5 things your workplace wellness program needs to skyrocket

5 things your workplace wellness program needs to skyrocket

You already know the value of a wellness program for your employees: a healthy workforce increases productivity and your bottom line. You set up a fitness activity or gym discount, perhaps an annual health screening and you send out a couple of emails to staff.


Perhaps attendance isn’t bad, but it’s not great either and more importantly – it’s not attracting the people who need it most. It’s a problem many corporates face.

According to recent Gallup Research data, 85% of large companies offer a wellness program, yet only 24% of staff are participating. That’s not really going to lower absenteeism or healthcare costs.

Reality check for today’s corporate wellness programs

Faced with these stark numbers, you might think, it’s time to throw in the towel and shut down the wellness program.

WARNING: Don’t hit the eject button!

Employee wellness has become even more sought-after since COVID-19, and it will become a necessary tool to attract and retain talent. With increased stress, anxiety, and financial worries since the pandemic, burnout is a real problem for many workers, and the global shutdown has given people time to reflect on what’s important, with health and wellbeing coming out top.

If companies want to stay relevant and competitively attractive, a corporate wellness program is a must-have.

So why are the people you want to reach not showing up?

There are many valid reasons why staff don’t participate which can range from feeling uncomfortable to exercise with colleagues, busy schedules that take priority, family obligations, a lack of interest in the offer, being unaware of the program, or a company culture that doesn’t prioritize wellness.

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What your employees actually want from your workplace wellness program

1.    Know what’s important

The biggest failure with corporate wellness programs is making assumptions on what staff wants when it comes to a wellness program. Yes, your offering needs to fit into your budget constraints, so Ted’s idea of a helicopter service to commute to work may not fly with the board, but it’s important to understand what employees will find motivating, practical and easy to fit into their work-life. Balancing health needs and wellness wants is key.

TIP: Surveys, focus groups, webinars, and discussion forums are all great ways to get input and feedback from staff on what they would like from the company’s wellness program.

2.    Offer variety

We are all different, so by offering a variety of wellness options, you’re more likely to engage more staff. Some employees may be looking for weight loss or healthy eating support, while others are more interested in stress management, financial budgeting or chronic disease management.

People’s interests and needs will be very personal, based on their own wellness goals or health challenges. Some staff may want a private coaching session, while others may value a cooking class they can take with the family. Offering variety provides personalization and allows staff to pick and choose what is most relevant for them at any given moment.

TIP: Providing a holistic approach to your wellness program is a winning formula, and post COVID-19, this will become even more important as people start to recognize the value of looking after not only their physical health but their mental and financial wellbeing too. Read my free e-book on The Future Of Workplace Wellnessfor incorporating a holistic approach to your corporate wellness program.

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3.    Make it convenient

According to a RAND Corporation study, over 50% of employees state lack of time as the reason for not participating in workplace wellness. By offering both in-person or on-site as well as online options, you’ll be able to drive deeper engagement through convenience.

Online fitness classes, digital meditation session, or evergreen wellness webinars means your teams are able to access them 24/7, from anywhere in the world. This flexibility means they can exercise in the comfort of their home or hotel room, do a meditation session before bed or take a break in the middle of the day to watch a webinar.

For those returning-to-work employees, wellness can extend into the office space, from investing in standing desks and good lighting to offering healthier snacks in the boardroom, to easily accessible hand sanitizer dispensers and hand-washing posters in bathrooms.

TIP: Make small changes to your office space and offer flexible wellness options to subtly nudge people into healthier habits, as this will be much more sustainable than forcing them to jump through hoops of a rigid schedule.

4.    Integrate your culture

If your Exec team does not value or prioritize their own health, your wellness program will likely fail. Leadership buy-in is essential, as this is where the company culture starts and filters down to staff. A company that praises long work hours above all else will leave employees feeling uncomfortable to spend time away from their desks working on their wellness. Not only will this type of culture mean your wellness initiative will not succeed, but it will also increase the likelihood of staff burnout, higher absenteeism and healthcare costs, leading, ironically, to less productivity (and likely higher staff turnover).

Staff model a lot of their work behavior on their leadership team, so one that makes an effort to take the stairs or conducts walking meetings, prioritizes family time and gets involved in wellness challenges will positively influence employees to do the same.

TIP: Get your executive leadership team on board with your wellness strategy and regularly engage, support, and motivate them in healthy behaviors.

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5.    Be consistent

Many wellbeing programs fail because staff aren’t even aware, they exist or forget about them. Consistent and engaging communication is essential to contribute to the success of your wellness offering. 

Wellness programs are often left for HR and marketing teams to develop and run. With competing priorities in their daily operations, often the wellness initiative gets side-lined. Ad-hoc challenges or sporadic communication around wellness will fall flat and engagement will plummet. Having a dedicated wellness person or team who can continually strategize, develop, communicate, analyze, and initiate offerings within the wellness program will lead to greater success, employee engagement, and a healthy ROI.

TIP: Get help! Hiring a wellness consultant or full-time wellness officer will provide the focus and attention that your wellness program needs to flourish.

I have seen time and again how healthy and engaged employees can thrive at work, which serves not only the individual but the business and the healthcare system too. In our current climate, this is more important than ever, and companies that establish wellness on a level of importance equal to that of running their business will have a competitive edge. 

If you would like more ideas on how to incorporate successful Workplace Wellness strategies in our post-COVID-19 world, download my free e-book THE FUTURE OF WORKPLACE WELLNESS.

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