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Employee wellness program: unlocking its benefits

what is employee wellness program

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. What is an employee wellness program?

3. Benefits of an employee wellness program

3.1 Improved physical health

3.2 Improved mental health

3.3 Improved work-life balance

4. Implementing an employee wellness program

5. Do wellness programs have disadvantages?

5.1 Needs assessment

5.2 Lack of professional intervention

5.3 Inappropriate allocation of budget for the employee wellness program

6. Empowering your workforce through a wellness program

Imagine this: One of your workers approaches you with a worried expression. They confide that they've been struggling with stress and anxiety at work and in their personal life. You look closer at their latest work and notice that it's not up to par. It's a tough situation, but how would you react?

As a compassionate and proactive leader, your immediate response should address your worker’s well-being and explore solutions to alleviate their stress and anxiety. This scenario highlights the significance of an employee wellness program, which can play a pivotal role in promoting workforce well-being.

One of the first modern employee wellness programs was developed in 1979 by Johnson & Johnson, which included initiatives such as health risk assessments, smoking cessation, and fitness activities.

When your workforce is physically and mentally well, you will see its benefits. Their excellent performance and quality work will corroborate the importance of a wellness program for employees at your workplace.

In this blog, you will discover the definition of an employee well-being program, its benefits to you and your staff, some ways to implement it, and the essential considerations in implementing it.

What is an employee wellness program?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that well-being programs for employees are a complete and organised approach to promoting and protecting workers’ health. These include policies, aids, environmental support, and community links to ensure the well-being and safety of all workers.

Employee wellness programs primarily aim at the following: 

  • Improved employee health: One of the primary goals of a well-being project is to enhance your staff’s overall health and well-being. This may include promoting physical fitness, healthy eating habits, weight management, stress reduction, and preventive care.
  • Reduced health risks: They often aim to identify and address health risk factors among workers, such as smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, and high stress levels. As their employer, your goal is to provide resources and support to help them reduce these risks and adopt healthier behaviours.
  • Enhanced employee engagement: Engaging your workforce in well-being activities provides personal and professional growth opportunities. In implementing it, you must foster a positive work environment for each individual and recognise their efforts.
employee wellness programs enhance engagement
  • Decreased absenteeism and presenteeism: They aim to reduce absenteeism (being absent from work) and presenteeism (being present but not fully productive due to health issues). By promoting healthy behaviours, managing stress, and addressing physical and mental health concerns, you can mitigate the negative impact of these issues on productivity.
  • Improve employee morale and satisfaction: An employee health and wellness program enhances the workers' morale and job satisfaction by showing a genuine commitment to their well-being. It can increase loyalty, higher retention rates, and a positive work culture.
  • Manage healthcare costs: Your initiative should also aim to control healthcare costs for your company by preventing chronic diseases, reducing healthcare utilisation, and lowering insurance premiums. When you address health risk factors and promote healthy lifestyles among your workers, you will experience long-term cost savings.

Many employers like you often ask, "Do workplace wellness programs really help employees?"

The answer depends on your goals. If your goals are like the ones discussed, then it will be a win-win situation. The well-being project won't only help them but also your company.

You also need to remember that they differ from traditional healthcare programs. The former focuses on preventing health problems by promoting healthy behaviours and lifestyles. The latter focuses on treating illnesses and injuries after they occur.

Here are some key roles you, as the employer, play in wellness projects:

Program developer

You are responsible for creating and developing well-being projects that align with the workers’ needs and organisational goals. This involves assessing the health risks and needs of the workforce, designing appropriate interventions, and determining the components such as fitness activities, nutrition education, stress management, or mental health support.

Financial controller

employer as financial controller for wellness programs

You will allocate resources, such as budget and staff, to establish and maintain the arrangements. You will also decide how to fund the project development, wellness activities, educational materials, incentives, and more.

Communicator and advocate 

Of course, you are responsible for effectively communicating and promoting the wellness program to your staff. You will create awareness about well-being project offerings, share details, and encourage their participation. Also, regular communication through various channels such as emails, newsletters, company intranet, or posters helps keep your staff informed and engaged.


