Today’s competitive organizations are quickly learning that implementing wellness programs makes good business sense. Offering services and products to support employees’ mental, emotional, and physical health is becoming increasingly popular as employers strive to keep current staff happy and attract new recruits.
According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans 2017 findings, over 63% of organizations surveyed have budgets for wellness programs and 51% expect to increase their wellness budgets within the next two years. At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in the past year 39% of private industry employees and 63% of state and federal government employees in the United States had access to some form of wellness programming.
If you’re thinking about introducing or expanding a wellness program, learn about how they can help your staff and your organization before choosing. To be most effective, research the wellness perks and benefits that could best fit your company culture and employees’ lifestyles.
“Workplace wellness programs have been shown to deliver big benefits to both employees and employers,” says Sammy Courtright, COO and co-founder of fitness wellness corporate program Fitspot Wellness. “Research shows that health screenings and physical exercise can help people lower important health markers such as their blood pressure, body fat, and stress levels.”
According to the recently published Illinois Workplace Wellness Study, employees who take part in these programs are also more likely to take part in health screenings – a test which may catch potential health issues while they’re treatable.
“Plus, wellness not only impacts workers’ physical health but also their total well-being.
From fitness classes to chair massages, wellness activities help improve workers’ productivity levels, overall moods, and collaboration between teams,” says Courtright.
While workers enjoy the most direct benefits of employee wellness programs, the organization investing in these programs will likely see benefits as well.
The Illinois Workplace Wellness Study reported that in just offering wellness programs, employees feel heard and valued by their companies. This positive sentiment only helps to increase feelings of loyalty towards a company.
As Courtright sees it, “Having wellness programs in place is great for company culture — for both current and prospective employees.” And the numbers support this. The Virgin Pulse survey found 88% of workers say that health and wellness programs give employers a competitive advantage over their peers.
When you’re considering wellness benefits and perks for your team, think about the demographics of your organization. How likely is your team to participate in each program? What’s the typical lifestyle of your employee? Keep this in mind as you review the following four increasingly-popular wellness options.
Taking advantage of programs and services that fall under the “wellness program” umbrella help your workers’ health – but it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the selection.
“There’s a huge variety of interactive and effective wellness programs which companies can offer these days,” says Sammy Courtright. “On-site wellness services may include fitness classes, ranging from yoga to Zumba to boot camps; chair massages; meditation sessions; educational workshops or seminars such as cooking classes, goal-setting workshops; and biometric screenings,” says Courtright. In addition, some wellness providers such as Fitspot also offer clients virtual wellness services that employees can access 24/7.
“These services may include online health assessments, access to meal-planning apps, mindfulness programs, and online workout video libraries,” she says.
With these ample options, we’ve put together some of the top wellness program trends to help you determine which one might be a good fit for your company:
Fitness programs have always been a part of workplace wellness benefits, but now you’ll find a wide variety of options available for businesses of all sizes right across the country. Options may include on-site fitness classes, workshops, and training sessions.
“Lots of gyms and fitness teams will do this stuff locally for any employer,” says Alexa Baggio, co-creator of Perks, an annual convention showcasing perks, benefits, and services for companies to offer their employees. “Some fun and different options include Inner City Weightlifting, which has a great social mission depending on your location, and Wellable which holds corporate fitness challenges through existing wearables like Fitbit, Apple Watches, etc. for a fixed cost based on employer size available anywhere in the world,” says Baggio. ”Most of these programs are less than $20 per person and see high engagement and appreciation.”
Making healthy food choices is a crucial component of wellness. Luckily, there are a few different ways to educate your staff on nutrition. Look for benefits programs that include dietician or nutritionist services and offer your team access free or discounted healthy meal planning apps or services, such as The Dinner Daily. “They provide shopping lists and weekly recipes to make food choices easier,” says Baggio. “And the service bases their lists on weekly sales at stores across all 50 states to help users save money.”
Revise your cafeteria menu to include more nutritious meal options. If you don’t have a cafeteria, you can still bring healthy food choices right into the workplace as a perk. Several new companies offer food services to businesses of all sizes in urban areas across the United States.
Baggio says that services like Leanbox provide a modular connected breakroom solution of healthy vending, coffee, cold brew, beverage vending and works as a healthy and flexible option.
To support your local restaurants and food services, check out programs like those offered through Fooda, which partners with businesses and local food providers to bring food into workplaces. “Fooda and similar groups will do in-office pop-up restaurants and bring healthy options to employees while supporting small businesses,” says Baggio.
Not to be forgotten under the wellness umbrella is mental health and emotional wellbeing. More companies are offering meditation spaces and mindfulness training services in the workplace, including Google, Asana, and yours truly– Zenefits.
According to a recent study published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, one in seven American workers say they practice mindfulness-based activities. The study surveyed over 85,000 adults and found that meditation rates among U.S. workers increased from 8% to almost 10% from 2002 to 2012. Furthermore, yoga practice almost doubled from 6% in 2002 to 11% in 2012.
“While this may not seem like a huge shift, this is great news for American workers,” says Daniel Turissini, founder of meditation and mindfulness studio Recharj. “Work-related stress is common and it is associated with many physical and mental ailments. These problems include high-stress levels, mood swings, decreased productivity, higher risk of chronic diseases and more. Meditation and mindfulness practices have been proven to improve employee well-being.”
As Turissini points out, researchers note that incorporating mindfulness practices into the workplace experience encourages employees to incorporate mindfulness into their daily routine. “These practices can include employee wellness and stress-reduction programs, meditation classes or web-based offerings,” he says.
According to the study, mindfulness practices can increase workers’ resilience, “thereby enabling them to better deal with stress while preventing burnout.” Turissini says workers who engage in mindfulness-based activities on a daily basis experience an increase in productivity, memory, creativity, focus, impulse control, and emotional intelligence. “Thus, taking care of the mental health of employees will create a more productive workforce for any company.”
Look for local meditation, mindfulness, or yoga practitioners that could host on-site workshops or sessions for your team. And check your current benefits package to see if meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are already covered.
Financial concern has long been recognized as a key stress factor for many people, and employers are taking notice when selecting wellness programs for their staff. The National Business Group and Fidelity Investments most recent Employer-Sponsored Health and Wellbeing Survey reports 84% of companies have “financial security programs,” an increase of 8% over last year’s results. According to Baggio, new financial management programs and perks are popping up all over because they’re inexpensive and easy for organizations to introduce.
“Managing stress is perhaps the main factor in promoting wellness. Luckily, there are a couple options to help manage financial stress that create a lot of visibility and support from the employer perspective but without being financially overwhelming to implement,” she says. Groups like Cognitive Financial will do student loan and tuition payment plans. They’re also launching a new employer product to allow the financing of small, personal, low-interest loans through payroll for employees who may need a small cash infusion to help.
If your staff demographics are more interested in financial education, consider offering workshops, boot camps, or lunch-and-learn sessions on financial topics. For example, MetLife offers something called RetireWise, a free multi-week boot camp program for employees looking for financial education.
Before signing up to offer a new wellness program or perk, it may be wise to survey your staff to see which ones they’re most interested in. This helps show your staff you’re willing to invest in their wellbeing, and that you’re interested in what’s important to each of them. Once the wellness programs and perks become available, remind your organization leadership to participate as well.
Learn More About Workplace Wellness Programs With Our Free eBook: Our Ultimate Guide to Workplace Wellness Programs