Companies today face a crisis of work-related stress that drains productivity and fuels turnover.
Enter workplace wellness programs. These initiatives offer a solution that benefits both workers and the bottom line. They can build healthier cultures where engaged teams sustain innovation. From lowering healthcare costs to enhancing your employer brand, having a wellness program in your benefits package can pay off in spades.
Let’s explore how prioritizing holistic employee wellbeing powers performance across a wide range of bottom-line KPIs!
What Are Employee Wellness Programs?
An employee wellness program is an initiative businesses offer as a part of their benefits package to support the health of employees. A robust program supports the whole person, addressing both the emotional and physical aspects of wellbeing. Modern wellness programs go beyond an onsite gym — they provide resources like apps subscriptions and on-demand virtual classes that allow a diverse and distributed workforce to personalize the program to their individual needs.
There are different types of wellness programs, like a point-based wellness program or a holistic wellness program, each with its own advantages that can be tailored to your organization. Whatever type of program you decide to go with, the goal typically is to improve employee engagement, performance and retention by first improving employee wellbeing.
11 Benefits of an Employee Wellness Program
Did you know that 93% of workers consider their wellbeing at work to be as important as their salary? Given that wellness is critical to today’s workforce, companies can derive a wide variety of benefits from supporting workforce wellness.
Here are some of the core perks that both organizations and employees alike can enjoy from improved wellbeing.
1) Cultivates a Culture of Wellbeing
Offering and actively encouraging the use of a wellbeing program can improve the culture of your organization. In a wellbeing culture, employees are more likely to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors like taking a walk in between meetings or meditating after work.
Not only does this benefit them personally, but it can also lead to higher group morale and improved productivity. This cultivated culture of care can improve employee engagement and satisfaction, boosting business outcomes.
2) Reduces Healthcare Costs
Healthcare costs are growing, fast. Premiums in 2023 year reached an average of about $8,435 for a single employee, up from $7,739 in 2021. In that same time, a family plan jumped from $22,221 a year to nearly $24,000. With medical inflation over 8%, companies are bracing for the largest increase in healthcare costs in a decade this year.
A wellbeing program can be an extremely effective way to reduce your healthcare spending. When people take better care of their nutrition, activity levels, sleep quality, and mental wellness, they are less likely to need medical services. Gympass clients, for example, have seen a reduction in employee healthcare costs by up to 35% in a single year.
3) Reduces Absenteeism
Absenteeism — unscheduled and often frequent absences from work — can be a sign that your employees are overwhelmed and struggling with burnout. Not only is this frustrating, it costs companies thousands of dollars a year per employee.
Employee wellness programs are a preventative measure you can take to protect employees from this issue. A wellness program can help prevent actual fatigue from being overworked and ultimately reduce unscheduled days off. Companies with effective wellness initiatives are 10 times more likely to have lower absenteeism rates than organizations without a good wellness program.
4) Increases Productivity
Personal and family health problems cause annual productivity losses of $1,685 per employee per year, totalling $225.8 billion in missed output annually, according to the CDC. Fortunately, physical wellbeing programs can combat these losses. Nine out of 10 workers say how they feel physically shapes their work productivity, making a wellness program an effective way to boost output.
5) Improves Employee Engagement
If you want your employees to care about their work, you can use a wellness program to boost employee engagement! This creates more meaningful connections between colleagues and a sense of community and even increases someone’s satisfaction with their life at work and home. It is one of those major win-win-win situations: your employees feel healthier and happier within their environment (win), take more interest in their work (win), and ultimately contribute more to their team and company (win).
6) Reduces Stress
In the U.S., it’s estimated that over half of the 550 million absenteeism days are stress-related. That’s a lot of missing output! Wellbeing programs can help reduce stress by increasing physical activity through gym subscriptions, or fostering mindfulness with meditations apps. Especially when combined with a culture of wellbeing, this can significantly reduce burnout at an organization, boosting employee tenure and productivity.
7) Improves Morale
Wellness programs bring employees and teams together, especially when social activities are incorporated into the program. They can also make everyone feel more appreciated and valued, which will make employees more enthusiastic about their job and ultimately happier.
Wellness initiatives that support positive team relationships can have a significant impact on the company culture. So much so, in fact, that 98% of employees report that their belonging at work is important to their overall wellbeing.
8) Helps Employee Retention
Top performers stay where they feel like their best selves — this includes their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. And they aren’t alone: A whopping 87% of workers say they would consider leaving a company that does not focus on employee wellbeing. A wellbeing program is a concrete way that you can show your employees that you care about workforce wellness. Companies who offer Gympass, for example, have seen retention improve among active users by up to 40%.
