness into your workplace. My average attendance at a 500 employee company was always around 20. There were some instances where we had to turn people away. In-house fitness programs are great because people can stay fit then return to work. Having a shower in the building is beneficial too.
This will allow employees to freshen up before returning to work. Most in-house fitness classes are only 50 minutes long, which is perfect for someone with a busy schedule.
Maggie Alland, Marketing and Review Editor, Fit Small Business
One of the easiest ways to attract and retain employees is to offer a good selection of benefits. Zenefits is an HR platform that offers health benefits packages from over 250 nationwide insurance carriers. You can filter and compare plans based on deductibles, premiums, and more to help you find the right ones for your business It also makes it easy for employees to self-enroll and manage their benefits online, offers an internal payroll platform, and integrates with other third-party payroll software.
6. … or Get Them to Walk While Sitting
Julee Kim, Founder and CEO, CTL Co., Ltd.
We know workplace wellness largely involves the sedentary lifestyle risks, and thus much standing desks and yoga classes are jumping in. However, the studies are showing that it’s not the standing or sitting, but the inactivity in their desk-work environment. An Officiser, is a product that helps to ‘walk while sitting’, increasing blood-flow, focus and burn calories at the same time. It saves space, and is extremely affordable solution compared to standing desks or other workplace-fitness solutions. It increases engagement with the employees since it’s right under their feet as footrest.
Myself and my employees are all using one, and don’t complain about back pain as much, and is an easy outlet when the work stresses us.
7. Gradually Introduce Healthier Food Options
Anthony Treas, MPH, Men’s Health and Life Coach, STRONG Men Coaching, LLC
Make the healthy choice the easiest choice. Google Inc. has done an excellent job at this. They provide the nutritional content for all the food they provide to the employees. However, what they didn’t do is take away the unhealthy food options. Instead, they make them work for them. They placed the unhealthy foods far from the other foods and they do not display them very well. So, instead of bringing sugary pastries to the company meetings, bring healthy and nutritious snacks. For smaller companies, they need to first get the employees by-in. They cannot just one day say, no more soda in the soda machine. They first need to slowly create an environment for health and wellness.
They can start off by conducting a survey. Get a pulse for what the employees want. However, before the survey, a company can hold a health and wellness seminar or fair. After this event, conduct a survey and see what the employees thought. This will get the employees to start thinking about their own health and wellness.
8. Hire a Healthcare Expert
Teri Dreher, RN, Chief Advocate and President, NShore Patient Advocates-Chicago Area
For employees, having an outside healthcare expert like a patient advocate available for private consultation can help them use their healthcare and insurance benefits more wisely, while minimizing the frustration of operating outside their element. Health advocates can help employees get a handle on difficult health issues, while reducing the stress that can spill over into the workplace, negatively affecting performance. Because health advocates are not company employees and are extremely well-versed on privacy protocols, employees can confide in them with confidence, knowing it won’t get back to the employer.
Offering a health advocacy service benefits employers in a multiple ways. For one thing, it can actually bring health insurance costs down as employees become more knowledgeable about healthcare. (Practicing good wellness care, for example, reduces catastrophic medical costs in the long run.)
9. Create a Worksite Clinic for Your Employees
Daniel Sosnoski, Editor in Chief, Chiropractic Economics
We’ve seen these programs be successful if they’re scaled correctly and employers have the right expectations for outcomes. In general, the healthcare they offer employees (and often, their families) is cost effective – particularly when subsidized. A worksite clinic can prevent employee downtime or vacancies, given that they can access care without travel. But a disconnect can occur if the employer thinks the health or wellness clinic will generate positive ROI – this is rarely the case. Rather, direct benefits are in employee satisfaction and often more productivity as a result. Nutrition counseling and ergonomic training tend to be key offerings, as well as treatment of musculoskeletal issues. Getting the right mix of healthcare professionals who can work together as a team will always be the greatest challenge.
10. Start a Walking Challenge
Meg Keane, EVP of Talent, EverFi
This year we launched our 2nd Annual Walking Challenge. With a highly distributed workforce, we are always trying to find ways to keep our employees fit while including employees across the country. It is an eight week challenge where employees log their steps each week. There are two categories of winners at the end of the challenge: those who have walked the most steps (it’s top five I believe) and those who have most improved over the course of the challenge (again, top five I believe). The winners receive money towards custom Nikes. We also have had Employee Training Sessions where employees have trained each other on making healthy meals and are looking to do a Wellness Fair during Open Enrollment.
11. Promote Various Physical Activities
Mollie Moric, Career Advisor & Hiring Manager, Resume Genius
The most substantial portion of our Health and Wellness Program is the Physical Activity Promotion. Focused on increasing physical activity among staff members, this includes a reimbursement program and regularly organized group exercise classes. Employees are able to access a 50% reimbursement of the monthly cost of any activities they participate in related to health and fitness. With 75% of our staff regularly accessing this benefit, it’s the most successful allowance of the program. We attribute the success to a lack of imposed restrictions, allowing employees to access a wide variety of products and services without apprehension. For example, an employee recently requested reimbursement for a belaying certification course, which will be provided without stipulation.
