The Harvard Business Review defines an employee wellness program as an employer-sponsored program organized to assist employees in adopting and managing healthier behaviors to improve their quality of life and their organization’s bottom line.

The Costs and Advantages of an Employee Wellness Program

Employee wellness programs are becoming more popular amongst companies in virtually every industry. Employers are starting to recognize the advantages of helping employees maintain healthier lifestyles, both in and out of the workplace. 

What Should an Employee Wellness Program Include?

There are several types of employee wellness programs you could initiate into your organization. Here are some ideas of what you could have in an employee wellness program:

  • Post safety signs throughout the premises to reduce the number of workplace accidents.
  • Offer healthy food choices in the workplace cafeteria and vending machines.
  • Provide exercise breaks for employees throughout the workday. For example, you could allow employees to take walks or perform standing exercises at their desks to get their blood circulating.
  • Provide health incentives outside the workplace, such as gym membership discounts and health food store coupons.
  • Put green plants around the workplace to produce fresh air and natural décor.
  • Host a monthly or annual meeting where you give health and wellness tips to employees and provide them with unique opportunities to get healthier.
  • Hire corporate wellness consultants to advise management and employees on how to create a healthier organization.
  • Install ergonomic furniture and equipment to make employees more comfortable and less strained physically. 
  • Introduce retirement programs and financial planning consultations to employees.
  • Allow pets to be brought to the office if the workplace environment is safe enough for them and they won’t disturb other workers.

Feel free to combine as many of these ideas as you want into a unique employee wellness program. Since every organization has a different work environment, the needs of their employees are also different. Therefore, consider the needs of your workers as you create the perfect wellness program for them.

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What are the Costs of Employee Wellness Programs?

The costs of creating and maintaining an employee wellness program will vary for every company. It all depends on what kind of incentives and opportunities you want to offer your employees.

Let’s take a look at the costs associated with the most common incentives and opportunities for employee wellness in the workplace:

1. Biometric Screening

Biometric screening measures specific warning signals in the body that indicate potential health risks for the individual. These biometric measures include:

  • Blood Pressure
  • Stress
  • Tobacco Usage
  • Cancer Screening
  • Body Fat (BMI)
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood Glucose

A company would be wise to provide on-site biometric screening to its employees to determine who requires the greatest health incentives and assistance. The average cost of on-site screenings is about $45 to $70 per employee.

biometrics for employee wellness

On-site biometric screening is significantly cheaper than requiring employees to visit a physician’s office at around $100 to $200 each.   

2. Health Coaching Companies

If your company has the extra money to spend on a top-level wellness program, you could obtain the services of a health coaching company for assistance. Approximately six health coaching sessions cost between $140 and $165 on average.  

A health coach meets with employees and advises them on the specific changes they need to make in their lives to be healthier. They will focus on key health issues like:

  • Eating Habits / Nutrition
  • Smoking
  • Weight / Obesity
  • Illnesses / Diseases

It is best to make it optional for employees to visit with a health coach because some employees may feel satisfied with their current health. In addition, it will save you money because you’ll only have to pay for the coaching sessions with employees who need them the most.

3. Gym Membership Discounts

Encourage your employees to maintain their physical health by offering gym membership discounts. For instance, your company could partner up with a local gym and make a deal where your employees could get a reduced price on their monthly memberships for the first month or year.

Gym membership discounts might not cost your company any money if the gym owner agrees to give a discount in exchange for you referring your employees. But if the gym owner wants your company to cover the costs of the discount, you can expect the expense to be anywhere from $10 to $50 monthly per employee.

