15 ways your company can contribute toward employee wellness

Last updated: April 20, 2024
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Yiming Shuang
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15 ways your company can contribute toward employee wellness
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Not too long ago, employee wellness meant providing health insurance policies, and that’s about it.

Now, employee wellness encompasses a much wider variety of initiatives, covering everything from physical and mental health to company culture and social wellness.

While this is certainly a positive change, things can get a little confusing for employees.

Around 73% of companies offer some form of employee wellness program, but there’s really no consensus on what that wellness program actually looks like, and each company takes a different approach.

Suppose you’re responsible for implementing an employee wellness strategy in your organization, or you’re interested in advocating wellness on behalf of your team. In that case, there are a variety of initiatives you’ll want to gain a good understanding of.

This article will discuss exactly what is meant by employee wellness, why it’s important, and how it breaks down into eight different dimensions.

Then, we’ll dive into 15 different ways your company can implement employee well-being initiatives. Then, you can work with your manager to decide the best path forward for your organization and understand what to look for when applying for new jobs.

What is employee wellness?

Employee wellness is a fairly broad category and includes any kind of initiative a company might undertake to improve the physical or mental well-being of its employees.

Employee wellness programs can be thought of as one form of employee benefit, but wellness should extend beyond things like health insurance or gym memberships (though these are important).

We’ll discuss several wellness initiatives in detail soon, but to give you an idea of what workplace wellness programs might look like, here are a few examples:

  • Weekly yoga sessions

  • Reimbursements for childcare costs

  • Providing healthy snacks

  • Education around healthy behaviors

  • Employee Assistance Programs for counseling and career advice

The idea behind employee wellness programs is this:

Healthier employees are happier employees, and happier employees are more engaged, do better work, and stay with the company for longer.

Corporate wellness programs offer a number of benefits for both employees and employers.

Why is employee wellness important?

Employee wellness programs are important for a variety of reasons.

Wellness activities have been shown to have a positive impact on:

Interestingly, many of these health benefits are actually great for both the employee and the employer.

Take job satisfaction, for example.

We all want to be happy at work, enjoy our work environment, and do meaningful work.

Human resources departments also want to see more employee engagement as increased job satisfaction means fewer people move on to other companies.

Before we move into discussing the main kinds of wellness challenges and initiatives companies offer, it’s important to understand that employee wellness extends far beyond the realm of physical health alone.

8 dimensions of employee wellness

Let’s break down eight dimensions of employee wellness.

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1. Occupational

Occupational health refers to the sense of purpose and meaning we receive from our work.

It refers to measurements like fulfillment, happiness, and engagement and negative aspects such as stress and workplace anxiety.

Initiatives that improve employee satisfaction include progression and development plans, stress reduction training, and improved work-life balance.

2. Physical

Physical health is the dimension of health we typically think of when we think about wellness.

The physical dimension includes aspects such as:

  • Diet

  • Exercise

  • Sleep and rest

  • Physical illness and injury

Employee wellness plans can incentivize physical activity by providing gym memberships, holding company fun runs, or holding walking meetings instead of seated ones.

Nutrition can be supported by replacing vending machines with fruit and other healthy snacks and providing free water on site.

Physical health and wellness initiatives are typically complemented with education around nutrition, exercise, sleep, and rest.

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3. Emotional

The emotional dimension of wellness (often referred to as mental health or mental wellness) reflects how we feel, cope with stress and adversity, and manage our internal thoughts and feelings.

Emotional well-being is a lot less tangible than physical well-being, meaning both employers and employees should take extra care to ensure the emotional safety of those around them.

Wellness initiatives that serve this dimension of health include meditation and yoga classes, subsidized counseling, stress reduction seminars, and reduced work hours with the aim of avoiding burnout.

4. Spiritual/purpose

The spiritual dimension of well-being refers to one’s sense of meaning and purpose in life, not just within their career.

In many cases, there is a religious element to this dimension, where employers provide workers space to pursue religious endeavors such as holidays and events.

