Workplace Wellness: Best Practices for Supporting Employee Health and Happiness

Workplace Wellness: Best Practices for Supporting Employee Health and Happiness
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Workhuman Editorial Team |   December 22, 2022 |    17 min

Do you know how to define workplace wellness?

Most people would say it has something to do with the employees’ satisfaction with the workplace, and that’s partially true. What most people don’t know is it mostly has to do with the employee’s physical health and emotional wellbeing.

You’ve most likely worked in companies that cherish employees’ wellbeing and

others that couldn’t care less. We’ve noticed that the lack of support for employees ruins their productivity. Even when they make an achievement, they can’t celebrate it wholeheartedly because they don’t feel loyalty towards the company.

The lack of an employee wellness program can also impact your bottom line. Harvard found that for every dollar spent on employee wellness, medical costs fall $3.27, and absenteeism drops $2.73, a 6-to-1 return on investment.

That’s why we put this article together, to share how essential workplace wellness is and how a healthier workplace can achieve a better outcome altogether.

Workplace Wellness

What is workplace wellness?

Workplace wellness is a broad term. On the one hand, it means the overall wellbeing of the company’s employees, including their emotional, financial, and mental wellness.

On the other hand, workplace wellness can refer to the programs and activities that HR managers adopt to empower their employees and maintain their workplace mental wellness.

Let’s dig deeper!

What are we talking about when we say workplace wellness?

In a nutshell, workplace wellness refers to corporate programs that ensure employees’ emotional, mental, physical, and financial health.

In the past, companies didn’t give much attention to workplace wellness because stress levels were generally lower. The lack of social media meant that people were isolated from bad global news.

Now, the new generations are exposed to everything that happens around the globe, including natural disasters and wars, which undoubtedly raises their stress levels. If they’re stressed at work too, their productivity will diminish, and they won’t feel motivated to achieve more.

That’s why many companies are exploring workplace wellness programs and new ways of supporting their employees, aiming at a healthier workplace.

Here’s an overview of the essential dimensions of workplace wellness:

Physical health

The healthier your employees, the more successful your company is.

While physical health seems to be out of the scope of HR’s responsibility, it’s still the company’s responsibility to help employees take care of their health. In the end, if you don’t maintain a healthy roster of employees, you can’t guarantee productivity.

Some companies promote physical health by carrying out occasional wellness screenings. These will likely include tests for heart disease, diabetes, and similar chronic conditions.

Generally, health promotion programs are the best wellness initiatives you can take in your company. They’ll make the employees feel properly supported.

Mental/emotional health

Employees are expecting more from employers these days. According to a recent Human Workplace Index survey, 65% of workers surveyed reported that their approach to mental wellness has changed over the last two years. In terms of mental wellness, they stated:

  • I expect my employer to view me as a human being – 38%
  • I expect more support from my employer – 23%
  • They have not changed – 21%
  • I expect more human connection in the workplace – 13%

Not focusing on mental health can lead to higher stress. The higher the stress levels, the lower the productivity.

Stressed employees can only work hard to an extent. Before you know it, stress will get the best of them, and you’ll notice lower productivity levels and overall less enthusiasm for work.

That’s why employees often praise wellness initiatives dedicated to mental health. For example, some companies offer free psychological support through a private hotline or one-to-one meetings.

Other companies carry out team-building activities to create a stronger team bond and overall connection. Others just want to be recognized for their hard work. In the Human Workplace Index survey, when asked how companies should take care of workers’ mental wellness, 42% of workers answered, “by rewarding them for good work.”

Financial health

Money management is one of the most challenging life fields to master. That’s why most employees often need guidance for saving, investing, or spending money. Companies that provide any kind of support regarding financial health often have higher chances of retaining employees because they help them prepare for the future.

When employees have financial stability and get enough support from the company, they find no reason to look for another job, which warrants a lower turnover rate and overall stability for your company.

Social wellbeing

The social wellbeing of employees refers to their healthy relationships with each other and making sure they communicate with others properly. Some companies may not pay much attention to social wellbeing, but employees who feel isolated from their colleagues or are too shy to communicate can feel stressed about it.

It may be affecting their productivity because they feel constant pressure to communicate with others, and they sometimes feel like outcasts.

It’d be wise to take the initiative to promote a safe environment in the workplace. This can easily be achieved by carrying out ice-breaking activities and encouraging fun days outside work.