Expect that they will ask: are employee wellness programs effective? As an employer, you have a pivotal role in shaping worker wellness by leading by example and showing your commitment to health and well-being. When you prioritise health and actively participate in activities, it sends a powerful message to them. Remember, your actions and dedication set the tone for a healthier and happier workforce.

Incentive and reward manager

It is great to use wellness program incentives for employees to encourage participation. This may include financial incentives, such as bonuses or gift cards. They can also be non-financial rewards, like recognition, additional time off, or anything they will truly appreciate. Incentives can motivate them to adopt healthier behaviours and sustain their engagement.

Program evaluator

You can't just implement and engage your staff in activities without looking at the results. You should also regularly assess the effectiveness of your wellness programs by collecting and analysing data on employee participation rates, health outcomes, and program impact.

Here are some types of wellness programs:

  • Stress management: These may provide workers with tools, resources, and support to effectively recognise, cope with, and reduce stress in the workplace.
  • Nutrition projects: These promote healthy eating habits, provide education on nutrition, and offer resources to support the workforce in making informed food choices for their overall well-being.
  • Mental health wellness programs: These focus on supporting staff’s well-being by providing resources and activities to promote mental health and address mental health challenges in the workplace.
  • Active employee wellness programs: These encourage and facilitate employee engagement in regular exercise, fitness activities, and movement to improve physical health and overall well-being. If you are going to conduct such activities, you can also enlighten them about pain with the help of our blog about back pain prevention.
active employee wellness programs

These are only some samples of employee well-being projects. You can have them combined or modified or conduct something unique according to the design you're planning.

Benefits of an employee wellness program

Before we unveil the benefits of the program, let's see what percentage of employees participate in wellness programs. It's helpful to know this because this will help you set your expectations.

The employee wellness program statistics increased with the companies' size, ranging from 39% of worksites with 10-24 employees to 92% with 500 or more employees.

In 2019, 84% of large employers with 200 or more workers who provided health benefits implemented workplace wellness projects, encompassing initiatives that aid individuals in weight loss, smoking cessation, and lifestyle coaching. However, in 2021, despite the prevalence of the programs, employee participation rates were low, with some studies reporting participation rates as low as 20%. This happens when employers fail to instil the value of wellness programs in their workers.

The following are the programs' advantages that you can emphasise to boost participation:

Improved physical health

Physical health refers to the overall well-being of an individual's body, including the absence of disease, the ability to execute everyday activities, and the maintenance of appropriate body weight.

Improved physical health has several positive effects, including:

  • reduced healthcare costs due to lower incidence of chronic illnesses;
  • reduced absenteeism as workers experience fewer health-related issues;
  • increased productivity as physical activity promotes energy, focus, and overall well-being.

If you notice your staff complaining of neck pain, get some tips from our blog about tech neck to help them avoid and manage the pain.

A physically healthy workforce can lead to a more positive work environment and a better company image. Hence, always monitor your employees’ physical health.

Improved mental health

Mental health is a person's emotional, psychological, and social well-being, encompassing their ability to cope with and navigate the challenges of life, maintain healthy relationships, and handle stress effectively. It involves the overall state of one's mental and emotional functioning, impacting their thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and overall quality of life.

Improved mental health in the workplace leads to the following: 

  • reduced stress levels, which positively impacts employee well-being and overall morale;
  • increased job satisfaction; and
  • better performance

Monitoring employee mental health demonstrates a commitment to employee well-being and fosters a culture of empathy and support within the workplace. It addresses any potential issues or challenges that could affect productivity, engagement, and overall employee well-being. 

Improved work-life balance

improved work life balance of employees

Work-life balance refers to the equilibrium between one's professional commitments and personal well-being, ensuring that both aspects of life are given adequate time, attention, and importance.

Good work-life balance yields several benefits, such as:

  • increased employee retention rates as they feel valued and supported;
  • improved recruitment as job seekers prioritise companies that prioritise work-life balance; and 
  • increased worker engagement as they can deal with their personal and professional commitments better.

When you allow work-life balance in the life of your employees, it will increase productivity, employee satisfaction and retention, attract top talent, and promote better mental and physical health in the workforce.