However, spirituality can extend to things like mindfulness and mediation, and it helps to ensure there is an alignment between individual and company values and beliefs.

5. Social

Social well-being is intimately connected with emotional and occupational well-being.

It refers to the quality of relationships you have with friends, family, spouses, and, importantly, the people you work with.

This dimension of well-being is important for a number of reasons. Humans are social creatures, and we find a lot of meaning and fulfillment by engaging with others.

But we also need a support network, and we need to know that we have people we can confide in during times of stress or uncertainty (which workplaces sometimes cause).

Social wellness initiatives might include after-hours activities or additional leave for visiting family members more regularly.

Social wellness can also extend to the community, with companies promoting initiatives like volunteering.

6. Intellectual

Intellectual well-being is about developing your mind, staying intellectually stimulated, and remaining inspired.

Workplaces tend to serve this dimension of wellness by providing learning opportunities, paying for tuition costs, hosting webinars, and sending employees to work-related courses.

7. Financial

Financial well-being is about being satisfied with your current earnings (though that doesn’t mean you can’t have a desire to earn more) and being content that your financial needs are taken care of.

This breaks down into four facets:

  1. Staying within one’s means

  2. The ability to deal with emergency costs

  3. Having access to information to make informed financial decisions

  4. Having a financial plan for the future

Workplaces with financial wellness initiatives typically offer outside financial advice and planning assistance, as well as resources and education.

8. Environmental

In the workplace, environmental wellness refers to the experience of the environment you’re working in (e.g., your office).

Things like quality light, comfortable, ergonomic chairs, and the availability of fresh water are all important aspects.

For many, environmental well-being extends out into the world, where employees want to know that they’re doing their part for the earth’s environment.

Employers might serve this need by having a carbon footprint reduction policy or by engaging employees in environmentally-focused outings like tree planting days.

15 ways your company can contribute toward employee wellness

As you’ve seen so far, there’s a lot that companies can do to improve employee wellness, and there are plenty of options to choose from.

Let’s look at 15 common wellness activities that you should look for when applying for a job at a new company or that you can recommend to your manager to be added to your organization’s wellness plan.

1. Gym memberships

Gym memberships are an easy way for employers to incentivize and encourage physical activity.

The average gym membership costs around $500 per year, which is a reasonable cost considering the myriad of benefits physical exercise brings to the workplace.

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Companies can take this a step further by initiating a health challenge.

For example, employees may take part in a three-month challenge, with the person who hits the gym the most during that period receiving some form of reward (like an extra paid day off).

2. Smoking cessation plans

Though smoking is becoming less and less common, around half a million Americans still die each year as a result of smoking-related health issues.

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Organizations can go beyond providing health information and front the cost of smoking cessation services.

These services help smokers develop a plan to stop smoking and can provide resources like nicotine patches.

3. Stress reduction initiatives

As many as 94% of workers in the U.S. say they’ve experienced some workplace stress in the past year.

Stress has an impact not only on mental well-being and job satisfaction — it can have physical health consequences as well.

Company wellness initiatives to help reduce stress include:

  • Meditation classes

  • Allowances for flexible work hours

  • Additional paid time off

  • Counseling services

4. Sit/stand desks and wellness equipment reimbursement

Those in sedentary roles (such as administrative assistants) are at greater risk of injury to the neck and back, especially if they aren’t using ergonomic equipment or a monitor that isn’t set up correctly.

This is around 80% of U.S. workers.

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Standing desks are a great way to improve back health, and many of these units are adjustable, so employees can choose to sit or stand at any point during the day.

With many of us now working at home, some companies opt to include wellness equipment reimbursement as part of their well-being package so that employees can purchase gear such as:

  • External monitors

  • Quality office chairs

  • Ergonomic keyboard and mouse

5. Childcare costs

The cost of childcare can be a major source of stress for parents and for those who are expecting.

For many, these costs are unsustainable, meaning many new parents have to reduce their hours to a part-time capacity.

