Find the key to develop a healthy employee wellness program

Wellness is about more than staying healthy and avoiding disease. It’s about work/life balance, employee well-being, and numerous other areas that impact employees’ lives.

It's also important to note that wellness looks different for everyone. For some, it looks like flexibility to spend more time with family. For others, it may mean more opportunities to embark on their personal health journeys.

No matter what wellness looks like for your company, it's important that you communicate what you do to support your employees.

Why is an employee wellness program so important?

As health care costs continue to be on the rise, it's important to consider ways you can save. For example, preventive health and wellness benefits can have a long-term impact on health care costs. Not only can wellness programs reduce health care costs, but they can also help you retain and attract talent.

Another reason to consider a corporate wellness program is because leaving wellness issues unaddressed can be expensive. In the U.S., one in five adults suffer from mental health challenges each year. This not only costs your employees, but it costs you as a company, too. Companies lose up to $200 million a year from leaving these issues unaddressed.

There’s abundant evidence that workplace wellness programs are a good idea and a valuable addition to your employee benefits package. All you have to do is share this information with your employees!

While most organizations have increased their well-being communication in recent years, many employees still don't know what you offer. For example, this survey found that a majority of organizations offered mental well-being programs, but over half of employees knew.

Communication is key. It can be the difference between a successful program that improves the lives of your employees and a boring brochure. It also never hurts to have your employees brag about their great benefits to others. Getting the word out there about how happy and taken care of your employees feel can help with hiring new employees and might increase retention.

Here are some ideas on how you can successfully communicate a comprehensive, successful employee wellness program.

Assess your current wellness program

What resources do you offer? Maybe you’ve got health programs here, financial programs there, and mindfulness in another place. And maybe your health care partners offer programs and maybe employees even have their own interest groups.

Even if you have benefits offered from multiple providers, having a single place people can go to with all their benefit or wellness questions can be an incredible investment. A site or platform that is difficult for users to navigate could be why a large amount of people aren’t aware of everything in their wellness programs.

If you don't already have an all-inclusive benefits option for your employees, creating this resource for your employees could be incredibly beneficial.

Once you've determined what you already have, look for what might be missing. Then, ask your employees what they want.

Do you have employee resource groups? Talk to them and learn what people are asking for. Do you have an on-site fitness center? Schedule time to talk to not only the people running it, but the people who are using it, too.

If you can, also consider talking to the people who don't have a gym membership and try to figure out why. Maybe some people don’t even know your fitness center exists or where it is.

Include questions in your regular employee survey or do a separate survey. Don’t forget focus groups or informal discussions can also be very valuable to learn from employees.

When you compile your data, identify the difference between what you have and what you need. Determine how you’ll fill those gaps.

Identify your audience

The answer to this question may seem pretty straightforward. However, we challenge you to dig deeper.

Consider what would be best for new hires. Perhaps you have employees who recently returned from a leave of absence. If you have both remote and in-office employees, think about potential differences in communication to both groups.

Additionally, what you might want to say to some employees will differ from what you may want to say to management.

Employee health and wellness looks different for everyone, both in and out of the office. And it certainly doesn't hurt to consider all the factors!

Enlist senior support

Support from one or more senior team members will ensure your plan gets the attention it deserves and demonstrates the importance of the plan.

Build your plan

This should be a long-term, ongoing plan with built-in checkpoints and measurements. Formulate a brand for your wellness plan emphasizing the most important concepts.

This brand can be something that compliments your company brand but has a different personality and is well known across the company. Be sure to outline launch events and ongoing events. Offer incentives for starting and continuing healthy habits.

Your plan should include:

  • Mission and vision. Show how the employee wellness plan supports your company mission and vision.
  • Key messaging. What do you want employees to learn about the wellness plan from your communications? Map out these messages in detail and include them in your plan. This ensures that everyone knows what they need to know, and that the messaging is consistent.
  • Short and direct messages. Create scannable, easily comprehensible pieces of information. Everyone wants to be able to find answers quickly and efficiently.

In this age of text messages, reels, and TikTok, it's difficult to capture and hold employees’ attention for longer messages.

  • Digital and print. Consider all your options. Narrow it down depending on employee’s needs, budget, and timing. An employee working in your corporate office might be fine with a digital email reminder, while a warehouse employee might prefer something more tangible, like a brochure.
    Digital communication is very popular and cost-effective, but there is still a lot of value in print pieces. Whether you decide to go with posters, flyers, or brochures, each piece has a different purpose and impact. Additionally, you can pair print pieces with videos and support for in-person interactions like bullet points and power point slides.
  • Target certain audiences. Think about what groups you want to make your target. Once you have your answer, consider utilizing senior executives and managers for support. Employee resource groups can also help you out.
  • Create action items. What are you going to do to inform – and keep employees informed – about wellness? What events, communication vehicles, and in-person events will you have to create ongoing communications?
  • Construct a timeline and accountabilities. Make sure you have deadlines and outline who is accountable for meeting them.
  • Identify measures of success. How will you know you’ve succeeded, and how will you know if you need to shift course? Identify milestones and reassess your plan. Don’t be afraid to course-correct if necessary. It's much better to spend a little extra time figuring out what will work best than to face preventable setbacks later on or potentially needing to go back to square one.
    Remember, your plan isn’t etched in stone. You can change it, and you should from time to time, to get the best results. As each new generation moves into the workforce and technology continues to advance, there will always be a new and more innovative way we can communicate with our employees.

Consider a big splash launch

Your wellness program is a big deal! Make sure you present it that way. Consider planning a wellness day where you showcase the new wellness branding and upcoming events. Make sure senior executives take part and that there are later events scheduled to continue the momentum.

Measurement and course correction

Your program shouldn't be a one-shot thing. It's an ongoing program. Consider not only how it will continue, but how to make it better. Don’t forget formal means of measurement like employee surveys as well as information discussions with employees.

Key takeaways

  • Employee wellness programs are a key part of a good benefits program. They cut health care costs, improve productivity and increase retention.
  • A company wellness program is just like any other high-profile, critically important corporate initiative. It requires budget, senior support and strategic planning.
  • Communicating the program is key. Without communications, even the best program will have little impact.
  • Assess what you have. Decide what you need. Build in milestones, accountability and measure of success.
  • This is a long-term program. Continue to communicate.