9) Boosts Recruitment Efforts
A wellness program can be a powerful talent attraction tool for employers. In a competitive job market, candidates actively seek out companies that prioritize wellbeing: Three out of five job seekers say it’simportant that a prospective employer offer a wellness program.
This makes an investment into employee wellbeing a smart talent acquisition strategy. Companies can highlight wellness initiatives like gym access, nutrition resources, and mental health support in their employer branding. This shows potential hires you're an employer who cares about the whole person.
10) Enhances Company Reputation
Companies recognized for their wellness programs and healthy workplace cultures benefit may experience a reputation boost. Organizations with leading wellness programs often get positive media coverage and are regarded as top places to work.
This brand halo effect can provide a competitive edge in your industry. It also helps further recruiting and retention goals. Given that consumers today care deeply about corporate responsibility, a wellness focus can elevate your brand image with your customers as well.
11) Fuels Innovation
The best ideas often come when the mind is calm and energized by physical movement. A wellness program that promotes work-life wellness — such as reducing stress through exercise or meditation for example — enables the mental space for innovation. Studies have, for example, linked relaxation practices like yoga with boosted cognition. And, regular exercise helps rewire the brain and sparks new neural pathways. So, by supporting employee wellness, you are funding the ideas that will fuel your company's future.
Who Owns Employee Wellness?
The HR department often spearheads wellness programs within organizations. This is because they understand the link between a healthy workforce and overall organizational success.
The responsibility of HR often extends beyond traditional administrative tasks to encompass the holistic welfare of employees. For example, HR teams are typically adept at assessing the specific needs of their workforce through employee surveys and feedback sessions. These insights allow them to tailor wellness programs that address both physical and mental wellness concerns. HR can collaborate with external health experts and wellness vendors to design initiatives that promote a balanced lifestyle, including fitness classes and nutritional guidance.
Another way that HR teams take charge of wellness programs is by fostering a culture of wellbeing. This includes things like encouraging breaks and organizing team-building activities. All of these efforts come together to help create an environment that values employee health. You can use different communication channels to raise awareness about available wellness programs and provide resources so that employees can stay informed.
However, it is important to note that a culture of wellness often requires the commitment of all levels of company leadership. HR teams can kickstart the initiatives, but all leaders can work together to actively support and participate in the program. This can send a powerful message to the rest of the organization that highlights the importance of health for employee welfare.
Best Practices to Engage Employees in Wellness Programs
Implementing a successful wellness program requires a strategic, employee-centered approach. Your organization can support engagement with wellness programs by adhering to certain best practices that consider the unique preferences of the workforce. From employee education to continuous improvement, the following guidelines provide a roadmap for HR departments to create and sustain effective wellness initiatives.
Clear Communication and Education
Effective communication is a foundational component of a successful wellness program. You can begin by clearly stating the goals and benefits of your program to raise awareness among employees about your robust support. Regularly updating employees on achievements through the program and upcoming events can maintain interest and participation.
Incentives and Recognition
Implementing a system of rewards and recognizing top participants can motivate employees to actively engage in your program. It’s important to celebrate both individual and team achievements, whether that’s reaching fitness milestones or participating in wellness challenges. Tangible rewards, such as gift cards or additional time off, can further incentivize employees to commit to the program.
Evaluation and Continuous Improvement
Regularly assessing the effectiveness of the program your organization implements can help you resolve any issues at the beginning. There are several options for evaluation, including feedback sessions and health metrics. You can use this data to identify successful components and areas for improvement. Adopting this continuous improvement mindset can allow your HR team to adapt the program to fit the needs of the employees. You can also solicit feedback from participants and make adjustments along the way to improve the overall experience.
Jump-Start Your Employee Wellness Program
A wellness program can change the entire atmosphere at your workplace as you work out your benefits strategy. With the right resources in place and the right attitude in leadership, your co-workers and employees can feel more supported, inspired and healthy than ever before.
Need to up the ante of your wellness program? Gympass provides employees access to thousands of gyms and dozens wellness apps that let them take control of their health.
Talk to a wellbeing specialist today to learn more about how Gympass can be the ultimate benefit of your wellness program!
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The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.
Our weekly newsletter is your source of education and inspiration to help you create a corporate wellness program that actually matters.
Our weekly newsletter is your source of education and inspiration to help you create a corporate wellness program that actually matters.