What is Employee Wellness and Health?
With so much stress in our lives, day-to-day living can feel overwhelming — and it only became worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. 53% of people surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation said they experienced depression or anxiety because of the pandemic. In another study, a Limeade survey revealed that 72% of employees report experiencing pandemic-related burnout. Thankfully, many companies are finding creative ways to help their team members cope with employee wellness programs aimed at promoting healthy behavior and outcomes. These workplace wellness programs span a wide range of options, from gym memberships to nutritional counseling and more. While there is no standard wellness program, the most popular programs often focus on physical and mental health.
Here is a look at wellness programs and the impact they have on employee health and workplace culture.
The Design of Employee Wellness Programs
75% of business owners say they offer workplace wellness services to their employees, SHRM reports. The design of employee wellness programs can include three levels of interventions: primary, secondary, and tertiary. A comprehensive program will address both wellness and health.
Wellness programs that address the primary causes of stress focus on re-designing the work environment. Examples include ergonomic office spaces, nap-friendly break rooms, and healthy snack machine options.
Wellness programs that attack stress on the secondary level are designed to help employees evaluate their personal health. Examples include offering an annual health assessment, yoga classes, and behavioral therapies.
Tertiary wellness programs address the actual illnesses manifesting from stress. These programs may include a wide range of activities such as rehabilitation programs, diabetes management, smoking cessation classes, and exercise programs.
A recent trend in wellness programs has involved the use of mobile applications. Wellness apps can help individuals monitor their daily step goals, access fitness classes, or encourage everyday mindfulness.
Benefits of a Workplace Wellness Program
Companies report several benefits associated with wellness programs, from increased productivity to financial growth and stability. Nearly 62% of companies said employee wellness programs also lowered their health costs. Snack Nation estimated that for every dollar invested in health intervention, employees could save between $1.40 and $4.60 in medical costs and productivity losses. In turn, employers can achieve an annual savings of $350 per employee by boosting productivity.
Companies that offer wellness programs for their employees were also 40% more likely to report better financial performance, as healthier employees are more productive, take fewer sick days, and demonstrate higher engagement at work.
Wellness initiatives can increase employees’ connection with their company’s mission and goals. That connection also fosters a sense of loyalty and leads to higher retention rates.
Employees themselves are more likely to seek companies that offer wellness and health benefits. Nine in 10 workers reported that they feel more motivated in their jobs if their employers offer wellness initiatives. The same workers also suggest that they feel more adaptable and better able to deal with changes in the workplace. 61% of employees with access to a wellness program said they were more satisfied with their jobs, according to SHRM.
Tips for Transforming Workplace Culture
Employers can take several steps to improve wellness and transform their workplace culture immediately. Wellness experts suggest that companies start small and encourage employees by celebrating success. Employers can also foster an environment that promotes random acts of kindness and develops gratitude. These steps may sound simple, but they lay a foundation for more robust wellness initiatives that focus on healthy physical and mental habits.
Companies can also host wellness fairs and other events that focus on building healthy habits. In addition to encouraging healthy habits, companies need to make the work environment more inclusive by promoting diversity and providing opportunities for career development.
Additional benefits around financial wellness can also contribute to supporting employees in their personal lives. For example, on-demand pay — also known as early wage access — allows employees to get wages they have already earned before the typical two-week waiting period. This popular benefit helps reduce employee stress by enabling them to pay bills on time and handle financial emergencies more effectively.
Employee wellness is an important part of creating a healthy corporate culture. When wellness programs are managed correctly, employee satisfaction improves, and team members are happier to show up and work every day, which leads to increased productivity and a working environment where everyone feels valued and appreciated.