Employee Wellness Programs: Boosting Morale in SMBs

June 13, 2024・9 mins read
Employee Wellness Programs

Currently, 51% of employers with 50+ employees offer some type of wellness program. Moreover, 91% of employees shared that they had goals for their overall well-being. Although it's easier for big companies to offer their team non-traditional benefits, SMBs can boost employee morale and reap the benefits of adopting some strategic programs even more. To help you maintain a competitive advantage and manage healthy employees, here are a few key pieces of insight on wellness programs and how they affect your SMB.

What Is an Employee Wellness Program?

An employee wellness program is a structured initiative organizations implement to promote and support their employees' overall health and well-being. These programs typically include a variety of activities, resources and incentives designed to improve physical, mental and emotional health among employees. Employee wellness programs can encompass a wide range of components, with the goal being to create a healthier, happier and more productive workforce while reducing healthcare costs, absenteeism and turnover for the organization.

Benefits of Having Strong Workplace Wellness Programs

There are several direct and indirect benefits of wellness programs for both employers and employees. Some of the most notable include the following:

Healthier Employees

Employees who work full-time, have a family and want to make time for social activities are often pressed for time to hit the gym or take a fitness class. Employees are more likely to participate in physical activity when you provide initiative or make it easy with wellness plans or on-site activities. Small changes can encourage employees to make healthier decisions- such as access to an on-site gym to use during breaks. Healthier employees tend to take fewer sick days and are more focused throughout the day.

Better Productivity

According to a recent study, lost employee productivity caused by depression and anxiety costs the global economy roughly $1 trillion per year.3 When employee well-being is taken care of, it can result in increased energy levels, sharper focus and improved concentration—all of which result in better productivity at work. Good wellness programs can also reduce burnout and help enhance employee engagement.

Decreased Absenteeism

Improved employee health can result in decreased rates of absenteeism caused by sick days or burnout. This not only may help to save money in the long run but also help provide more continuity and greater adherence to deadlines among employees. Although wellness programs may require a time commitment from the employer's standpoint, the investment can pay off.

Reduction in Employee Stress

57% of employees suffer from high stress at work, and about 7 in 10 employees are struggling with stress outside of work.4 Although several things can contribute to stressors, learning how to manage them and process emotions plays a huge part in how they affect an individual. Wellness programs can include stress management strategies such as mindfulness sessions, relaxation techniques and access to mental health resources. These tools can help employees cope with stress and mitigate the negative effects on employee well-being.

Increased Job Satisfaction

Employees who feel supported in their overall well-being are more likely to experience higher job satisfaction. Wellness programs demonstrate that employers care about their employees' holistic health, which can contribute to a greater sense of loyalty and fulfillment in their roles.

Better Cognitive Function and Problem-Solving

Physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices promoted through wellness programs have been linked to improved cognitive function.5 Regular exercise, proper nutrition and adequate sleep can enhance memory, focus and decision-making abilities, leading to better performance in the workplace. Healthy lifestyles and physical well-being can also allow employees to maximize their problem-solving skills.

Team Bonding

Participating in wellness activities fosters camaraderie among colleagues, strengthening interpersonal relationships and teamwork. Whether it's through wellness challenges or volunteering initiatives, employees have the opportunity to connect on a personal level, which can translate into improved collaboration and communication in the workplace.

Positive Company Culture

A strong employee experience is a good way to create a positive company culture that can help your organization attract and retain top talent. It can make employees more loyal and committed to your organization, furthering your short- and long-term goals. Although there are several aspects of company culture, wellness programs often have a substantial impact.

Stronger Recruitment

Another study found that 61% of job seekers think it's important that prospective employers offer employee wellness programs.6 With more candidates looking for jobs that offer more than traditional perks, robust wellness programs also play a critical role in recruitment.

Higher Employee Retention Rates

Employee satisfaction and employee retention go hand-in-hand. When your workforce is happy with their position and the company, they're more likely to stick around and grow with the company. While employees shouldn't be required to participate in wellness initiatives, having the option as part of employee benefits is enough to make an impact. Oftentimes, programs help employees adopt healthier lifestyle choices even if they don't actively realize it.

