6 ways to support employee health and wellbeing

John McNamara
Last updated on 5th November 2019
3 min read

It’s a fact. Companies with health and wellbeing programs in place reap the rewards when it comes to productivity and performance.

Better employee morale and engagement, a healthier and more inclusive culture, and lower sickness absence are just some of the benefits that follow.

However, a health and wellbeing program must be an integral part of the company culture to be effective – not just a nice to have, which can be switched off when budgets get tight.

So, here’s our top tips for HR and People teams to create a health and wellbeing culture to support your employees effectively and holistically this year.

  1. Get buy-in from the top

Reach out to senior leaders who don’t have a good work-life balance and engage them. Offer guidance to them around their personal wellbeing and provide support on how they can lead by example. Simple but effective initiatives include being seen to leave the office on time and not emailing workers out of hours.

For example, Vynamic, a healthcare consulting firm, implemented a company policy to discourage emailing after hours – including senior managers. Employees were banned from sending work emails from 10 pm to 7 am on weekdays and anytime on weekends. This simple change helped mitigate stress.

Elsewhere, Jeanette Martin, VP and Employee Wellness Program Manager at BankUnited engaged the leadership early on in their own wellbeing strategies, and now sits in on all of their senior leadership meetings – which brings us to our second tip…

  1. Have a dedicated member of staff responsible for wellbeing

If your organization is serious about supporting employees’ health and wellbeing, consider creating a role within your HR or People team dedicated to this.

A good health and wellbeing professional will create programs for different abilities and ages and foster a culture of wellbeing. They will ensure the topic is always front and center for managers.

  1. Tweak your wellbeing programs depending on your workers

Create, develop and tweak your plans over time depending on your employees’ engagement levels.

At the beginning, your focus might be participation. Not every program will interest everyone, so you will need to test a range that people of all ages and abilities can be a part of. For example, you could try something as gentle as a walking group at lunch to high impact kick boxing sessions.

Online retailer Zappos ‘Wellness Adventures’ initiative involves taking groups of employees from different departments offsite to do something fun, such as a golf lesson, laser tag or trampolining.

Zappos understands that not all employees want to do stereotypical fitness programs, so it constantly creates different ways to get employees away from their desks, moving and socializing.

  1. Have a specific long-term goal

Once your programs are established, you can change your goals to be more outcome-orientated.

Have a clear goal so that your program is easily understood and trusted. Whether your program is designed to reduce work-related ailments or prevent burnout, stay focused. Find out the top one or two health issues prevalent in your organization or the top wellbeing things your employees are asking for and devise a program to tackle them.

Also, be realistic. if you’re just starting out on this culture shift, you may not be able to cover all bases of health and wellbeing. Start off with one aim and when that is successful, you can build on it.

The most effective programs offer a combination of holistic, alternative, and clinical approaches to general wellbeing, mental health and financial health issues which cater to the needs of a diverse employee population.

  1. Use data to understand patterns in behavior

Use people analytics to understand patterns of sickness absence. Are there specific teams who take more time off, or are there certain times of year where there’s an increase in absenteeism?

Provide health assessments of your employees to understand what their levels of fitness or simply ask them what they want. Whether it’s bad backs, stress or even disengaged employees pulling sickies, once you understand the issues thanks to data, you’re closer to effectively solving them.

  1. Don’t ignore the easy wins

Employees spend, on average, eight hours a day in the office. Make sure their environment induces a healthy lifestyle.

Ask your workers what they think of their environment. Research recently showed that open plan offices are distracting for workers and creatives in particular need silence to work. So, create quiet areas.

Nature is good for the mind, so bring it into your office. The Journal of Experimental Psychology found that adding just one plant per square mile in an office, resulted in employees being 15% more productive than those without plants in their workspace. Remember: wellbeing isn’t just about promoting exercise.

Wellbeing takes time

On average, organizations with a culture of health have been offering health and wellness programs for at least six years – but they’re well worth the wait.

Effective and successful workplace wellness programs can help improve an organization’s culture and change lives. Companies can also benefit from lower turnover rates, fewer absences, increases in productivity and higher job satisfaction. What’s stopping your organization from making it a priority?

How are HR and People leaders prioritizing wellbeing? Download our research ‘Becoming a People Company’ to understand what’s top of mind for 500 HR leaders. 


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