Numerous factors impact employees’ social, mental, physical and financial wellbeing. Everything from workplace stressors and personal responsibilities to global concerns, such as rising costs, the looming recession and geopolitical turmoil, affect overall employee wellbeing.

While many employers see employee wellness as a personal issue, the fact that it has a direct impact on business outcomes makes it an issue employers must prioritise. Yes, employees must take personal responsibility for their own wellness, but employers can, and should, provide the tools their employees need to do so. Employee wellness programs and initiatives can provide these tools. 

This article takes a look at tips and best practices for building effective employee wellbeing programs.


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tips for building an employee wellness program

There are several factors you should consider when building an effective employee wellbeing program, including: 

build flexibility in the workplace

The ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance is critical to today’s workers. Our Employer Brand Research shows that workers around the globe consider work-life balance almost as important as wages and benefits. 

Some employers, especially those in white-collar industries, can help their employees maintain a healthy work-life balance by offering flexible work schedules, remote work options or even unlimited paid time off (PTO) solutions. 

For other employers, such as manufacturing and logistics, flexibility is not so easy. For these industries to operate smoothly, they require employees to work on-site and shifts to be filled. This doesn’t mean flexibility in these industries is impossible. Options, such as four-day workweeks, shift swapping and flexible start times can give employees the flexibility they desire without disrupting production. 

Paid time off is another benefit that can help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance. Of course, offering more PTO can also present problems for employers, especially those that depend on each shift being filled. Strategies, including cross-training and reskilling can help fill the void when workers take time off.

The goal of wellness program that promote healthy work-life balance is to provide employees with the time they need to take care of personal responsibilities, whether that’s attending school events and medical appointments or taking a well-deserved vacation. Keep this in mind when developing your programs.

create a supportive work culture

Creating an effective employee wellbeing program may require a complete shift in the traditional mindset, where employees are expected to take care of their wellbeing. Instead, employers must understand the role organisations play in making sure their workers have the tools they need to take care of their wellness. 

This means creating a workplace culture that prioritises wellness and encourages its workers to seek out support and services as needed. Components of a supportive work culture include:

  • Career development: At a time when workers have concerns about job security, offering career development opportunities is more important than ever. Consider implementing various training options, such as upskilling and reskilling opportunities, mentorships and apprenticeships, in-house training and tuition reimbursement. 
  • Open communication: Maintaining open communication with your workers cannot only build trust, it also can foster a supportive work culture. Consider conducting monthly meetings to discuss goals, successes and challenges and encourage workers to share honest feedback.
  • Inclusive culture: Building a workplace culture that prioritises diversity and promotes collaboration at all levels can create an environment where workers feel safe and valued. Consider investing in diversity training, inviting cultural speakers to the next monthly meeting or organising team-building events, such as friendly competitions, brainstorming sessions, or a workplace scavenger hunt. 
  • Strong leadership: Leaders should take the first move by using the services available. For instance, if the company decides to build an on-site gym for its employees, management can lead the way by using the gym too. 
  • Safe work environment: A supportive culture in the workplace is even more important when investing in mental wellness programs. It’s important for workers to feel safe to use these programs without the risk of ridicule or retribution. If your workers feel shamed for needing mental health support, they may never feel safe enough to use the programs you offer. 

Employee recognition: Considering the connection between employee wellbeing and recognition in the workplace, employers must take steps to coordinate these two programs. The good news is that when employee recognition and workplace wellness programs go hand-in-hand, it can help to reduce worker burnout, increase employee engagement and help your employees strengthen relationships in both their work and personal lives.


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develop a comprehensive employee wellness program

Wellness isn’t just about being physically active, eating the right foods and scheduling regular doctor appointments. It’s not even just about being happy all the time or having lots of friends. Rather, wellness encompasses the whole person. It’s about making sure your employees have the tools they need to promote their physical, mental, emotional, social and financial wellbeing. 

To ensure your employees are taking care of their overall wellbeing, it’s important to create wellness programs that go beyond the basics. For best outcomes, it’s important to create a comprehensive program that includes a variety of initiatives, such as:

physical wellbeing

Both blue-collar and white-collar jobs can impact employees’ physical wellbeing.

Blue-collar workers tend to work long hours, where they may be required to stand for long stretches at a time performing manual labour or repetitive tasks. This type of work can be incredibly taxing on the body and lead to a variety of health issues, including back issues, body aches, headaches, joint pain, depression and fatigue. 

On the other hand, white-collar workers tend to spend hours working at their desks, meeting with clients or attending meetings. This type of work may not be as physically demanding but can still wreak havoc on the body. In fact, inactivity for long stretches can lead to lower back pain, obesity and diabetes. Those workers who spend hours on their computer or mobile devices can also deal with headaches and eye strain. 

