employees running for wellness program

The beginning of the year, new month, or new season, brings a slew of resolutions. Many people want to focus on their health and well-being, whether it’s eating more balanced meals, exercising more often, practicing mindfulness, etc. Companies can do a lot to help their employees with this by implementing a wellness program.

It’s 2024, and if you still don’t have a robust wellness program, your company is behind the times—more than half of U.S. companies provide them for their employees, and they have surely seen the benefits a wellness programs offers to employees and the business as a whole.

The primary goal of a wellness program is for each employee to develop a healthier lifestyle. Healthier individuals have less prevalence of chronic disease and acute illnesses. Healthier employees have better work-life balance, are happier, more satisfied with their work and more productive.

Let’s take a look at some of the many benefits of implementing an employee wellness program for your business in 2024.

1. Wellness Programs Address Poor Health and Well-Being

There are many ways to implement a wellness program. Well-thought-out wellness activities can help prevent chronic diseases. As mentioned, healthy individuals are more productive and gain a more positive attitude toward their work and personal life.

How can you address poor health and well-being in your workplace? You can create programs that employees can follow individually or as a team. Here are some examples:

  • Create a meal plan to ensure healthy eating habits. Make sure to stock your pantry, vending machine or cafeteria with healthy food options.
  • Organize a Biggest Loser-type competition for teams. WellSteps offers the Healthy Weight for Life campaign where we encourage individuals to move their bodies and reach a healthy weight for their particular situation.
  • Schedule regular yoga or meditation activities to ensure healthier mindsets.
  • Encourage movement onsite. This could be providing walking trails, encouraging stair use, or even purchasing walking pads or treadmills for use.

2. Reduce Healthcare Costs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that workplace health programs have an impact on healthcare costs.

 “A workplace health program has the potential to both keep healthy employees in the “low-risk” category by promoting health maintenance, while also targeting those unhealthy employees in the higher-risk categories, therefore lowering overall health insurance costs.”-CDC

Smokers and those with chronic illnesses are more expensive to insure because of their risk factors. Well-designed wellness programs help address these target groups, and more!

When you have healthier employees, your insurance costs are lower. While one can argue that implementing a wellness program will also cost the company some money, consider it a critical investment for your long-term business success.

3. Wellness Programs Boost Employee Morale

Investing in your employees also boosts their morale. It demonstrates very clearly that you are prioritizing their health and well-being. They will feel safe and secure in the company, which improves their mood and spirit.

wellness programs boost moral

Wellness programs give employees the tools to handle stress and give them options to deal with when they feel stressed or overworked. This will help them feel better and think more highly about themselves and their place in the company. Good morale boosts productivity, which is why it is worth investing in.

4. Employee Wellness Programs Can Prevent Absenteeism

Employees are allowed a certain number of days to “miss work.” These days can be used to go on vacation, recover from an illness, or tend to other needs. When employees miss an excessive number of days of work it is called absenteeism. Absenteeism is more than just missing work; it is missing work a lot. Absenteeism can be due to a prolonged illness or simply because the employee doesn’t feel like working.

Absenteeism is bad for business as it is often unplanned. Unplanned absences lead to added workload and stress for others in the team. It can also mean tasks are not completed and even missed deadlines. Wellness programs help employees maintain good health to avoid absenteeism due to illness.

5. Employee Wellness Programs Also Reduce Presenteeism

Being physically present at work doesn’t always mean one is mentally there. Presenteeism is when an employee is in the office but is not fully functioning for various reasons. Presenteeism can be just as bad as absenteeism, sometimes even worse. After all, the employee is using company resources without the requisite acceptable output.

What causes presenteeism?

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Depression
  • Heavy workload
  • Avoiding using time off

Wellness programs can help employees become more focused, functional, and entirely present when they’re at work. They can help employees manage stress and become healthier mentally.