12. Create a Company Culture of Active Movement
Aaron Hackett, DPT, Corporate Wellness Consultant and Owner, Aevitas PT & Wellness, LLC
When consulting with a company on their wellness initiatives one of the first things I want to know about is what are they doing to just get employees moving more? Inactivity is a major health concern across all types of work and people. Companies can quickly integrate campaigns to increase activity that have little to no cost and can make a huge impact. Some solutions can be as simple as promoting active breaks, allowing employees to use timers that remind them to get up more often and starting up small groups that take active breaks together. Inactivity is a major risk for chronic illness, weight gain, chronic pain and even depression. It is a major cause of decreased productivity as well. The human body needs to move to stay healthy! However, this type of culture change needs top-down support (as do all wellness initiatives).
If employees see supervisors and managers participating then they will feel much more likely to join in. Before spending thousands on ergonomics, standing desks, biometric screens, and juice bars, companies needs to make it clear they want their employees moving.
13. Provide Subsidized Canteen or Food Coupons
Andrei Vasilescu, CEO & Digital Marketing Expert, DontPayFull
Each of your employees comes from different areas a few to several miles distant and most of them are reluctant to carry their lunch and snacks. They go out in the lunch time every day and hit any nearby cafe or restaurant to bite anything that permits their pockets. Grabbing anything
without thinking about the quality often causes them to eat unhealthy food which is not at all appreciable. Therefore, install a non-profitable cafeteria where employees will be offered healthy foods and drinks at about half prices in comparison to outside. This cafeteria will keep health of your employees and save the time for food-hunting during lunch breaks. If you don’t have the space for even a small cafe in your office, then provide you employees discount coupons of one or two selected restaurants nearby that particularly serve healthy foods. Your employees will remain healthy and be happy to have top quality foods at discounted prices and they won’t waste time to find out their suitable food joints.
14. Share Simple Stress Relieving Techniques
Lisa Mazina, Owner/Director/M.Ed/RYT-500, ATX Yoga Therapy
Ninety percent of the clients I see are experiencing some sort of job related stress. Yoga Therapy uses ancient tools for modern healing. Something as simple as changing your breath while sitting at your desk can help reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system. Extending or lengthening your exhale triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the rest and digest part of our nervous system. Sitting quietly at your desk, close your eyes for at least five minutes and try to make your exhale, twice as long as your inhale. Ex. Breathing in for four counts, then exhaling for eight counts. This simple technique can quickly change your physical and mental state.
15. Organize Activities That Promote Mental Wellness
Natalia Knobel, Safety Wellness Manager and Blogger, HandMommytheWine.com
According to mental health professionals connecting with nature is great for mental health and wellness and we want to support this as best as we can as an employer. For us at the moment there is a massive push for mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. So one of the things we have implemented is Lunch Lock-Outs. This is where (dependent on operational needs and management deadlines) the team actually leave the office for lunch – together. They network outside – connecting with nature if possible. We try to get them to do this at least once a week to form relationships and increase their connectivity. Another fabulous way to increase wellness at work, and this is one that is really simple for us – is to include walking groups as part of the lunch lock-outs – this helps the teams get physical exercise and boost those happy hormones!
16. Replace Sugar and Processed Snacks During Meetings and in the Pantry
Erin Assenza, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Erin Assenza
What employees eat at work has a direct correlation to how well they think: the more sugar and processed foods they eat, the more brain fog they have. Also, sugar and processed foods can cause fatigue, weight gain, and ultimately very unhealthy employees. I have seen people gain at least 7lbs. just because their corporate kitchen is packed with unavoidable sugary snacks. For sharper and healthier employees, a company should replace unhealthy sugary snacks like candy and cookies with healthier options: nuts, dark chocolate, fresh fruit, so when the 3 p.m. snack attack arises, they can finish their day strong. Additionally meeting food like bagels, muffins and croissants should be replaced with fruit salad, low sugar granola and greek yogurt. You can hire a consultant to help make these swaps painless.
17. Offer Incentives and Rewards as Motivation
Jessica H. Scanlon, CEO, Top Dog, Hot Dog Marketing
We’re a small business so we rely on the program provided by our health insurance provider. But, to make sure people actually participate in the wellness program, we match the rewards the employees earn through that program. For instance, if the employee does enough wellness activities throughout the year to earn a $50 gift card from the wellness program, we’ll buy them an additional $50 gift card – doubling the award. It not only contributes to our office culture to have a program like this, but it saves the company money on the insurance benefits in the long run.
18. Onboard a Nutritionist
Ketan Kapoor, CEO & Co-Founder, Mettl
Most employees reach out to unhealthy snacking and instant bites, thanks to pressing deadlines and Simply providing healthy meals isn’t enough. You have to enforce employees with a direction, which is only possible with a nutritionist’s guidance. Allow your employees to understand their body and have a personalized nutrition plan to fit unique diet needs that can translate to long term physical and mental health.