RELATED: 13 Corporate Fitness Programs That Lead the Pack 

4. Gifts and Prizes

Any fun wellness program may include a raffle or gift rewards for employees. For example, you could give a $20 gift card to a health food store or supplement shop to 10 or 20 lucky employees each month. The idea is to give away gifts that can incentivize your employees to improve their health.

gifts and prizes for employee participation

Here are some popular gift ideas for employee wellness programs:

  • Gift cards
  • Athletic wear (e.g., T-shirts, shorts)
  • Paid exercise time at work
  • Health supplements
  • Fruit baskets
  • Water bottles
  • Squeeze balls

You can set your own budget for the gifts and prizes. Perhaps you can only spend a few dollars on water bottles for each employee. But if you have a bigger budget, you may want to buy some pricier gift cards for some or all of your employees.

5. Benefits-based Incentives

Benefits-based incentives are generous employee benefits that could come in many different forms. Here are some examples of those benefits:

  • Discounts on Health Insurance Premiums
  • Contributions to a Health Savings Account
  • Contributions to an Investment Savings Account
  • Paid Vacation Days and Sick Days
  • Lower Insurance Deductible or Co-Pay

Benefits-based incentives are the most expensive costs associated with an employee wellness program if you choose to include them. The precise cost depends on which incentives you add to the program.  

The average cost of benefits-based incentives is $200 to $800 annually per employee. We recommend you start with one incentive and gradually grow your wellness program to include more incentives as your budget grows.  

RELATED: How Much Does an Employee Wellness Program Cost?

What are the Advantages of Employee Wellness Programs?

You’re probably thinking, “Are the costs of an employee wellness program worth the rewards?” In most cases, the answer would be a definite “yes.” All you need is an organized strategy for implementing the program into action.

advantages about employee wellbeing programs

Here are the advantages of investing time and money in an employee wellness program:

1. Low Turnover Rate

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a 2021 report which showed an increasing number of employees had left their jobs voluntarily over the past year. As a result, the number of job openings has increased.   

Here are the setbacks of a high turnover rate:

  • Reduces morale
  • Decreases productivity
  • Ruins company brand image
  • Increases workload
  • Costly to the company

A wellness program is a sure way to retain valuable employees and prevent them from applying for jobs at any of the competing companies. Furthermore, it encourages qualified job applicants to apply for open positions at your company and benefit from their skills and talents.

Here are the potential savings of maintaining a low turnover rate:

  • $1,500 per hourly employee
  • Between 100% and 150% of the salaries for technical positions
  • Around 210% of the salaries for executive positions

Your company has the potential to save tens of thousands of dollars for each high-level employee retained. That should definitely offset the cost of maintaining an employee wellness program.  

RELATED: Proof Wellness Programs in the Workplace Save Money

2. Boosts Employee Morale

The Gallup Organization had estimated that approximately 22 million employees with low morale cost American companies up to $350 billion per year. The related expenses include employee absenteeism, sickness, turnover, and low productivity.

Here are some signs of low employee morale:

  • Low enthusiasm
  • Low productivity
  • Increased absences
  • Poorly done work
  • More mistakes on the job
  • Customer complaints

Employees need to feel good about themselves and their jobs if you want them to become more productive and motivated.

boosting employee morale

A wellness program helps increase employee morale and makes employees want to come to work and do a good job. The result will be:

  • High enthusiasm
  • High productivity
  • Fewer absences
  • Good quality work done
  • Fewer mistakes on the job
  • Little to no customer complaints

Find out what your employees dislike about your company and their jobs. Then do whatever you can to address those issues in your wellness program. If morale and productivity increase drastically, your company could save thousands of dollars per month.

RELATED: 9 Workplace Well-Being Activities to Skyrocket Employee Productivity

3. Reduces Healthcare Costs

The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a 2020 survey on how much money employers pay for their employees’ health insurance expenses. They found out the following:

  • Employers pay approximately 83% of each employee’s health insurance premium for single coverage (6,200 annually)
  • Employers pay approximately 73% of each employee’s health insurance premium for family coverage ($15,579 annually)
  • 27% of small business employees don’t have to pay any percentage of their premiums, versus only 4% of employees in larger companies.

In a Harvard University research study published in February 2010, researchers discovered that wellness programs provided companies with a $3.27 return on every $1.00 invested. But, of course, it all depends on the program’s effectiveness for your employees.

