The stress of the pandemic resulted in a major shift in what matters to employees. As a result, work-life balance, as well as mental and physical health, have come to the forefront. The pandemic also accelerated popular trends like interest in flexible work and financial well-being. Those factors, combined with a tight labor market, have resulted in employees who are better positioned to dictate what they want. While high salaries are still desirable, HR professionals are aware that their organizations can’t compete on compensation alone. One way to set themselves apart is through wellness programs designed to improve employees’ health and well-being.
Successful wellness programs are a win-win for both parties. For the employer, they increase retention, productivity and employee satisfaction. A recent MetLife study showed that holistically healthy employees are:
- 51% more likely to stay for at least a year
- 53% more likely to be productive, and
- 74% more likely to be satisfied.
These programs also benefit employees by lowering stress, improving health and increasing morale. Here are several programs and how HR can implement them in their organization.
Physical wellness programs
Designing and managing physical wellness programs is important in improving the health and productivity of employees. In addition, they help to reduce injuries, absenteeism and healthcare costs, while improving employee morale, loyalty and engagement.
- On-site fitness centers: Rather than giving everyone a gym membership, invest in an on-site fitness center. That’s one way to encourage employees to return to the office while improving their health simultaneously. It also allows your team to work out during lunch or whenever they can fit it into their workday.
- Walking meetings: According to the Mayo Clinic, research has linked sitting for long periods with health concerns, including obesity and high blood pressure. To counter that, encourage walking meetings. For remote employees, you can even host virtual walking meetings over Slack or FaceTime.
- Fitness challenges: A fun fitness challenge can have the combined benefits of improving your team’s health and building camaraderie. One example is rewarding your employees for signing up with Charity Miles – the app that lets you turn a walk or jog into a fundraiser. Every step is a donation to a favorite charity.
- Ergonomic assessments: Poor ergonomic work practices can result in disorders like low back injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. Providing ergonomic evaluations and online self-assessment tools can help prevent them. In addition, resources and equipment, like standing desks and ergonomic keyboards, ensure a safe and productive work environment.
- Health screening events: Hosting regular health screening activities is another way to boost the physical well-being of your workforce. These events can screen for cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Following the testing, participants can meet with a nurse practitioner who provides referrals and advice on follow-up care.
Mental and emotional wellness programs
With stress and burnout skyrocketing, mental health is at the top of every HR professional’s priority list. In a recent Calm Business Workplace Mental Health Trends Report, 42% of respondents said work challenges are the main reasons they seek mental health support with 67% saying employers should help their employees take care of their stress and anxiety.
- Mindfulness and meditation sessions: Encourage employees to schedule short breaks throughout the day. During those sessions, your team can practice relaxation exercises or deep breathing techniques using wellness apps like Calm or Headspace. You can even bring in a yoga instructor to combine mindfulness and physical activity into one group session.
- Flexible work schedules: Flexible work options increase job satisfaction and lower burnout, according to research conducted by the University of Minnesota and the MIT Sloan School of Management. When implementing this for the first time, get internal buy-in and train managers in advance. Some examples include shorter workweeks, part-time options and remote work.
- Pet-friendly policies: Research shows that pets in the workplace help improve employee satisfaction and reduce stress. When a dog joins a virtual meeting, group members even rank their teammates higher on trust and teamwork. Our furry friends also give us a reason to get outdoors, which is proven to improve our mood and mental health.
- Stress management workshops: These are one of the best ways to prevent burnout and mental health issues in the workplace. First, train managers on recognizing stress amongst their team members. Then offer training sessions focusing on time management, productivity or work-life balance.
- Employee assistance programs: Employee assistance programs (EAPs) help employees experiencing personal challenges. EAPs can provide counselors and other resources for those needing assistance with childcare, marital counseling, substance abuse and many other areas. First, determine which system makes the most sense. Then create an EAP policy and find the right provider. At that point, you can share the information with your team via a companywide announcement that includes detailed documentation and instructions.
Social wellness programs
Social well-being refers to the connection that employees have to their coworkers, leaders and the company. It benefits employers and employees because it gives people a sense of belonging. When employees feel like they belong, you can expect them to be more engaged and productive.
- Mentorship programs: Mentorship programs connect a more senior team member with junior colleagues who want to develop and expand their skill set. Most often, it’s structured as a formal program with pre-determined objectives. Alternatively, you can create an informal program where mentees select their own mentors and can choose their own goals.
- Volunteer opportunities: A Journal of Happiness study found that volunteering can positively impact physical and mental health and alleviate stress. First, determine what needs are present in your community and align the program with your business goals. Ideally, it would be great to partner with local organizations to help strengthen the impact of the program.
- Employee appreciation initiatives: Employee appreciation acknowledges the hard work of teams and individuals within the company. It’s also essential to encourage peer-to-peer recognition, which can be just as powerful. Some ideas include recognizing employees on social media, hosting an employee appreciation day, or treating workers and their families to a fun offsite event.
- Team building activities: When employees come together to achieve a common goal, it instills trust and improves communication. Through planned team-building activities, employees also build skills like problem-solving, collaboration and conflict resolution. A few examples are scavenger hunts, escape room challenges, office trivia, and even improv classes.
- Monday motivation sessions: Help your employees kick start their week by creating different ways to motivate them every Monday. Some ideas include providing breakfast, holding an outdoor meeting, hosting a raffle to win a Starbucks gift card or sharing inspirational quotes with the team.
Financial wellness programs
Given rising inflation and market volatility, financial stress is at an all-time high. That’s why employees want and expect help from their employers. BrightPlan’s 2022 Wellness Barometer Survey shows that 54% of employees named financial wellness their No. 1 most desired benefit, up from 29% in 2021. And in a Bank of America study, 82% of employees say employers should play a role in supporting their financial wellness.
- Retirement planning options: Retirement benefits help employees save for the future. These 401k plans often include a contribution match-up to a certain amount. While the match isn’t a requirement, it can provide you with a competitive edge.
- Financial education and planning: Many employees don’t have the knowledge or tools to prepare properly for the future. Offering financial planning assistance provides them access to advisors who can help them develop a holistic financial plan. You can also partner with investment consultants to educate your workforce on saving, investing, and managing debt.
- Employee discounts and perks: Discounts and perks also complement a financial wellness program. Many of these benefits are simple, affordable and easy to implement. Examples include free parking, commuting assistance, company credit cards and professional development stipends.
- Insurance benefits: Apart from traditional benefits like health, dental and vision insurance, employees want more. These include categories such as life, disability and accident insurance. Even pet insurance is gaining interest. According to the MetLife study, 65% of employees with pets would like their employer to offer pet insurance.
- Emergency funds: Recent data from Prudential reveals that 50% of all respondents have less than $500 in the bank or no emergency savings. One way to assist employees is through payroll advances. Another option is to offer them an emergency savings account funded through payroll deductions which can be set up easily and connected to a debit card for convenience.
Wellness programs are a win-win
It’s never been more critical for companies to offer a variety of wellness programs. Not only do they show employees that you care about their well-being, but they also help build a corporate culture that encourages loyalty and job satisfaction. To maintain an engaged workforce, you need to meet employees where they are. What better way than to provide them with the resources they care about the most?