How to Improve Productivity by Starting an Employee Wellness Program

The top rated companies in the world – Google and Facebook among them – have something in common. Not firehouse poles. Facebook got rid of those. The answer is they all prioritize the health and wellness of their employees.

The idea behind this approach is simple. These industry giants expect a lot from their employees, so they provide the resources needed to operate at peak performance.

While small businesses may lack the resources of the Silicon Valley startups and Fortune 500 companies, they can emulate these employee engagement initiatives by creating an employee wellness program.

Here’s how to get it going, and how it’s going to ramp up productivity in your office, or at least make everyone look good (no, it will help productivity, I promise).

Parkar employees enjoying a small break from work

How Wellness and Employee Productivity are Related

Overall health and wellness go hand-in-hand with employee productivity.

Regular physical activity – and I mean real physical activity, beyond taking the stairs to feel like you hit your workout quota for the morning – has been proven to improve physical health by boosting immunity and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

But that’s hidden stuff. As anyone knows who works out, it also boosts your energy levels, alertness and comprehension. You notice those things big time.

It also combats mental health disorders and therefore provide good counter-evidence when your employees complain that their boss has gone insane. No sir, he works out! Can’t be true!

Stress drives people down the road to poor mental health, which can show as a loss of focus on the job as well as extra time off and high turnover. By giving employees the tools they need to prioritize both their physical and mental health, you are cultivating a culture of engagement and growth.

If nothing else, your employees will appreciate the fact that their employer cares about them and doesn’t view them as cattle.


Steps for Starting an Employee Wellness Program


Starting an effective employee wellness program does require a little research and planning, as much or as little as you want, depending on how sophisticated you want to make it.

The implementation process can be broken into three distinct steps:


Set Goals and Identify Key Team Players


The overall goal of implementing an employee wellness program is to improve productivity and promote employee health. That’s pretty simple.

If you set some clearly defined goals with measurable success metrics, you’ll be able to see whether the program is having an effect.

That’s going to heavily depend on employees’ roles, so you’ll need to cover the bases to look at all your employees.

As the implementation and management of an employee wellness program will require  planning, many organizations put a committee in place to lead the efforts. Usually the best combination is an HR manager along with a few employees who are enthusiastic about the idea. They’ll get it done.


Research Options and Outline a Master Plan


There are a lot of activities and offerings to include in an employee wellness program. Every business will encounter barriers based on their budget, geographical location, business size, and other factors.

  1. Narrow down what offerings fit with your budget.
  2. Out of those, evaluate what offerings fit your program goals.
  3. Out of those, cut out any offerings that don’t fit your business culture.
  4. Plan internal promotion to build employee awareness and excitement.
  5. Schedule a (tentative) launch date.


Possible Aspects of the Program


There are so many options for building a custom employee wellness program that fits with your business. Finding ideas to kick around is easy. Narrowing down the choices to meet the budget will be the hardest part.

Here are some of the best offerings to include in your employee wellness program:


Fitness Partnerships


Offering a corporate partnership with a local fitness center is an effective way to promote employee wellness without breaking the bank. Discuss your options for a corporate membership discount that you can offer employees.


You can also offer an incentive for having proven attendance at a fitness center meeting the CDC-recommended three days a week. For example, you could reimburse 100% of their monthly membership fees if they go there regularly every week.

The incentive can be done as a stand-alone aspect, with virtually any fitness center qualifying, or in combination with the corporate fitness center membership, ie: they would get the corporate discount regardless, but then only have to pay if they don’t go regularly. In this way you’re providing them with an opportunity, and then giving them motivation to keep at it.

Other fitness partnerships don’t have to only involve a fitness center. It could include having specialists offer training sessions at the office. Think outside the box. Have a trainer come in to teach employees the basics of weight lifting to help build their confidence in a gym setting. Schedule a yoga instructor to come in to offer a group session as a great way to end a busy week.

You also could take into account that some employees might have a nice gym at home and prefer to work out there, and offer them a quarterly reimbursement for a certain amount of fitness related purchases.


Paramedical and Public Health Services


Having paramedical services come into the office not only acknowledges the fact that your employees spend a significant portion of their lives at the office, but it also cuts back on off-time for appointments.

Paramedical service offerings could include a massage therapist or chiropractor who sets up in a spare meeting room once a month.

Public health offerings could consist of a flu shot clinic or blood collection truck that employees can use to be proactive in their health without the stress of scheduling time outside work hours.


Offer Healthy Eats

Offering healthy food can be as simple or elaborate as an organization wishes. For a simple approach, removing vending machines and providing a basket of fresh fruit in common areas (on the company’s dime) can encourage healthier snacking.

For businesses with more resources, forming a partnership with a meal preparation service can make eating healthy more convenient for employees. Meal prep services have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their convenience and affordability. Meal prep services save their customers valuable hours and prevent food waste and impulse decision-making regarding food choices. Maybe they just need an easy way to avoid going next door to pick up that barely edible fast food that will inevitably tank their energy levels.


Opportunities for Collaboration and Competition


Incorporating team-building events into your employee health and wellness program has numerous benefits. First and foremost, it helps employees connect and strengthens your organizational culture. It also presents an opportunity to give back to the community and engage in a little friendly competition.

Host monthly competitions with prizes. Cover different challenge focal points that are accessible to all. One month’s theme might be a walking challenge while the next might focus on drinking enough water. Alternatively, hosting a large-scale competition once or twice a year in which all aspects of health and wellness earn points could be a powerful motivational tool.

Look to the community for team fundraising events that will get your employees moving while supporting a local cause that will make your employees feel good. In doing so, you’ll have active, engaged employees, publicity, and the opportunity to help the community that supports your business.


Mental Health and Stress Reduction

While physical activity does help with mental health and stress reduction, you should also incorporate something that focuses specifically on mental health and wellness.

Set company policies that encourage employees to set boundaries, such as limiting access to services in the evenings without permission from management. Inconsistent lunch hours often leads to employees not leaving their desks, so setting consistent and mandatory lunch hours will help make sure that employees get away from their desks and have an opportunity to clear their heads and refresh. It also absolves dedicated employees of any guilt they would feel about choosing to skip off to lunch when their coworkers want something done right this minute.

Some organizations include daily meditation offerings and even naptime. Millennials love naps. Well, everyone does, but millennials don’t feel weird about it.


Important Considerations when Implementing a Program

One of the reasons it’s important to set goals before creating an employee wellness program is to ensure that the program is in alignment with the business.

Remote work is on the rise, and technology is becoming more sophisticated. The traditional office setting may someday be a thing of the past. While having flexible work hours has proven benefits to both employees and businesses, it presents another challenge: setting boundaries.

While some businesses see success in enhancing productivity by limiting working hours by refusing remote access or having set business hours, other businesses thrive by offering flexibility. Your cultural model will either have to be reflected in your employee wellness offerings or will have to change.

It’s also essential to consider inclusion when creating a program. Diverse backgrounds, age groups, and physical abilities will mean that there is no one-size-fits-all offering for employee wellness. Ensure that your offerings have something for everyone.


Wellness for All


After you implement your employee wellness program, don’t just leave it as it is. Evaluate what works and what doesn’t.

Open your program to employee feedback to get a better understanding of their needs. It may take time and a few tweaks, but when done well, an employee wellness program can improve productivity by reducing absenteeism and keeping employees engaged in their work.