Both blue-collar and white-collar workers can benefit from workplace wellness programs, such as:

  • encouraging frequent breaks
  • offering nutritious meals and snack options
  • on-site fitness centre or gym membership
  • walking clubs
  • on-site health clinics

While blue-collar and white-collar workers both face potential health conditions due to the nature of their jobs, research shows that blue-collar workers are less likely to utilise employee wellness programs. It’s up to the leaders in the organisation to set the tone and encourage workers to make full use of these programs. 

mental wellbeing

According to the World Health Organisation, workers miss 12 billion collective days annually due to mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. This issue costs employers worldwide $1 trillion each year. 

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma when it comes to mental health, which prevents many workers from receiving the care they need to promote mental wellbeing. Not only can this lead to higher levels of absenteeism and impact productivity, but it can also create a toxic work environment. When employees fail to manage their mental health issues effectively, it can lead to high levels of anxiety, depression and in some cases aggression - which impacts all workers. 

Employers can go a long way in helping to break this stigma by providing mental health support and resources in the workplace. This might include telehealth counselling services, educational resources, stress management tools and on-site workshops. 

Manager training is also imperative. Helping your management team better understand mental health and how it might impact your employees can work to break down the stigma of mental illness. Trained managers can also be more empathetic about giving employees time off to seek mental health treatment or spot issues in the workplace before they lead to toxic behaviours.

job security

Employers can also take steps to remove some of the factors that can impact mental wellbeing. For example, job insecurity is a growing concern among today’s workers. During the pandemic, workers around the globe faced unprecedented layoffs, closures and reduced hours. While global unemployment rates continue to decline, workers still have concerns about losing their jobs. No doubt today’s economic climate contributes to these concerns.

According to our Employer Brand Research, workers rank long-term job security as the third most important driver when searching for jobs. Prioritising programs, such as career development, upskilling and reskilling, can help employees grow with the company by developing the skills needed for the future. 

healthy workplace environment 

According to a study carried out by Culture Shift, almost 50% of UK staff say toxic work environments impact their mental health. It’s true that toxic workplace environments can lead to stress, anxiety and depression among your workers. Additionally, our studies show that a pleasant workplace environment is so important to workers in Latin America, that it ranks as the second leading driver when looking for jobs, only behind salaries. 

financial stability

Due to rising costs and recession concerns, financial wellness is a major concern for today’s workers. Naturally, competitive wages can show employees you value their work and help them build financial stability. Our research shows that workers are also looking for financial support that goes above and beyond standard salaries, such as cost of living, childcare or commuting stipends. In addition to monetary support, employers can also offer financial wellness programs, such as budgeting tools, online resources and meetings with financial counsellors, who can discuss financial goals and retirement planning.


employee wellness program: best practices

Studies show that 80% of employers believe employee wellness is a top priority. However, 90% of employees claim that their work life has worsened during the same timeframe. The following set of best practices can prevent this type of discrepancy from damaging your employee wellness program.

evaluate the current state of your workers' wellbeing

Understanding the state of wellbeing within your market is an important step. It can help you identify potential issues and growing trends. But it’s equally important to understand the specific needs and concerns of your workers.

Before your organisation invests in wellness initiatives, it’s crucial to evaluate the state of wellbeing among your workers. Take the time to conduct surveys, one-on-one interviews and exit interviews to better understand the concerns impacting your workers. This type of evaluation can also help you gauge what types of wellness programs and initiatives are most needed. 

build an easy-to-use program

Studies show that 68% of employers admit to not making full use of the wellness programs and services their employers offer. Some claim that these offerings are too complex, time-consuming and cumbersome. This can be a real problem. The last thing you want to do is invest in corporate employee wellness programs that your workers don’t use. 

There are several things you can do to create a simple and easy-to-use wellness program, including:

  • Clear communication: when introducing new wellness perks and benefits clear communication is imperative. Your employees must fully understand the services available, their importance and how to access them. 
  • Consistency: offering programs and then failing to follow through or cancelling them with little or no notice could cause more damage than good. For instance, if you implement a new walking club at lunch but frequently cancel it due to other obligations, it could frustrate your employees. 
  • Digital tools: there are many digital tools available today, such as employee recognition and rewards platforms, to help your employees manage their wellness perks and benefits. This can give them access to the information they need at work or home. 

secure a leadership buy-in

As with all successful workplace strategies, it’s critical to secure buy-in from company stakeholders, including the C-suite and board members. Helping leaders understand the impact employee wellbeing can have on retention, productivity, workplace morale and profits can help secure support from these stakeholders. 

invest in management training

As mentioned above, wellness programs are not an HR initiative alone. Rather, it’s a company-wide program. To ensure your wellness program is implemented correctly, it’s important for leaders, including those working directly with your workers, to have a clear understanding of how the wellness programs and initiatives work. 

This often requires an investment in manager and supervisor training. Management at all levels within the company should understand all elements of the employee wellness program and the primary goals of this type of investment. This training can ensure your management team encourages your workers to utilise the services they need. 

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