Environmental wellness

Most environment-conscious companies are now creating initiatives to promote environmental wellness. Keeping the employees aware of their carbon footprint and what they can do to reduce it spreads positivity around the workplace and keeps the environment safe.

Some companies promote environmental wellness by inviting employees to days of interacting with nature. Some activities like bird watching and hiking strengthen the bond between humans and nature. You can always opt for a similar activity to achieve that at your workplace.

Otherwise, you can opt for conventional ways, like holding seminars that teach employees about the importance of connecting with nature and preserving the environment.

Factors that impact employee wellness

A manager who’s too strict, a toxic environment at the workplace, general lack of motivation—a lot of things can affect employee wellness. But generally, most factors have more to do with the business strategy rather than individual mistakes.

Here’s an overview:

Lack of control

workplace

Everyone feels threatened to an extent when they feel like they’re out of control. It doesn’t matter what they’re out of control of—it’s generally disturbing to feel like you’re not controlling something that has to do with your life.

An example of that is employees who don’t control their jobs, workloads, days off, and so on. These employees often feel threatened because they’re controlled by someone of a higher rank, and they’re more susceptible to stress.

Workplace competition

Business strategies that depend on ongoing competition between employees are more likely to encounter burnout.

When employees feel like they’re always competing with their colleagues, they seldom create healthy relationships in the workplace. In turn, this affects their social wellbeing and makes them more susceptible to stress.

Layoffs

It’s a no-brainer that layoffs are the nightmare of every employee. Companies that do frequent layoffs are less likely to gain employee loyalty.

The employees will feel unsupported, which typically affects workplace wellness. Plus, many employees will start looking for new places to work that will give them some stability.

Why is workplace wellness so important?

Workplace wellness is so important because it plays a huge role in a company’s success. If the employees always feel stressed and unsupported, the company can say goodbye to productivity and loyalty.

Additionally, workplace wellness is so important because of the impact it has on businesses.

What impact does wellness have on businesses and employees?

The easiest way to study the impact of wellness on companies is by exploring the effects of COVID-19 on businesses.

Employees spent a good chunk of 2020 worrying, stressing over everything, and working from home—all of which had a strong impact on businesses. Companies that didn’t provide enough support to the employees during that period saw a decline in productivity and were more likely to lose employees after the pandemic.

At the same time, companies that started taking wellness initiatives and emphasizing employees’ mental health were more likely to have stability in the long run.

The pandemic changed a lot of things around the world, but most importantly, it attracted more attention to wellness and mental health.

Benefits of employee wellness programs, challenges, and activities

If you’re not convinced that an employee wellness program is essential, here are some workplace wellness statistics that may change your mind:

  • According to a study, implementing a wellness program increases the employees’ extrinsic and intrinsic job satisfaction levels.
  • According to a randomized clinical trial, employees who go through a wellness program are more likely to indulge in healthy behavior and pay more attention to their physical and mental health.
  • According to a study conducted on a group of employees, 57% of employees who were at a high risk of cardiac symptoms went down to a low-risk status after going through a wellness exercise program.
  • According to Asana’s stats, 97% of its employees think it’s a great place to work, thanks to its intensive wellness programs and mental health initiatives.

Aside from the stats, wellness programs have plenty of hard-impact and soft-impact benefits for businesses. Here are the hard-impact benefits:

  • Fewer health costs
  • Lower turnover rate
  • Higher productivity

As for soft-impact benefits, here are the essential ones:

  • A better view of the company’s culture
  • A safe environment for everyone
  • Better health education for the employees

To get all the possible benefits of wellness programs, you need to understand your options and choose the right program for your employees.  

An overview of workplace wellness programs

engage employees

To promote wellness in the workplace, you first have to learn the in-and-outs of these programs, along with the challenges associated with implementing them.

What are corporate wellness programs?

Employers often implement corporate wellness programs to support the health of their employees. Such programs can include various promotions, including gym memberships for encouraging fitness, yoga and meditation sessions, in-house screening for chronic diseases, and smoking quitting programs.

Some companies also offer guidance for weight management to help those suffering from obesity.

Aside from making employees feel supported, these programs may help reduce health costs in the long run because they encourage healthy employees.

