How to start an employee wellbeing program

How to start an employee wellbeing program

Microsoft's 2021 Work Trend Index proved that one of the main reasons governing ‘The Great Resignation’ was that people are moving jobs for better working conditions. Employees want to work for companies that value their wellbeing.

That’s why in today’s modern workplace, it’s more important than ever that organisations invest in their employees and create an employee wellbeing program – or risk losing their most valuable assets.

A workplace wellbeing program encourages employees to have healthy lifestyles both in and out of the office. The benefits are numerous and varied, with research conducted by Middlesex University highlighting how corporate wellbeing initiatives can increase employee health, productivity, retention, and cost savings associated with absenteeism.

Wellbeing programs have become increasingly popular in recent years. According to the Harvard Business Review, over nine out of ten firms give at least one type of wellness benefit to their employees, and three out of five have budgeted expressly for employee wellbeing in order ensure a healthy workforce who produce high performance outcomes.

To ensure that you are providing your staff with the best employee wellbeing program, it is important you consider how it will address one or more of the eight dimensions of wellness, listed below:

  1. Physical – Activities such as exercise or nutrition programs that improve physical health
  2. Intellectual – Training and development opportunities that help employees learn new skills
  3. Emotional – Programs that address emotional well-being, such as stress management or counselling
  4. Spiritual – Opportunities for employees to connect with their spiritual selves, such as prayer or meditation groups
  5. Financial – Seminars on financial planning or debt management
  6. Social – Activities that bring employees together, such as happy hours or team-building activities
  7. Occupational – Programs that help employees stay healthy and productive at work, such as ergonomic assessments or career counselling
  8. Environmental – Ways to improve the work environment, such as green energy initiatives or biodegradable office supplies

When it comes to employee wellbeing programs, one size definitely does not fit all. What works for one organisation might not be appropriate – or successful – in another. However, with the right steps, it can be a great way to improve staff health and productivity.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Step 1:  Evaluate the Wellbeing of your Team

The best employee wellbeing programs include directly consulting with employees when brainstorming team wellbeing initiatives. This can include conducting a personnel survey through SurveyMonkey, which would allow you to anonymously aggregate individual wellbeing preferences and requirements. For example, if you find your employees are struggling with debt, you might want to focus on the financial dimension of wellness. Or if you find that your employees are struggling with social isolation, you might want to focus on the social dimension.

It is also important to evaluate the workplace culture to understand what influences employee behaviour, as well how best to approach a given situation. Some workplaces may be more receptive to emotional and spiritual programming, while others may be more focused on physical health and wellness.  Therefore, it is important to tailor the program to the specific needs of the employees, as well as the culture of the workplace.

Step 2:  Create Dedicated Wellbeing Champions

After evaluating and assessing your team’s wellbeing needs and requirements, the next step is to establish your dedicated wellbeing champions. These wellbeing champions will contribute to the wellbeing program's organisational support and effectiveness, and Managers can request committee members by invitation or ask for volunteers. The goal is to ensure there is representation from various levels of the organisational structure and that these individuals are invested in making sure everyone stays healthy.

The wellbeing champion’s tasks may include the following:

  • Evaluating current employee wellbeing programs, services, and policies
  • Conducting an assessment of staff requirements and preferences
  • Developing an operational plan for health promotion, including a vision statement, goals, and objectives
  • Providing assistance with the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of wellbeing initiatives

When determining who your wellbeing champions will be, it may also be worth considering how long they will serve as a champion, and how new members will be recruited in advance. You may also wish to rotate wellbeing champions on a yearly basis in order to avoid burnout and to gain new insights.

Top tip: Choose the wellbeing champions who can best represent their peers, motivate others, and can effectively contribute to the employee wellbeing program's execution.

Step 3: Define Your Goals and Objectives

Establish the goals and objectives for the program based on the information received from your surveys. For many teams and organisations, these objectives include enhancing employee health and employee morale.

To determine the effectiveness of your program, the objectives should be specific, measurable, timely, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive, or otherwise referred to as 'SMART' objectives. For instance, rather than stating the program will reduce absenteeism and boost staff productivity, you may say that it will "decrease employee sick days taken by 10% in six months."

Step 4: Set a Good Example

Excellent leaders and managers set an example through their involvement in employee wellbeing programs and new workplace initiatives, to help embed these behaviours into the team’s culture.

If you're going to lead your office or team towards a better, happier environment - you should begin with yourself. This can be accomplished by making better choices at work and encouraging others to do the same. For instance, take a walk during lunch and encourage co-workers to join you.

According to a People Management study, bosses and executive members might also engage in unhealthy behaviours and sabotage the wellbeing of the employees by promoting a toxic environment. A toxic work environment can have a detrimental effect on a person's physical and mental health. So, it’s important that as a leader you ‘walk the talk’ when promoting new wellbeing initiatives, so everybody follows suit.

Step 5:  Ensure Initiatives are Inclusive to All

Remember, everyone has different interests, personalities, values and abilities. Therefore, it is important that when implementing a wellbeing program you ensure it is inclusive to all.  One method to achieve this is to offer a diverse range of health and fitness activities to employees. According to the Mental Health Foundation, physical activity, mindfulness, healthy diet, and other wellness activities can help employees perform better at work and stay cognitively stimulated. The Public Health Study also shows that fun activities (e.g. team building games) have a huge impact on the wellbeing of employees.

Employees who participate in these activities at work report feeling less exhaustion, boredom, tension, and burnout. Play is also related with higher levels of job satisfaction, a sense of competence, greater levels of creativity, and tons of entertainment. So why not throw some all-inclusive team building events into your program? You'll be surprised how much success you can achieve together.

Step 6: Collect Feedback

Regardless of the size of your business or budget, you'll want to ensure you're getting your money's worth. Without determining whether your program is effective or well-received by your employees, you could risk losing money and time on ineffective efforts. By continuously reviewing your program during deployment, you will also be able to swiftly identify what does and does not work, and transition to a new program that better meets your employees' needs.

With these tips, you’re on your way to creating a successful employee wellbeing program that meets your organisational goals while also improving staff health and productivity.

If you’re looking for ways to start your employee wellbeing program on the right foot, team building activities are a great way to get everyone involved.

Jasmine Panayides
March 21, 2022