For example, companies could encourage employees to take wellness breaks to help them regroup after a busy period during the day to decompress, strategize and think better.

group at outdoor meeting for wellness program

6. Reduce Workplace Stress

Eight in 10 Americans experience stress, according to a recent Gallup survey. Companies and managers must be very mindful of their employees’ workload and help them manage their responsibilities effectively.

Wellness programs centered on improving mental health, managing time and balancing responsibilities can help prevent depression. Stress management techniques, spearheaded by companies, lead to healthier employees who are fully present, perform to the best of their abilities, and take fewer sick days. 

While stress will never be completely eliminated, a wellness program can greatly reduce the prevalence and impact of stress in the day to day lives of employees.

7. Employee Wellness Lead to Increased Productivity

When company-mandated wellness programs include effective stress management practices, employees are empowered to care for themselves and their teams. Employees at the peak of health can deliver better output in terms of quantity and quality. They are also more inspired to work because they feel happy and engaged in the workplace.

Better habits and improved mindfulness will also permeate their personal lives, leading to healthier and happier families. A happy household has more productive family members eager to do their best for companies that care so much about them.

8. Encourage Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance has been proven to benefit a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Implementing a wellness program isn’t just about improving one part of your employees’ lives. It must be a holistic plan designed to improve their physical, mental, emotional, and even social well-being.

A good example of this is inviting a lecturer to teach employees effective techniques to manage their emotions and communicate effectively. You can also schedule wellness activities focused on improving their mental health. Wellness apps and wearables can help with fitness activities.

Offering options for your employees clearly demonstrates that your wellness program has been well-thought-out and has carefully considered their varying needs and abilities.

9. Wellness Programs Encourage Lifestyle Choices

Wellness programs encourage healthier habits. A habit is simply an action that is practiced regularly. Healthy habits include things such as healthy eating, regular exercise habits, attendance of preventive screening appointments and balancing mental and emotional health.  

Habits are formed by choices. Individuals make thousands of choices every day. The key to an impactful wellness program and an overall culture of health at any workplace is to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

By providing opportunities to make a healthy choice or removing unhealthy choices individuals see (and feel) the impact of healthy lifestyle choices on their overall feeling.

Man running for wellness program participation

How do employers make the healthy choice the easy choice? Here are a few ideas:

  • Add healthy snacking options in vending machines (or remove all unhealthy options altogether)
  • Provide walking routes around the workplace with trail markers and distance markers
  • Encourage walking meetings when possible
  • Pause each workday every hour for a 3-5 minute screen break or stretch break
  • Provide healthy recipes in a company cookbook
  • Create a wellness wall of fame where employees can share their success
  • Provide standing desks or walking pads
  • Create Zen-corners where employees can go to “take a moment” or follow a guided meditation session

If employers provide the right environment full of opportunities to make a healthy choice, including providing a wellness program, employees will take advantage of those opportunities to live a healthier lifestyle.

10. Reduce Turnover

Around 87% of employees prefer to work for companies with robust wellness programs. This is because they know their employers care about their continued well-being and are willing to invest in them. If employees get all these benefits from your company, why would they look elsewhere for work?

Wellness programs improve job satisfaction. At times, wellness programs are weighed heavier by the applicant when considering the position offered than the provided salary. After all, the benefits of wellness programs go beyond the financial—they are great for an employee’s long-term happiness and well-being, especially if they stay in the company for many years.

safety at work is part of employee wellness

11. Prevent Injuries

How can implementing a wellness program prevent injuries? It’s simple—the goal of wellness programs is to provide holistic benefits to employees. Part of this is providing employees with the knowledge and additional training needed to minimize and prevent workplace injuries.