Just think about how much you could save on your employees’ healthcare premium costs if you invested in a wellness program.

Just think about how much you could save on your employees’ healthcare premium costs if you invested in a wellness program. In addition to decreasing the monthly premium costs, fewer insurance claims would likely get filed too. It is a win-win for you and your employees. 

RELATED: This Is the Impact of Employee Wellness Programs on Health Care Costs

4. Reduces Absenteeism

Absenteeism is when an employee has a habit of not coming to work. The common reasons for absenteeism include:

  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Illness / Sickness
  • Unenthusiastic / Lack of Motivation
  • Depression
  • Resentment and Anger Toward the Company
  • Injury or Physical Disability

Some employers assume absent employees are just being lazy and don’t want to come to work. However, the truth is that absenteeism has more to do with employees’ physical and mental health. If you can acknowledge that as an employer, you can do something about it.

Harvard University researchers discovered that employers save $2.73 for every dollar they spend on an employee wellness program. You could literally triple your cost savings by reducing absenteeism and healthcare premiums.

5. Better Customer Service

It is easy to think about how much employers and employees will become happier from implementing wellness programs in the workplace. But what you should also consider is how much happier it will make your customers or clients as well.

customer service increases with wellness

Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report revealed the following statistics about customer service:

  • 54% of global consumers claim they have higher customer service expectations than during the previous year.
  • 52% of people worldwide want companies to take better action in response to customer feedback.
  • 72% of consumers expect customer service agents on the phone to know who they are and have previous insights into their past communications with the company.
  • 67% of people worldwide claim to see improvements in customer service.

Providing high-quality customer service is critically important for any business. You need to treat your customers with dignity, honesty, and respect if you wish to form a long-term business relationship with them.

You need to treat your customers with dignity, honesty, and respect if you wish to form a long-term business relationship with them.

An employee wellness program is the most critical element of boosting the quality of your company’s customer service. If your employees are happier and healthier, they will have an easier time communicating with customers professionally and positively.

As a result, your company can enjoy more sales and profits from customers who’ll want to give you repeat business.

RELATED: The Top 7 Reasons to Have a Wellness Program


The most challenging thing about an employee wellness program is convincing your long-time employees to participate in it. Even though they may want to be healthier, it can be difficult for existing employees to break their unhealthy habits and undertake a new wellness routine.

A professional WellSteps wellness consultant can assist with this dilemma. Schedule a free demo with our wellness consultation team and learn how our wellness program solutions can get successfully implemented into your company.

customizable programs for companies

Common Questions About Employee Wellness Programs

What are some of the most popular activities implemented into an employee wellness program?

Employers must create a wellness program that specifically addresses the common health issues of their employees. Some popular examples of employee wellness activities include:

  • Stress Management Programs
  • Smoking Cessation Programs
  • Weight Loss Competitions
  • Exercise Incentives and Opportunities
  • Wellness Assessments
  • Vocational Training
  • Financial Coaching

Your wellness consultant will recommend which activities are best for your organization after performing a complete assessment of your employees’ health and wellness needs.

RELATED: 5 Ways a Corporate Wellness Consultant Helps Programs

How long will it take for my company to start benefiting from an employee wellness program?

It is impossible to predict how long it would take to benefit from an employee wellness program because every company is different. But if your employees are eager to participate in the wellness program, you will notice the benefits quickly.

The best thing to do is to have patience and focus on creating a quality wellness program. If you do that, the benefits will come sooner than you think.

About The Author

Dr. Steve Aldana

Dr. Aldana is the CEO of Wellsteps, a worksite wellness solution that leads the nation in wellness program deployment and engagement. Dr. Aldana authored over 75 scientific papers and 7 books on health risk management, healthy living, and health promotion programs. He has given over 350 keynote speeches across the U.S. on the ability of good nutrition and regular exercise to prevent, arrest, and reverse many chronic diseases.