Employee wellness programs: 5 steps to start
Benefits 5 minute read

Employee wellness programs: 5 steps to start

Rise | June 6, 2019

To make an impact on Global Wellness Day, start with a cohort your organization can effectively engage with—your people.

There’s no doubt that employee wellness programs are worth the investment. There are multiple benefits of employee health and wellness programs: healthy employees are less stressed, more engaged, and more productive. All of these outcomes bode well for a positive workplace culture and improved employee performance.

Furthermore, offering interesting (and complimentary) employee wellness programs can be helpful when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent. When prospective and current employees see a company spending time, resources, and efforts on improving the well-being of their people, a sense of trust and respect in the organization is fostered.

As with implementing anything new in the workplace, an employee wellness program takes careful planning and communication. When done right, a workplace wellness program can provide a big payoff in more ways than one.

Wondering how to start a wellness program for employees? Here’s a look at five key steps for building an effective employee wellness program that will encourage your team members to "live well":

1. Identify current issues

The best place to start is with a little research. After all, it can be difficult to improve employee health and wellness without figuring out what some of the main issues are first.

“To address an organization’s health, there must be a clear understanding of its current issues and trends,” Kirk McIntyre of Medavie Blue Cross told Benefits Canada. “To do that, look at existing data for your organization. For example, the top 10 drugs prescribed under the organization’s drug benefits program may help to identify a leading health issue affecting employees.”

Look at time and attendance, amounts of sick leave taken, employee satisfaction and stress levels, and extended health insurance costs. Talk to both management and employees to get an understanding of where the biggest issues are.

Benefits Canada also stresses that it’s important to get hard numbers and trends out of all that data. Finding out what it will cost the company to keep doing nothing will help make a stronger case for spending on employee wellness.

2. Get input from everyone

Once you’ve figured out the lay of the land, talk to everyone at your company about what they want and need in a wellness program. Crafting a program around what employees want as well as what they need is key for ensuring that they’ll actually use the program.

As with any other healthy workplace policy, the best employee wellness programs have input from all key stakeholders. Make sure you talk to multiple people from different departments to get a good idea of what will work.

3. Make a plan that fits

With all of that information, you’ll need to put together a plan. Depending on the number of suggestions you received, you may not be able to please everyone.

That said, it is important to design a program that aligns with your company’s existing culture. Otherwise, it may be difficult to get everyone on board with the plan.

What’s your workplace like? Would employees prefer ultimate frisbee tournaments or yoga classes? Flex time or nap time? Healthy snacks, or a pet friendly workplace? Consider what fits best with your organization and the resources you have available.

4. Encourage employee and management buy-in

Certainly, it’s important to effectively communicate your employee wellness program with everyone in the office.

A good place to start is with an employee wellness committee that includes representatives from each department at your company. Members of the committee can be responsible for getting everyone excited and committed to using the program.

Getting your executive team on board is also key, both for gaining support to invest resources in the program and for motivating employees to take part.

5. Track, measure, and readjust

As with any workplace policy, measuring success, soliciting feedback, and adjusting accordingly will be key to the long-term success of an employee wellness program.

Once your program is in full swing, survey employees to find out how the program is going, whether they’re using it, and how it could be improved. Measure your ROI by looking at changes in employee absences and turnover rates, benefit costs and safety records, if applicable.

It’s also a good idea to celebrate achievements; anything from recognizing individual employee goals for better health to crowning winners of office challenges can go a long way towards building support around the program.

Over to you

All in all, implementing an employee wellness program appears to be a no-brainer. It’s a great way to show employees they’re valued and to have a little fun around the office. Above all, people are the most important asset for an organization, so investing in their health is simply a good business practice.

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