19. Organize a Weight Loss Challenge
Jenna Ryberg, Human Resource and Accounting Director, iDashboards
We encourage our employees to participate in bi-annual weight loss challenges. At the end of each week, the man and woman who lost the greatest percentage of weight win gift cards. The overall winners get a larger prize at the end of the challenge, like a massage at Lifetime Fitness. We have an iDashboards wall display in the lobby of our headquarters that keeps everyone up to date with the results of the challenge. That way, folks who aren’t even participating in the challenge can see the results and feel involved. We encourage everyone to stay active outside of the challenge as well by partnering with a local gym and offering fitness membership reimbursements.
20. Use Interactive Technology to Make Your Wellness Program Relevant
Jennifer Gamboa, PT, DPT, OCS, CEO, Body Dynamics Inc.
One of the biggest problems with engaging employees in their health and wellness is making the program relevant to every individual. Employees want to be supported in their health and wellness, not merely told what to do by their employer or an outside expert. When it comes to employee health and wellness, understanding the trends of the workforce and each individual’s health needs are equally important. Sustainable Health Index is a web and mobile app that helps employers and employees understand the shape of their health across 5 dimensions: nutrition, fitness, movement, stress, and disease risk. With SHI, employers see health care costs decrease and engagement in health and wellness increase because they have the ability to involve the entire population–not just high-risk patients.
Employers can create campaigns relevant to engage employees company-wide, while still offering individualized resources that put employees in the driver’s seat of their health.
21. Create a Quiet Space Within Your Office
Phoebe Aitken,Senior HR Specialist, Voices.com
Voices.CALM, as it is affectionately called in the office, is a quiet space where team members can go to decompress, breathe, stretch, meditate, read quietly, nap, or just relax. It is set up in a corner of the office that receives lots of natural light and includes bean bag chairs, pillows, blankets, yoga mats, plants, and equipment for stretching. In our bustling, collaboration-friendly office, this space is intended to fulfill physical and spiritual needs of our employees.
22. Encourage Work/Life Balance
Sandra Nguyen, VP, People & Culture, Volusion
We encourage employees to be mindful of multiple aspects of their well-being, with three tenets: “Mind and Body,” physical and mental well being; “Community,” making a positive impact on the world, connecting with people around us; and “Work/Life Balance,” getting fulfillment from our work while maintaining balance in our lives. We hold annual wellness challenges to encourage employees to adopt healthier habits, and host annual health fairs for employees to meet with wellness vendors, ranging from local gyms to benefits providers. Complimentary yoga and fitness classes are offered weekly, and guided meditation classes twice each month.
We also host “Lunch & Learn” style seminars on a monthly basis to help employees learn about nutrition, ergonomics, financial wellness and more. We conclude the year by participating in a fundraiser walk/run associated with a wellness cause.
Sherri Lund, Director of Human Resources, Lendio
Last spring, Lendio dedicated an entire month to promoting healthy living among employees in our Utah and New York offices. We started a Slack channel for team members to weigh in on daily exercise and eating goals. Employees celebrated each others’ wins, shared tips and recipes and kept the momentum building all month. Additionally, we celebrated stair days—no elevators allowed—take 15 minutes and walk outside days, smoothie days, and fresh fruit Fridays. Lendio often implements month-long themes to help engage and motivate employees, and health month has been one of the most successful initiatives in the history of the company. Several months out, more employees are taking the stairs, more are using break time to take walks outside or do pushups together, and one has even lost over 30 pounds.
Lisa Fitch, Benefits Manager, Nextiva
As part of Nextiva’s wellness program, our employees have access to an on-site health coach, and they can meet with them on an individual or group basis for a wide variety of reasons. She creates exercise and nutrition plans, reviews health concerns such as high blood pressure and cholesterol and holds employees accountable to their health and fitness goals. I believe this offering is the foundation of the program’s success, because our health coach acts as a true partner in addition to serving as an employee resource. In helping our employees maintain healthy lives, our health coach is also supporting our overall benefits strategy. We’ve experienced many positive outcomes as a result of this professional relationship — namely, healthier employees who are more engaged with our organization. It’s been such a success, and we value this resource so much, that we are going to double the frequency of on-site visits for the coming year.
25. Offer Individualized Financial Education to Your Employees
Ashley Micciche, CEO, True North Retirement Advisors, LLC
I’m noticing that a big trend in employee wellness is a greater emphasis on holistic wellness, which now includes financial wellness. Studies show that employees who aren’t financially stressed are less distracted on the job, and have lower rates of illness, absenteeism, and turnover. One district advantage of a small business owner who offers a 401(k) plan compared to larger employers is that small plans are much better equipped to offer individualized financial education to their employees in a meaningful way. The 401(k) advisor is often the same person year after year, so employees build trust with that person and are likely to warm up over time.
A competent 401(k) advisor will be able to help employees tackle all of their competing financial priorities – saving for emergencies, budgeting, paying off student loan and credit card debt, and saving for retirement.
Over To You
Your employee’s health is crucial to a highly productive business. So invest on employee wellness program ideas like the ones in our list to make sure everyone is fit and able to complete everyday tasks.
Have more employee wellness programs you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.