Employees are what keep a company running, and without them, your business would crumble. For them to do their best work, they need to be both happy and healthy. Even if your employees love working for you, if they injure themselves or become ill due to stress, or poor mental or physical health, they won’t be able to continue working. Productivity will hit a standstill. This is where the benefits of employee wellness programs come in.
Corporate wellness programs are designed to keep your employees in good health throughout their time with you. Are you currently running a robust employee wellness program that your whole team is happy with? If you’re not convinced of the value, let’s dig into seven powerful benefits of employee wellness programs. We’ll also provide actionable tips for implementation that will help you and your employees get the most out of your wellness programs.
What are corporate wellness programs?
Corporate wellness programs, also known as employee wellness programs, are designed to facilitate a culture of health that aids employee morale, health and happiness. They are a set of activities and benefits a company offers to its team members to build healthy habits in and out of the workplace to optimize employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity.
Corporate wellness programs are an investment in your team—the lifeblood of any business. By promoting a company culture focused on the physical and mental health of team members, companies save money in the long run when it comes to medical costs by avoiding employee turnover and absenteeism due to burnout or illness.
The variety, expanse and expense of the program will vary depending on the size of the company and what they choose to support.
Benefits of employee wellness programs
Let’s go through the benefits of employee wellness programs to ensure your team isn’t missing out or falling behind other businesses. Below we’ll explore seven key advantages of investing in workplace wellness and employee health.
1. Prevents stress and burnout
First and foremost, employee wellness programs reduce stress. Stress has numerous negative impacts on health, and if left unchecked, it can lead to burnout. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress as a hazard of the workplace.
Chronic stress is associated with many health conditions, including headaches, depression, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Employees facing these health concerns won’t be able to perform at their best, and the progression of these health issues can result in more sick days or even extended sick leave, neither of which is good for business.
With wellness initiatives, you can encourage stress management through positive outlets before it’s too late. Check on employees during one-on-one meetings to gauge their stress levels. Catching signs of burnout early on gives you time to work with employees to determine their capacity and adjust their workload before it develops into a larger health concern.
Build this mindset into your company culture by not rewarding employees for overworking themselves. Instead, reward and praise those who strive for success while maintaining balance in their personal lives. Continue to emphasize the importance of work-life balance as well as the negative impact stress has on the body and mind.
💡 Your wellness program might mitigate workplace stress by offering team members mental health or balance days they can take in addition to regular vacation.
2. Promotes healthy habits
As a business, you can lead by example. By promoting healthy behaviors, you can instill the importance of health across your organization.
Good habits are often hard to start and even harder to keep. Having a wellness program can create structure around healthy habits, including healthy eating, hydration, exercise, sleep, and mindfulness. At a minimum, healthy habits should include choosing foods that fuel the body, consistently getting physical activity and practicing mindfulness activities.
When formed into a habit, healthy choices are switched to autopilot. The many healthy habits that make for a happy, healthy body and mind will become second nature, allowing your employees to maintain their health while also having more energy and focus for their work.
💡 Help your team build and practice healthy habits by always having healthy snacks around the workplace, such as fruits and nuts (if there aren’t any allergies). Consider catering a healthy lunch, such as salads and grain bowls, occasionally to ensure your team is getting the nutrition their bodies need.
3. Improves employee retention
Offering workplace wellness programs that are effective and well-received by your team is one more workplace perk and reason for your team members to continue working at your company.
Salary alone is not enough to entice and retain top talent. People become loyal to your business when they believe in and identify with your company culture.
Build wellness into all aspects of your company culture and live those values every day. Don’t only tell your team you care about employee well-being; illustrate this with actions, too.
💡 Ask for feedback from your team along the way to ensure you’re building a wellness program people appreciate and make use of. What do they like, what would they change, and what ideas do they have for new wellness activities? Involving the team in the development of your wellness program will make them feel included and valued – another reason to stay where they are rather than look for employment elsewhere.
4. Increases employee productivity
An effective wellness program will improve employee productivity, as healthy employees are more focused, energetic and clear-headed. When employees feel good, they’re able to make better decisions and are less likely to be moody or resort to conflict when misunderstandings arise.
Essentially, an employee can’t perform at their best if they are dealing with a health issue, whether it’s a physical ailment or a mental health concern.
When employees aren’t bogged down with stress and they have outlets to recharge, they’re able to focus and get more done in less time, leading to increased productivity and work-life balance.
It’s all connected. When employees are healthy, they’re more productive, which creates more time to dedicate to wellness and balance, leading to better work outcomes.