Additionally, workplaces that go through wellness programs offer safer environments for their employees and are more likely to have lower turnover rates and higher satisfaction levels.

What role do HR policies play in employee wellness?

When it comes to employees’ wellness, the HR committee is responsible for determining what programs the employees need and how to implement them. HRs are also responsible for ensuring that the employer and the employees have the same view and goals regarding these programs.

The right way to do so is by conducting surveys to get firsthand employee feedback, which can be done using a tool like Moodtracker®.

In some cases, HR managers may hold one-on-one meetings with employees to ensure better communication.

Common challenges of wellness programs

Like everything else, wellness programs have their own downsides and challenges. To name a few:

  • Lack of studies to measure the programs’ success
  • Wrong practices
  • Budget

The thing with wellness programs is there’s no guarantee of their success. There aren’t enough studies about the impact of these studies on employees, which means we don’t know for sure whether they’re more likely to make a difference or not.

Plus, most studies focus on the employees’ productivity level and similar metrics, but not enough studies address the effect of wellness programs on the ROI of healthcare expenses paid by the company.

Other than the lack of studies, wrong practices are among the downsides to wellness programs. For example, some companies would prohibit smoking at work sites to promote healthier employees.

But no smoker would appreciate that unless it’s accompanied by support and actionable steps to help him quit. The same goes for any activity that tries to control the employees without offering solutions.

The last challenge is the budget, which may be the hardest to beat. According to a study on wellness programs budgets, the average employee costs the company nearly $240 to go through these programs, which may be a lot for some businesses. Follow the next section to learn how to overcome that!

How to promote workplace wellness on a low budget

There’s no need to worry about your budget for employees’ wellness if you follow these tips:

Choose the right people

If your company is on a low budget for workplace wellness, there’s no better option than looking into your employees.

In almost every company, you’ll find health and fitness gurus to help you deliver your insights to the rest. You can create a wellness team and assign them to come up with ideas to promote the employee’s health without going over the budget.

Look for community service programs

Finding a local hospital that offers on-site health screening is not hard. If there’s no one near your workplace, you can look for non-profit organizations that offer the same services. That way, you can hold screenings for your employees without breaking the bank.

Use online solutions

Luckily, there are online solutions for nearly everything nowadays. If you’re looking for ways to support your employees without spending much money, start looking for free online tools.

For example, there’s Moodtracker® by Workhuman®. It’s a free tool that helps you create employee surveys to track their satisfaction and get firsthand feedback about their experience at your company.

There’s also Conversations®, an online tool that promotes employees’ development by collecting feedback, along with initiating regular check-ins to guarantee healthy communication.

Aside from these solutions, other tools focus more on the cultural side of your company, helping your employees celebrate their important life events and share their interests. A good example of those tools is Community Celebrations® and Life Events®.

Workplace wellness tips – promoting wellness in the workplace

keep employees

Engaging your employees in wellness initiatives may not be as easy as you think. Here are a few tips to help you manage it:

  1. Don’t encourage working overtime
  2. Make sure all the employees are well-connected without anyone feeling like an outcast
  3. Celebrate the company’s achievements properly to build a positive culture
  4. Provide healthy snacks on-site
  5. Provide private lines for psychological support and guidance
  6. Give employees an incentive to focus on their physical health
  7. De-clutter the workplace to improve the general atmosphere
  8. Encourage the employees to make use of their break time to relieve their stress

Workplace wellness examples

With all this talk about workplace wellness, you may want to see examples of companies implementing said programs.

Google is one of the most popular companies to do it. Their wellness programs include:

  • On-site healthcare.
  • Free fitness classes.
  • Healthy snacks readily available in the cafeteria.
  • Spa services free of charge.

As if that’s not enough, Google also offers cooking classes and at-home fitness sessions, along with a puppy therapy program.

As a result, employees simply love being at Google, which means no one wants to leave. This warrants the company stability and a reduced turnover rate in the long run.

Frequently asked questions

Conclusion

Now that you know everything about workplace wellness, you can start exploring ways to implement it at your workplace. Remember to encourage general wellness by providing healthy snacks at work, offering private lines for guidance and support, and discouraging working overtime.

As time passes, you’ll notice how the employees are more productive and appreciative of the company’s culture.

Don’t forget to check out online solutions to promote wellness, like Conversations, Moodtracker, or Life Events.