How (and Why) to Start a Corporate Employee Wellness Program

You know that one person in the office — they come in early, stay late, skip lunch, and live off of coffee and snacks. They likely get home just to fall asleep and do it all over again the next day, skipping any opportunity for exercise. They may be hardworking, but they are in desperate need of an employee wellness program.

Personal health is not only the key to living a long life, but the key to creating a healthier and more productive workforce. Healthy employees are more motivated, faster at getting projects done, and more efficient. These attributes generate additional revenues for your business, so why wouldn’t you take advantage?

Starting an employee wellness program from the ground up doesn’t have to be a challenge. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages of an employee wellness program and exactly how you can set one up for your company.

Why a Corporate Wellness Program Matters

Let’s start with the obvious: personal wellness should always come first. But in addition to this, here are three reasons why a corporate employee wellness program matters for your business.

Implement an employee wellness program and watch productivity rise.
Implement an employee wellness program and watch productivity rise.

1. Increased Productivity

An unhealthy employee tends to be a less productive employee, which is detrimental to your business. Many studies have proven that employee wellness programs lead to increased productivity. You can test this theory yourself — the next time you’re feeling sluggish, take a quick walk around the block to get your heart rate up and then return to work. You’ll see your own productivity spike. 

2. Fewer Health Problems

A healthy lifestyle naturally helps the body build immunity to colds, flus, and other illnesses. This reduces absenteeism and sick days so business can continue as usual. It also saves money on insurance because employees visit doctors less and live longer, healthier lives. 

3. Happier Employees

Adding an employee wellness program to your company’s offerings is proven to lead to happier employees. Many companies accept burnout as a part of the job, without realizing it leads to increased turnover, absenteeism, and loss of productivity. With an employee wellness program, your workforce will be more energized, ready to work, and passionate on the job.

The 8-Step System to Developing an Employee Wellness Program

Now that we’ve established why employee wellness programs are essential to your success, let’s explore how to implement your program. It can be done in eight steps.

1. Get Buy-In from Management

Your management team should be champions of your program. Management sets the precedent for how employees should behave at work, so it’s crucial that you get buy-in from your C-Suite. Host a meeting with management to communicate how an employee wellness program benefits employees, what your strategic goals are, and how these goals will benefit your company.

Your C-Suite should champion your wellness program.
Your C-Suite should champion your wellness program.

Next, ensure your C-Suite commits to participating in and promoting the program. This will greatly affect the number of employees that adopt the program. When they see leadership committing to wellness, they will be more likely to follow suit.

2. Assemble a Wellness Committee

You can’t develop a wellness program without understanding the needs of your employees first. Seek out employees who would be interested in contributing their feedback about what would make an employee wellness program great at your company and invite them to join the committee. You can also conduct a survey to see who among your workforce would be interested. Ensure your committee has members from as many departments as possible so your entire workforce — and their respective needs — are represented. 

Your wellness committee will play a critical role in defining your programs objectives.
Your wellness committee will play a critical role in defining your programs objectives.

Host workshops where they can brainstorm ideas, provide feedback on your company’s current wellness initiatives, and share what they think would comprise a great program for your specific company. Use these workshops to develop a mission statement for your program and discuss goals for the program.

These workshops can range from once a month to multiple times a week, depending on how extensive you want your program to be and how much time your committee members have to dedicate to it. When you meet, break out into groups to discuss wellness needs, test different wellness products that help automate your program, and document feedback on areas your company can improve upon.

Your committee should discuss needs in the following areas of a wellness program: 

  • Weight management
  • Stress management
  • Exercise programs
  • Health screenings and checkups
  • Nutritional needs
  • Vaccination incentives
  • Initiatives for how to stop smoking

Finally, it’s crucial to establish up-front how long your committee members will serve. If necessary, establish a process for nominating and inviting new members to avoid burnout.

3. Establish a Budget

This is a critical step when creating your employee wellness program. Your program won’t thrive without funding, so be sure to account for the following costs:

  • A good wellness budget factors in all of these costs to project an accurate cost of your program.
    A good wellness budget factors in all of these costs to project an accurate cost of your program.

    Program design

  • Vendors
  • Rewards and incentives
  • Promotional materials
  • Fitness trackers
  • HR time spent designing and implementing the program
  • Committee member time spent designing and implementing the program

When calculating your budget, you’ll want to determine what the approximate cost is per employee, per month. The cost will entirely depend on how expansive your company wants the program to be. It can rise also when factoring in rewards like gift cards or t-shirts, unless these rewards are included with your chosen technology platform (discussed further in the sections below).

Additionally, there are a few creative ways you can find more funding for your program.

Partner With Your Insurance Provider

Your health insurance carrier might already offer wellness components as part of your healthcare package. Sometimes these program costs are already included in your health insurance premiums.

Look Into Community Resources

Your local community might already have resources available to help fund employee wellness programs or provide fitness trackers, discounted exercise classes, and more to facilitate your program.

Reach Out to Hospitals, Universities, and Healthcare Centers

These institutions often conduct research on the effectiveness of employee wellness programs, so research opportunities in your area to see if your company can participate. This will considerably cut costs for your program.

Implement No-Cost Wellness Solution

There are plenty of creative ways you can implement wellness solutions throughout your company, like dedicating a conference room to yoga during the lunch hour or getting a group of employees together to walk the stairs in your building during breaks.

4. Set Fitness Goals and Rewards

This is where your wellness committee comes into play. Once you have aggregated their feedback, take this information and establish fitness goals for your workforce. This can be anything from having your workforce complete the 10,000 step challenge (where employees are encouraged to get their 10,000 steps in every day) to setting up rewards based on the number of times your employees visit the gym each week. 

