Employee Health and Wellness: the Benefits of a Wellness Program

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Earlier this month it was ‘national sickie day’ in the UK. The first Monday in February traditionally marks the day when most people call in sick, hence the nickname. It got me thinking about employee health and wellness and how, if done right, employee wellness programs could perhaps lead to the end of a sad phenomenon such as national sickie day.

In a society where more and more people are conscious about their health, it’s no wonder that this mindset has increasingly made its entrance into the work floor too.

Employees who are trying to make healthier lifestyle choices – by choosing their food wisely and trying to exercise regularly for example – will want to work someplace where their lifestyle is supported, or better yet, facilitated through an employee wellness program.

But employee health and wellness doesn’t just have benefits for the workforce, it also has many advantages for employers.

In today’s article, we’ll have a look at some of the benefits of an employee wellness program, both for staff and employers. 

In this Learning Bite, we discuss the benefits of employee wellness programs on the employee experience and organizational performance.

Benefits of wellness programs – For employers

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Happier employees

Exercise boosts the release of endorphins, the ‘happy’ hormone. So a little bit of exercise during the day – as much as a game of table tennis – does wonders for employee morale and performance. Even a little walk during your lunch break has a positive effect: research shows that a 20-minute walk stimulates the creativity of our brain.    

Happy employees are more productive, more engaged and less likely to leave – or take a sick day – so really, do we need to say more?

Healthier employees

Another benefit of employee wellness programs is that they contribute to a healthier workforce. A wellness program creates – or at least it should – a culture of healthier lifestyle choices. It increases awareness about, for instance, the food we eat, the amount of exercise we get and the importance of sleep.

If your employee wellness program facilitates (some of) these things such as exercise and food in the workplace, it will have a positive effect on employee health. Not just physically but mentally too. 

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Take the food people have during their lunch break for example. Research shows that the bacteria in our gut – which are impacted by our diet – affect our brain and may even influence anxiety and depression.   

So not only does what we put in our mouths affect us physically, it also influences our state of mind; another reason to create awareness about food and the consequences of what we eat in your employee wellness program.

Eventually, this will be beneficial for absence and sick leave rates which (can) cost companies a lot of money.   

AIHR-benefits-wellness-program

Employer brand

A lot is being said about employer branding and the importance of a strong employer brand these days. In order to attract top talent in a competitive market every detail counts.

21st-century job seekers look at more than just the salary and hours of a job. They want to know about an organization’s learning and development opportunities and whether or not the company offers an awesome employee wellness program.

Having a wellness program is a big plus for organizations wanting to attract those rare top candidates and as such it reflects positively on your employer brand.

Benefits of an employee wellness program – For employees

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The first two benefits we described above for employers are valid for employees too: a little bit of fun exercise during the day will make them happier and a culture of health and wellness will have a positive contribution to their (mental and physical) health in one way or another.

Employee Wellness Tools

There is a wide range of employee wellness tools. Some of them are so simple – and relatively cheap – you may not even think of them at first whereas others are fully digitalized tech tools.

Since we call ourselves Digital HR Tech, we always like to include a digital element in the articles we write. When it comes to employee health and wellness, there are numerous tools out there, meant to improve (a part of) your employee health and wellness. Below, we’ll look at a few digital and non-digital examples.

The fruit basket

Now, this typically is one of those simple yet effective things that are easily overlooked. The first company I worked for used to have a full fruit basket standing in the corner of the corridor a couple of days a week. I always was amazed to see how many employees picked up at least one piece of fruit (often more) from that basket.

This is a very easy and yet not too costly way of contributing to your workforce’s five a day!

The corporate gym membership

Many companies offer their employees a (considerable) discount on a gym membership. While this may seem a good idea – and don’t get me wrong, of course, it’s a step in the right direction – it doesn’t work as well as you’d expect it to.

In reality, it turns out that it’s often mostly those employees who go to the gym already, regardless of the company discount, that use the corporate membership.

An alternative, depending on your budget could be an on-site exercise facility. Or, if that’s not an option, standing desks, a ping pong table and exercise balls for example.

Out of office time

A team outing can be a great boost for employee health and wellness. Again, this doesn’t have to be very expensive. Think of laser-gaming, bowling or trampoline jumping for example.

Not only are these off-site activities a good way for teams to get to know each other outside the work environment, they also are a lot of fun!

Corporate wellness challenges

Onto a truly digital wellness tool now. There are lots of them, ranging from wearable technology (such as the Fitbit for instance) to mindfulness apps and everything in-between.

The Outbreak is a good example of how digital technology can make corporate wellness (a lot) more fun. The game, developed by A Step Ahead, is a team-based, 6-week long step and exercise challenge that gives employees the task of surviving in the harsh world of a zombie outbreak. In order to survive, team members need to use real-world steps and physical activity.

Of course, the progress of the teams is tracked and teams are rewarded with bonuses and extra points if they play well.

Endless possibilities

The employee wellness tools mentioned in this article don’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to the possibilities out there. They do however give you an idea about the many different options you have when it comes to creating a wellness program.

Whether you’ve got a big or a small employee health and wellness budget at your disposal, there’s always a good (digital) solution out there for every organization. Hopefully, that will bring us one step closer to a ‘national sickie day’ free world! 

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