Conducting a wellness program survey for employees is also crucial as it allows you to gather valuable insights and opinions directly from your workforce. Provide them with a survey to fill out, and you will understand your employees' specific needs, interests, and preferences when it comes to wellness initiatives. 

Implementing an employee wellness program

Many invaluable points have already been discussed in this blog, and we know you're already wondering how to start an employee wellness program.

Let's now dive into specific steps to design an employee wellness program:

1. Create a wellness committee: Gather a team of enthusiastic employees from different departments who are passionate about well-being. They can help drive the project forward and ensure its success.

2. Assess employee needs and interests: Again, conduct a survey or hold focus groups to understand what wellness initiatives your workers would be interested in. This ensures that the project aligns with their needs and increases participation.

assess employee needs and interests

3. Create a wellness plan: Based on the assessment results, develop a comprehensive plan that outlines the specific wellness initiatives you will offer, how they will be implemented, and the necessary resources. It will help you remain organised and focused. 

4. Avail of wellness program services: Consider partnering with a reputable provider, like our Wellness Event Organisation, to help implement your plan. We have the expertise to design engaging activities and ensure effectiveness!

The most essential tip when you're thinking about how to develop an employee wellness program is the individuality of your workers. Remember that they are different, and the design of your plan should cater to each of them.

Do wellness programs have disadvantages?

Like any organisational initiative, wellness programs may present challenges and considerations that must be addressed for successful implementation and outcomes. Employee wellness programs bring out adverse outcomes ONLY when the implementation fails to address the important considerations.

Here are some of the crucial considerations when implementing a program:

Needs assessment

This has been mentioned earlier. Before implementing a well-being program, it's essential to conduct a needs assessment. It involves gathering information about your employees' health and wellness needs and interests. This information can help you design a program tailored to your workers' needs, which can increase participation and engagement.

Failure to address this consideration before implementing an employee wellness program can result in low participation and wasted resources. For example, the budget you will allocate for employee wellness incentive programs could be wasted if it doesn't serve the needs of your employees' well-being.

Lack of professional intervention

importance of professional intervention in wellness programs

While it's possible to implement a wellness project without professional intervention, you can also work with a wellness plan provider. These providers give benefits to employee wellness programs because they have the resources and proficient knowledge and experience to design and implement effective ones.

Without the guidance and expertise of professionals, your plan of implementing wellness may lack evidence-based strategies, fail to provide comprehensive support, or miss opportunities for early intervention and prevention.

Inappropriate allocation of budget for the employee wellness program

Another important consideration when implementing an employee wellness program is budget allocation. Of course, appropriately allocating resources ensures the plan is effective and sustainable. It might involve investing in services, offering incentives to employees who participate, or providing resources for healthy snacks or fitness equipment.

Insufficient funding or misallocation of resources may limit the range of wellness initiatives that can be implemented, resulting in a lack of variety or depth in the program offerings. 

When the implementation results in adverse outcomes, don't consider them as disadvantages of employee wellness programs. Instead, re-evaluate your plans and considerations. Always ask yourself: Did I address all the important matters?

Empowering your workforce through a wellness program

benefits of employee wellness program

Positive results will become evident when your workers are in good physical and mental health. Their outstanding performance and high-quality work will prove the importance of implementing an employee wellness program in your workplace.

The discussed employee wellness program ideas, such as your role in the implementation, the ways of implementing, and the crucial things to consider, will help you plan out an efficient program. Just always think about your employees' differences.

Let employee wellness program examples be your model in designing a great activity for your workforce.

If you are wondering how to motivate employees to participate in wellness programs, remember that a survey can help you assess their needs and determine what interests them.

Wellness programs are not just for your staff; they can also help your company in the following ways:

  • increased productivity and performance
  • reduced healthcare costs
  • enhanced employee engagement and retention
  • decreased absenteeism
  • improved morale and job satisfaction, leading to a positive return on investment (ROI)

Aside from a wellness program, you can also conduct an ergonomic assessment. Your wellness programs will be wasted if your workplace has health risks. Consult us about our Ergonomic Risk Management service for feasible solutions to ergonomic risks!