Organizations can support the social and occupational dimensions of employee wellness by contributing to childcare costs or even providing on-site childcare (more common in larger organizations).

6. Flexible work schedules

Managing busy life schedules around a typical 9–5 is nobody’s idea of fun.

You’ve likely experienced the challenge of trying to rush to the bank when they close at 5.30 pm.

Workplaces can support employees’ social and spiritual needs by allowing them to set their own hours or even work remotely when required.

Of course, this arrangement isn’t always possible (for example, some jobs require shift work). However, employers can still implement a policy of discretionary flexibility so that employees have some wiggle room when they need it.

7. Travel reimbursements

Another common wellness benefit is to subsidize the cost of travel to and from work.

This can help reduce financial stress but also serve employees’ environmental needs.

For example, companies can incentivize carbon reduction initiatives by purchasing monthly public transport passes for each employee.

8. Fitness challenges and weight management activities

Though year-round physical wellness initiatives are crucial, a little short-term motivation can often help boost employee health.

Businesses can create this sense of motivation by organizing a fitness challenge. A common example is the “Biggest Loser” challenge.

Participating employees weigh in at the beginning of the month and then compete against each other to lose as much weight as possible in 30 days.

The company can provide some assistance (such as gym costs or healthy eating resources), and whoever loses the most at the end of the month wins.

A good prize here is to give employees an extra day off, as this helps reduce stress and improve emotional well-being alongside the physical health benefits.

9. Healthy eating initiatives

One of the problems relating to poor physical health in the U.S. is a limited understanding of healthy food.

Our understanding of healthy eating has come a long way since the days of the food pyramid, so a simple way for employers to help is to bring in a nutrition expert to provide some helpful advice to employees.

Additionally, companies can institute a policy of providing healthy food options in the workplace. For example, an organization might choose to remove the vending machine from the office and replace it with a fruit basket delivered weekly.

10. Counseling costs

One of the major barriers for many of us who would otherwise seek mental health assistance is the high cost of counseling services.

The average cost of a single session is around $120, which adds up to around $500 a month if you’re going weekly.

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Employers can include some form of contribution toward counseling as part of their employee wellness program or choose to fund it through an Employee Assistance Program.

11. Health screenings

Employee wellness programs should focus on preventative measures.

One way to help employees recognize health issues before they become serious is to provide free health screenings and risk assessments on a regular basis.

12. Yoga and meditation

Yoga and meditation classes are a popular way to improve employee wellness on both the physical and mental well-being fronts.

Employers can approach this in a few different ways:

  • Bringing an instructor into the office environment

  • Providing online class access

  • Purchasing memberships to yoga classes nearby

13. Paid time off

Currently, the U.S. doesn’t have any legal requirements regarding paid holidays, sick days, or vacation leave.

That means it’s up to the company to set this policy.

Those that wish to emphasize mental well-being and stress reduction can increase the number of PTO days they offer each year.

14. Health insurance

Perhaps the most common form of wellness benefit is the health plan.

Employers can typically access insurance premiums at a reduced cost (because they’re purchasing so many), so this tends to be more cost-effective than having employees organize their own insurance.

Providing health insurance means that in times of need (such as in the case of a sudden accident or illness), employees don’t need to worry about costs, and they can focus on what matters, their health.

15. Financial planning assistance

Lastly, employers can help serve the financial wellness needs of their workers by providing some form of financial planning assistance.

Typically, employees are authorized to meet with financial planners at a specific organization, and this organization bills the company directly.

What does employee wellness mean to you?

Though many employers in the U.S. do offer wellness programs, there is no clear consensus on what these programs should constitute.

Unfortunately, that can sometimes mean you’ll find yourself in a company that doesn’t place a huge emphasis on well-being activities.

If you’re finding yourself in that position now, and you’d rather work for a company that is committed to helping its employees lead a healthy lifestyle, then it might be time to look for a new job.

Check out the Jobcase job board today and see what’s on the market.

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Gina Carter
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