Professional Development

Wellness programs can encompass opportunities for professional growth and skill development, helping you scale and promote from within. By investing in employees' personal and professional development, companies demonstrate their commitment to their growth and success, leading to higher engagement and performance. It can also make managing employees simpler, as individuals who grow with the company understand your mission and values.

Different Dimensions of Employee Health and Wellness

When most people hear of wellness programs, they think of physical wellness. However, several dimensions of employees' well-being need to be considered. To provide employees with a well-rounded approach, consider the following types of wellness when designing your benefits programs.

  • Physical Health - Physical well-being can encompass anything that helps support healthy bodily functions. This can be things targeted towards the circulatory, digestive and even reproductive systems. Things like health screening programs, smoking cessation programs, wellness initiatives and nutrition help fall under this category.
  • Emotional Wellbeing - This includes the mental health of an individual, including their ability to process and manage emotions. These programs provide employees with support on how to handle stress, manage interpersonal relationships and process trauma. It encompasses aspects of how individuals think, act and feel both in and out of work.
  • Social Wellness - Social wellness initiatives focus on creating a stronger sense of community within each individual. This can help improve social interactions during business hours and help create a sense of cohesion among your workforce. Social wellness should focus on getting to know individuals outside of the office or volunteering in the local community.
  • Financial Wellness - Inflation and money are the top leading causes of stress in the US,7 so businesses that offer help with financial wellness resources may be able to gain a competitive advantage. Employers can help employees by offering retirement packages, education, resources, or access to a financial wellness solution provider so employees can get help with their financial wellness journey.
  • Occupational Wellness - Programs that focus on professional fulfillment are also a strong part of health and wellness programs. Components that fall under this category include work-life balance, remote work options and a positive work environment. Occupational employee wellness activities can also be tied to professional development.

Examples of Wellness Solutions to Offer to Employees

To help employees feel appreciated and valued at work and to enhance workplace culture, it's important to consider wellness too, including physical and mental health aspects. Some examples of wellness programs that may be effective include the following:

  • Gym membership credit or reimbursement
  • Nutrition classes or coaching
  • Health coaching or physical trainers
  • Free healthy food at work
  • On-site fitness classes
  • Standing desks
  • Biometric screening program
  • Health risk assessments (HRA)
  • Healthy behavior promotion efforts
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Weight management programs
  • Flu shots
  • Wellness challenges
  • Collaborative workspaces
  • Workplace library
  • Financial wellness programs
  • Financial counseling
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs)
  • Financial wellness education
  • Mentorship programs
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Remote working arrangements
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Childcare facilities

Creating a Comprehensive Wellness Program

The mental and physical health of your employees are usually prioritized when creating a benefits package. While these are important, you may want to offer programs covering unique aspects of wellness. Specifications may depend on your workplace culture and wellness budget, but here are some tips for getting started.

  • Align Your Employee Wellbeing Program - Every workforce has unique needs. Try to determine what wellness offerings will be the most impactful for your team and try new programs accordingly.
  • Measure Success and Ask for Feedback - Track levels of employee participation for each of the wellness programs you offer and measure outcomes. See which guided support programs are being used, how they affect employees and whether they're worth the long-term investment. You can also ask for feedback using surveys.
  • Adapt and Amend Accordingly - If one program gets employees to adopt healthier lifestyle habits, keep it. If another one doesn't seem to have any impact, try something new. Programs take a while to gain traction, but if there's been no participation or enthusiasm about one of your options, it might be better to amend your benefits.

To help you offer an attractive benefits package that focuses on employee wellness, work with TriNet. TriNet offers full-service HR solutions to SMBs across various industries including access to premium benefits with greater options to help drive employee satisfaction and attract and retain top talent.

© 2024 TriNet Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This communication is for informational purposes only, is not legal, tax or accounting advice, and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance. TriNet is the single-employer sponsor of all its benefit plans, which does not include voluntary benefits that are not ERISA-covered group health insurance plans and enrollment is voluntary. Official plan documents always control and TriNet reserves the right to amend the benefit plans or change the offerings and deadlines.

This article may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such web sites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.

1. National Library of Medicine, “Prevalence and economic burden of depression and anxiety.”
4. Harvard Health Publishing, “Exercise can boost your memory and thinking skills.”
5. Business News Daily, “Employees Reveal How Stress Affects Their Jobs.”
7. American Psychology Association, “Stress in America 2022.”
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