Once you have your budget set for your employee wellness program, it's time to establish your program goals and rewards.
Once you have your budget set for your employee wellness program, it’s time to establish your program goals and rewards.

Wellness goals don’t have to be lofty — the goal is to get your employees motivated and active to improve their health for the long-term. Having specific milestones to strive for can help motivate employees to participate in the program. 

With these milestones should come rewards — the most effective tool for changing behaviors. Behavioral psychology has proven that people are more motivated to change their behavior when they are rewarded for doing so. Your wellness program should have a rewards system built in where employees can earn points for reaching specific goals that they can exchange for items and experiences. This is the easiest way to reward employees because it provides something for everyone. 

Your points system should be directly tied to effort. For example, if an employee meets their minimum step requirements, they should be awarded with 10 points. If an employee exceeds their steps for the day, they should be rewarded with 50 points. The best part about a system like this is that it can easily transition from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation as employees progress.

5. Find a Digital Platform to Manage the Program

The benefits of finding a digital platform to manage your wellness program are twofold: employees need an easy way to track their progress, and you need an easy way to manage your employee wellness program. 

A digital platform to facilitate your employee wellness program is essential to its success.
A digital platform to facilitate your employee wellness program is essential to its success.

We suggest finding a platform to manage your program because the manual processes that accompany managing a company-wide wellness initiative will weigh down your HR team to the point where the program becomes less effective. To maximize your program’s impact, you need a platform that can encourage employees to self-manage their wellness goals, track progress, and easily redeem rewards.

There are plenty of tools available to help employees participate in the program and redeem rewards as they achieve certain milestones. Look for a platform that:

  • Tracks milestones on a company-wide web interface so employees can see their peers’ progress
  • Allows others to like, comment on, and praise others’ accomplishments in a company-wide social feed dedicated to wellness efforts
  • Incentivizes your workforce to complete wellness challenges by offering a variety of unique and easy-to-redeem rewards
  • Offers the ability to curate rewards based on your specific company’s needs, values, and goals
  • Provides a ready-made app that employees can download for easy access to the program
  • Integrates with other wellness platforms if you want to expand your program

The platform you choose is critical to your program’s success, so be sure to do your research before making your selection.

6. Debut Your Program to Your Workforce

Once you have set your wellness goals, selected a technology platform to administer the program, and established your wellness rewards, it’s time to communicate your new program to your workforce.

There are several ways you can inform your employees about their new wellness program, but we recommend following these three steps:

1. Have Your CEO Announce During a Company All Hands

Your C-Suite should be the first to back your program, with your CEO at the helm. Employees will be more incentivized to adopt the program if they know it’s endorsed by leadership, so have your CEO formally announce the launch of the program during your next company all-hands meeting.

There are plenty of creative and fun ways to spread awareness about your employee wellness program.
There are plenty of creative and fun ways to spread awareness about your employee wellness program.

2. Host an Onsite Health Fair

Invite local and national vendors to participate (including your chosen wellness technology platform) so your employees can meet the people behind the program and engage in their wide variety of interests. Include vendors who can offer advice on nutrition, fitness trainers, and stress-management experts.

3. Over-Communicate When Following Up

Your wellness committee should have already developed a comprehensive communication plan during ideation, so refer to this when following up with your workforce. After your CEO formally launches the program and your employees attend the health fair, it’s time to reinforce your plan to your employees. This means sending weekly emails encouraging those who have not participated to sign up for the program. These emails should also highlight the benefits of the program, including your rewards.

7. Recognize Employees Who Are Succeeding

While incentivizing your employees with rewards is important, one equally important, yet often forgotten component of an employee wellness program is recognition. 

Employees who are succeeding deserve to be rewarded and recognized for their efforts.
Employees who are succeeding deserve to be rewarded and recognized for their efforts.

Manager-to-peer and peer-to-peer recognition is critical when motivating employees participating in your wellness program. When you see an employee succeeding, encourage their manager to send a note of appreciation that recognizes them for their effort. Additionally, ensure every member of your C-Suite recognizes employees for their accomplishments during your program to further demonstrate their endorsement of the project. 

Keep in mind that recognition should be public, meaning others should be able to view these recognitions on a social feed. All participants should be empowered to like, comment on, and send recognitions of their own to each other for their achievements.

8. Gather Feedback and Track Results

After your employee wellness program has been underway for a few months, gather feedback on how your workforce has responded to the program. Meet with your committee members to brainstorm ideas on how to improve the program based on this feedback. You can also use this as an opportunity to highlight success stories to send to your workforce and spread the word about your great program.

After your program is implemented, it's time to track the results and report them to your C-Suite.
After your program is implemented, it’s time to track the results and report them to your C-Suite.

Beyond simply word-of-mouth feedback from employees, it’s also essential to establish metrics for success like you would for any business initiative. These metrics will vary depending on your program — for example, you might measure success by your participation rate, your company’s reduction in healthcare costs, or the number of employees who have reached their fitness goals or stopped smoking. Report on these results at least quarterly to your C-Suite so they have visibility into the success of your program.

Wellness Is for the Long-Term

We hope these tips will help you set up your employee wellness program successfully. Remember that employee wellness is an initiative that benefits all employees for the long-term. The passion and effort you put into designing and implementing your program will shine through and affect your employees positively, forming long-lasting habits that lead to a healthier workforce.

Erin Nelson is a Digital Marketing Manager at Fond with over six years of B2B SaaS marketing experience. Erin has authored dozens of articles on employee rewards and recognition and frequently researches new trends in R&R. In their spare time, you can find them playing music, reading about socioeconomic and gender-based politics, and listening to true crime podcasts.