An employee wellness program is a systematic method of improving employee health by increasing awareness of health risks and encouraging people to make healthier lifestyle choices. The programs are supported by an employer's mission and values, which impacts how employees feel about their work environment and how they react to certain situations (e.g., stressors and challenges of their job). The wellness program should be integrated into the organization's overall health improvement strategy.
Using a wellness program to promote employee health has the potential to positively impact the entire organization. A positive program outcome can result in fewer workplace injuries and better employee retention, which are both important factors for sustained business success. The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) estimates that employees cost their employers $63 billion per year in lost work time due to workplace injuries. While employers are not solely responsible for these injuries, reducing the risk of them happening through integrated wellness programs has proven to be a successful strategy for reducing risk.
Employers want to focus on ways they can support employees while also reducing the risk of injury. Here are some tips to help you start on a healthy road to wellness:
- Assess your organization's culture. Assess where your organization falls on issues such as discrimination and harassment, work-life balance, and stress. This will help you discover which areas of your policy and culture could be contributing to employees' health and safety concerns.
- Provide training for managers. Provide managers with the tools they need to identify and address stress in the workplace, including information about what stress is and how to identify it. This can be done through educational resources, such as seminars, or by providing managers with a stress management toolkit such as a stress management form or checklist.
- Create a culture of openness. Openness allows employees to be comfortable talking to their manager and HR about any issues they may be dealing with, including possible workplace stress. This can be done through policy, such as providing a designated channel for reporting stress, or by creating an open-door policy.
- Offer a flexible work environment. Creating a culture of flexibility, such as a policy that allows employees to work from home every now and then, can help employees better manage their stress and better unplug.
- Reduced risk of injury. A healthy and engaged employee is less likely to be injured at work.
- Reduced absenteeism. Having an engaged employee is key to a productive one. Engaged employees are less likely to report workplace absences, which can be caused by a variety of factors.
- Increased employee productivity. A healthy and engaged employee is more likely to be productive in their role because they are less stressed about their job and more engaged.
- Reduced cost of injuries. Employers can save on medical benefits by investing in a wellness program that reduces the risk of injury.
- Increased retention rates. A healthy and engaged employee will be more likely to stay with the organization for a long time.
- Higher employee morale. A healthy and engaged employee is more likely to be happy in their job and feel valued.
- Provide adequate resources. Implementing a wellness program requires resources, including staff members trained in health promotion and healthy lifestyle education. This will help promote the program and ensure it is being used effectively.
- Develop a plan. A wellness program should be developed according to the organizational culture and needs of the organization. A wellness program should include a plan to be implemented and evaluated.
- Engage employees. A wellness program is more effective when employees are engaged. This can be achieved by providing incentives for participation and making the program accessible to all employees.
- Limit privacy breaches. Privacy breaches can happen in any program, so you want to make sure the information you collect is protected. There should be guidelines on who has access to data, how data is stored, and where it is being stored.
- Create a culture of change. Programs that are implemented without a change in culture are unlikely to be successful. A wellness program should be implemented in a way that promotes a change in lifestyle.
Healthy employees are a vital resource for any organization, and organizations can improve employee health by implementing workplace wellness programs. These programs can help employees by encouraging them to take regular physical activity, eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and manage their stress levels. A successful wellness program will reflect your organization’s culture and mission and will be implemented according to the key considerations outlined above. When implemented effectively, workplace wellness programs can help reduce the risk of injury and improve employee productivity, retention rates, and morale.