Ensure employees feel like they have the space and freedom to prioritize their own health and lives outside of the workplace. Do your team members feel like they can easily take vacation days, or has a culture of not taking time off developed over the years?
💡 When properly executed, mandatory vacation policies can ensure every team member takes time off to recharge.
5. Mitigates employee health risks
Health and safety issues cost businesses billions every year. And no, this is not a euphemism. For example, the total cost of work injuries in 2021 was $167 billion. You don’t have to be an HR professional to know that’s one huge chunk of change. What’s more, it’s a cost that can be avoided through preventive measures.
The exorbitant medical costs of employee illness and injury pose a clear and present danger to your business’s bottom line. Lowering employee health risks by creating and maintaining employee wellness programs means you will face fewer of these costs. Ensuring your employees aren’t overworking themselves or becoming too stressed costs a lot less than workplace injuries, an extended leave of absence or employee turnover.
💡 Give your employees incentive and motivation to mitigate stress, eat healthy food, exercise regularly and take breaks. Take time to educate your team, speaking with them about their capacity and current well-being in one-on-one meetings. Along with this education, ensure the time and resources are available to support what they need, including providing them with time to focus on their own wellness.
6. Reduces absenteeism
Wellness plans lead to healthy employees, which directly translates to fewer sick days. When an employee calls in sick, the rest of the team needs to work all the harder. Plus, there’s a chance more than a few team members will hit a roadblock if they were depending on the absent employee.
Lowered immune systems can lead to more illness in the workplace, as one employee passes on their cold or flu to the next. And it’s not just illnesses that are contagious; apathy, low energy, and poor mental health can spread through the workplace, killing motivation and productivity.
Taking care of your team’s physical, emotional and mental health will lead to less sick time and days out of the office, which is a benefit to everyone.
💡 Make workplace health more fun by incorporating games and challenges that encourage people to participate, (lightly) compete and work together around common health goals. A challenge to take the stairs instead of the elevator can encourage your team to improve their physical health with small habit changes.
7. Helps reduce employer healthcare costs
Preventive health care and wellness is far less expensive and risky than reacting after a concern develops. Taking care of your body and mind now prevents larger health concerns from arising in the future.
Larger health issues cost everyone more, as the employee may not be able to work, causing work disturbances in addition to the cost of treating and managing the health concern – if it even is treatable by the time it’s caught.
For example, diabetes costs U.S. employers approximately $245 billion a year. For reference, that’s more than double what the entire American automotive industry is worth. Employers spend about $175 billion on direct medical and pharmacy costs for diabetic employees. They spend another $70 billion on indirect costs like reduced productivity and employee absenteeism.
Through wellness programs, education and health care, larger health concerns, like diabetes, are preventable and treatable before they reach a later, more dangerous stage.
When employees are healthy, they’re less likely to need larger treatments or time off for sick days and doctor visits. With fewer claims, employers can reap the cost-savings from their employee’s healthy habits.
💡 Providing health insurance for your team will help ensure they’re taking care of their health on an ongoing basis instead of avoiding doctor visits due to healthcare costs. As health concerns progress, they get more difficult to treat and can become chronic issues or, in severe cases, lead to disability or death. For best results, your health coverage should also include yearly health screenings.
Although there are plenty of benefits to running workplace wellness programs, these benefits only come if properly executed. Simply preaching to your team members that health and wellness are important, even if you’re providing educational resources, isn’t enough.
Additionally, if your team isn’t happy with your program or if members aren’t engaged enough to participate, your program loses its value and becomes an unnecessary expense. Some employees may choose not to join at all, and that’s OK. It can’t be something that’s forced onto a team. Continue to collect feedback and refine your program to appeal to more people.
Depending on the size and depth of your wellness program, it can become costly to implement and maintain. It is critical that you calculate all expenses and remember that these programs are an investment in your team. You may not see results from the program immediately.
Key takeaways and implementation
The bottom line is healthy employees are better employees. Without their health, they can’t perform at their best, and in the long run, they won’t feel satisfied with their work. In serious cases, if either the physical or mental health of an employee continues to decline, it can lead to increased sick days, long-term leave or workplace injuries.
Above direct physical and mental health, wellness programs help your team feel valued. You aren’t just saying you care about your employees – you’re putting your money where your mouth is. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they’re more likely to show up every day fully invested in their work. You’ll reduce the likelihood of quiet quitting because your team is committed both to the business and to one another.
Employee wellness programs are incredibly powerful when they’re executed with patience and care. As an HR leader, be sure to guide your team with a program that covers the needs of all team members. Don’t allow your program to be a set-it-and-forget-it process. Continue to evolve and adapt to the needs of your team by asking questions and gathering feedback.