Here’s how it can be done:

  • Providing resources and education on proper posture and lifting techniques
  • Allowing alternative office furniture and equipment
  • Encourage flexibility with onsite or pre-recorded Yoga classes, which can be vital in avoiding stress injuries in the workplace
  • Encourage people to rest in between work, as tiredness and fatigue could lead to injuries

12. Build a Sense of Community Through A Wellness Program

Wellness programs also foster camaraderie among colleagues and team members, as many wellness activities can be done as a group. Design challenges or competitions that teams can win by showing unity and teamwork. Collaboration will quickly come naturally to participants instead of being forced when they recognize the common goal of the team.

group celebrating together

No matter how you slice it, having a close team makes work more fun. The “same team” mindset will encourage camaraderie and will have a positive effect on requirements, duties and projects even outside the company wellness program.

13. Leverage Wellness Programs to Access Healthcare Resources

When implementing a wellness program, it is essential to partner with the right company. Ensure your vendor creates your wellness program so participants can easily access a wide range of healthcare resources.

Often times, employees may not realize, or have forgotten, the extent of resources they can benefit from that they may already have access to. Here are some examples:

Health Screenings

The company can organize regular health screenings so every employee is aware of their current status. If health issues are detected, they can be dealt with right away. If certain healthcare metrics are borderline, they can change their food and exercise habits to reduce risk factors.

Health Coaching

Wellness programs can also include health coaching for employees. Anyone can set a goal on their own, but when you consult and collaborate with a health coach, there is greater potential to succeed and become healthier.

Health coaches are allies that help people realize and reach their potential and goals.  Coaches provide insight, recommendations, and accountability while the ownership and autonomy lie with the individual. This partner-based approach leads individuals to feel empowered and encouraged to keep going and bask in their success. 

Health coaching can be provided to the full group or to those who are considered higher risk. And can be completed telephonically, via webinar meetings, or in person or even in groups.

Stress Management Lectures

Stress can be overwhelming and can affect even the healthiest people. Fortunately, some techniques will help you manage its effects. Experts can provide tips and best practices to manage employees’ stress in the workplace.

14. Cultivate Employee Engagement

Employee engagement strategies are more important than ever, to provide much-needed motivation, morale, and job satisfaction for a productive workforce.

Implementing a wellness program is an important element that will cultivate employee engagement. When employees know that their company cares for them and are encouraged to participate in wellness activities, they perform significantly better. They will have a sense of belonging and will want to take part in the wellness program as a recognized and valued benefit of employment.

15. Spur Cultural Change

Health is more than workouts and simply eating balanced meals. It is a state of being free from illness and injury. And in the long run, simple health isn’t enough—wellness is important, too.

Similarly, an effective company wellness program isn’t just about weight loss or salads in the cafeteria. It is meant to cultivate healthier habits in all employees in the long run. When you implement an effective wellness program, it will change your office culture for the better.

What does your company culture say about health? Does it prioritize and encourage healthy behaviors? Or ignore them?

16. Lower Healthcare Premiums With A Wellness Program

Healthy employees have lower insurance premiums, which benefit the employer, too. And because they are generally healthy, they typically don’t spend as much on medical treatments or procedures.

According to a study, for every $1 spent on a wellness program, medical costs fall by $3.27. Absenteeism costs also fall by $2.73.

Keys for successful wellness programs

Communication is critical to ensuring a company’s success in implementing a wellness program. First, you must communicate the importance of having one in the workplace. Many may not understand its purpose.

Second, the employees must communicate what they need (and want) from a program. Companies cannot implement a generalized list of tasks and expect it to work and have any kind of impact.

Third, it is crucial to conduct regular check-ins to ensure that the program parameters are working and goals are being met. The employees and the company itself should experience improvements in terms of health, lifestyle, and productivity.

Conclusion

Over 80% of employees in companies that implement a wellness program enjoy their workplaces and are happy to stay there. This is a very strong indication that wellness programs lead to healthy, content, and productive employees. And it is mutually beneficial—when employees are highly productive and effective, the company reaps long-term benefits and is more likely to succeed in the long run. Let us show you how, sign up for your demo today.

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.

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