It seems like we're bombarded daily with reports on the latest innovations to keep employees happy, healthy, and efficient—from standing desks and furry companions to a boss-approved lunchtime highball, each one promises the last best advice on workplace satisfaction. But how do you know if these benefits will stand the test of time and truly make workers happy, and which are empty fads that ought to be discarded?
To that end, we've compiled a list of companies with wellness programs that have put creative, unusual, or extensive workplace wellness programs into practice and reaped real rewards as a result. If you're looking for a way to energize and inspire your workforce, keep reading.
1. How the Google wellness program got the world talking about workplace wellness
It would be remiss to talk about workplace wellness without discussing the behemoth that is Google. Whether it's the free bikes that litter the company's campuses, the massage parlours, the on-call doctors and nurses, the on-site laundry, the nap rooms, the office dogs, the standing desks, the colour-coded healthy cafeteria, the Lego stations, the Ping-Pong tables, and even the big company slide. Google set a new standard for the office experience that many companies have been scrambling to compete with.
2. How Fitbit corporate wellness uses its own product at work
The Fitbit Wellness initiative argues that by improving the fitness levels of staff they are saving their own company big money. The initiative has cut down on sick days and lessened illness and fatigue that negatively impacts productivity.
But what exactly is it? This wellness initiative uses Fitbit's own wrist tracker technology to inspire competition within the office: there are rewards for the most active staff members, which motivates the more sedentary workers to step up their game. It may not be feasible for most companies to outfit every single employee with a $150 wristband, but the main takeaway from Fitbit is that they believe in encouraging workers to move even a little more.
Through small, fun contests with small, fun rewards, companies everywhere can cut down majorly on lost wages and lost productivity.
3. How BP Canada puts Fitbit's product to work
Fitbit's own workplace wellness program was so effective that they decided to package it and sell it to a group of 30 Fortune 500 companies as a way for those top leaders to keep their own workers healthy and fit.
BP, one of the companies using Fitbit's program, held a similar "one million step challenge" where everyone in the company was challenged to walk or run (or skip or climb) at least one million steps during the year. But beyond simply monitoring fitness, BP's own Elements for Life initiative aims to ensure that an employee's emotional, financial, and social health were all sound as well.
Rewards range anywhere from a casual dress day to a donation to the winner's favourite charity. It turns the challenge of being a little more active into a game, rather than a chore. No major athletics required—just a bit more movement and a more positive outlook.
4. How SSQ helps employees set and achieve health goals
Canadian financial group and life insurance company, SSQ, has developed what they call the HealthWise Health Passport. This immersive program is available to any employee who wishes to participate and offers everything from exercise programs, personalized nutrition plans, smoking cessation programs, and yearly health goals that, if met, qualify employees for prizes and rewards.
SSQ also added changing rooms and showers to their offices so that employees could work out in the mornings or during lunch and still return to their desk scentless and refreshed.
The company—which won GoodLife's Health & Wellness Leadership Award for their efforts—says that, as a result of these changes, employees are eating better, sleeping better, and smoking and drinking less than they used to. All of these improvements are reflected in better and more efficient work at the office.
5. How Zappos thinks beyond the running shoe
Zappos is one of those companies that always seems to come up any time you're mentioning corporate culture or employee satisfaction, so it will come as no surprise that the online shoe giant offers gym memberships, nap rooms, and fitness classes.
Still, their wellness coordinator, Kelly Maher, argues that too often companies make the mistake of thinking that traditional exercise is the be all and end all of workplace fitness and health. Instead, Maher's team came up with "Wellness Adventures," which encourages employees to pick and enjoy "fun" activities during their lunch break—such as laser tag, basketball, golf, or even trampolining—to make fitness feel a little more like schoolyard recess than another chore to fit into the day.
To that end, Maher also runs a program called Recess Tuesdays, where he fills the office plaza with playground toys and workers can take a break to play a bit of tetherball, rather than go for another refill of coffee. Maher says that allowing employees to just "play" has resulted in a happier workforce that's getting a workout without realizing it. Lunchables, string cheese, and animal crackers are optional.
6. How small businesses like Williamson Group keep employees active
Big workplace playgrounds, laser tag lunches, and pricey fitness trackers are all well and good for large companies with big HR departments (and even bigger budgets), but how can a smaller company make sure that its employees stay healthy? Ontario's Williamson Group—a financial services firm with roughly 65 employees—has taken several small, relatively low-cost steps to ensure that their workers are happy and healthy without risking the bottom line.
It all began roughly 10 years ago when the company organized a running club and then began hosting an annual race. Participants pay a small entry fee which covers the run clinic leading up to the event as well as the race itself. And on the nutrition side of things, the company also instituted Fibre Fridays, where the executives pay for a tray of fruit and vegetables for their employees once a week. Their wellness initiatives have grown to include smoking cessation programs, fitness assessments, cholesterol tests, and BMI calculations.
7. How EMC colour-codes employee health
Similar to SSQ's health passport, EMC offers their employees an opportunity to gamify their health by rewarding them for making positive, health-conscious decisions. EMC focuses instead on rewards that get to the heart of many Americans' health care concerns: the high cost of medical care.
So in exchange for healthy behaviour like signing up for the gym or getting a yearly flu shot, EMC lowers an employee's medical contribution requirement.
Additionally, they've taken Google's lead and colour-coded their on-site cafeteria to highlight the healthier, plant-based options.
8. How Delta Hotels prioritizes mental health
Toronto's Delta Hotels and Resorts is one of the only companies that can boast that it has remained on Maclean's 50 Best Employers list since the list's inception. One of the many reasons for its consistent ranking is due to its commitment to employee engagement, rather than satisfaction. The difference, according to Delta, is that engagement focuses more on the effects that benefits have on productivity, responsibility, and accountability. As a result, the leisure and entertainment group recently took on mental health as its main focal point for improving the all-important engagement metric.
For the benefit of other companies, Delta also hosted a Mental Health Week with the aim of shedding light on the surprisingly high numbers of mental health issues and/or mental illness within Canada to help dispel some of the stigma surrounding such concerns. The campaign also offered ways for employers to encourage their employees to work through common workplace mental health-related complaints such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
9. How Flight Centre keeps its staff healthy, wealthy, and wise
It should come as no surprise that a company based around travel believes that its employees should get a good amount of yearly vacation time. In fact, within three years of employment, all Flight Centre employees are entitled to 4 weeks' vacation, along with discounted travel costs with their IATA Travel Agent card, and Familiarization Trips where they're flown out to popular destinations and resorts to help better sell particular trips to clients.
In addition to travel perks, Flight Centre also retains in-house wellness and financial consultants who offer everything from yoga classes to one-on-one investment consultations -- making for well-rounded, well-rested staff.
10. How Rodale promotes health and wellness
Rodale, the publishing company behind publications like Women’s Health and Men’s Health, lives up to its promotion of a healthy lifestyle of wellness, fitness, and nutrition with its employee offerings.
Rodale provides access to an on-site athletic gym facility with free fitness classes known to team members' as The Energy Room, an Organic Farm to Table Eatery cafeteria that distributes organic and locally-sourced food, an organic garden for growing fresh produce named Rodale Institute, and an outdoor trail on campus.
While not everyone can afford to provide what organizations from this list of companies with wellness programs offered, every company can take something away from their approaches—which is to figure out what makes people happy, and what keeps them healthy, and then build an office environment based on those ideas and principles. Once businesses can do this, they’ll be in a far better position to keep happy employees who actually love their jobs and their place of work.
Whether it's physical, mental, emotional, or financial health, most of us can agree that healthy employees are happy employees—and happy employees are a recipe for long-lasting success.