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23 Must-Have Ideas for Your Employee Wellness Program in 2023 (& Beyond)

June 23, 2024

Not too long ago, when HR teams thought about improving employee wellness — if they did at all — they mostly thought about health insurance. But over the past few years, the definition of workplace wellness has undergone a radical transformation.

The modern conception of wellness, shared by HR teams and employees alike, is holistic, touching on every facet of a life well lived.

It’s still important to treat diseases and injuries, of course. But we now recognize that living your best life also involves developing sustainable healthy eating and exercise habits, gaining work-life balance, learning to manage stress, nurturing supportive relationships, taking control of your finances, and so much more.

This is good news for HR departments. It means there are so many more ways to help support your employees’ wellness than you may have considered. Some require significant investments, and some are practically free.

(Why should you care about employee wellness? Among other benefits, wellness makes good business sense. Learn how employee wellness boosts the bottom line here.)

The following ten tools will help you manage an engaging, effective, and fun employee wellness program. Some of the tools are for you — for monitoring and optimizing your program — and some are ways to aid your company’s employees along their journeys to good health and well-being.

1. A 30-Day Wellness Challenge Workbook

For some people, the same-old fitness routine can get monotonous. Researchers have discovered that people who do more types of exercise also tend to get more exercise overall.

Help your employees mix it up by offering a new prompt for improving their physical or mental health every day of the month. Your 30-day wellness challenge workbook can be virtual, printable, or in good old-fashioned published form, depending on what you think would be most helpful to your employee population.

Get even more like this in our Employee Wellness Toolkit

Download our Employee Wellness Program Toolkit to get 10+ actionable resources to help your brainstorm, plan, build, promote, and measure your employee wellness program.

Get even more like this in our Employee Wellness Toolkit

Download our Employee Wellness Program Toolkit to get 10+ actionable resources to help your brainstorm, plan, build, promote, and measure your employee wellness program.

2. A Workspace Ergonomics Guide

Sitting all day can be bad for your health — physical and mental. Extended sitting behind a desk is associated with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, and a host of musculoskeletal ailments stemming from poor positioning.

Your guide can include:

  • Tips on positioning keyboards and monitors to reduce strain.
  • Pointers on seat adjustment.
  • Quick exercises for staying loose.
  • Checklists for setting up a home office.
  • Anything else to help your employees remain comfortable and healthy throughout the workday.

This ergonomics guide from the U.S. government’s Computer/Electronics Accommodation Program provides an excellent model.

3. An Employee Cookbook Project

Traditional employee wellness programs bring employees together to work toward a physical fitness goal, like completing a certain number of steps in a month. These group challenges promote a “we’re all in this together” spirit that keeps employees engaged and feeling supported throughout the challenge.

Why not extend the camaraderie to other wellness areas?

An employee cookbook project invites employees to submit and share healthy recipes they love. You can compile the best recipes into a cookbook and distribute it company-wide. It can even become an annual tradition (or you can assemble seasonal variations, such as a “healthy holidays” edition).

4. A Healthy Habits Tracker

There’s something so satisfying about tracking your progress, checking off a day completed, and watching your accomplishments accumulate. It’s why we’re all so zealous about maintaining our Wordle streaks — and it’s the driving force behind successful wellness challenges.

Your company’s wellness program should include ways for your employees to track progress toward goals like drinking enough water, getting adequate sleep, or taking screen breaks.

Your wellness program vendor may offer online wellness tracking portals or apps, or you can consider investing in wearable fitness trackers for your employees. Crossing off dates on a physical calendar or marking off a checklist can also be very rewarding.

5. Virtual Wellness Challenges

Don’t forget about your remote or hybrid employees when planning your company’s wellness program. Remote employees, who can easily fall into sedentary habits, may benefit from wellness initiatives even more than on-site workers.

For some fun, engaging ideas, check out our list of wellness challenges for remote and hybrid workers.

6. A Wellness Program ROI Calculator

HR teams want to know, “Is our wellness program getting results?” While it can be hard to reduce the qualitative aspects of well-being to hard numbers, hard numbers are exactly what your company’s leadership wants to see before authorizing continued investments.

A wellness program ROI calculator would help you calculate the impact of your wellness program in the terms that matter to you and your company, such as reduced healthcare costs, improved productivity, and decreased absenteeism. Ask your program vendors if they provide such tools.

7. An Office Fitness Poster Series

Sometimes we just need a little reminder to get moving. You can post simple exercise instructions around the workplace where employees will see them — in break rooms, hallways, restrooms, and even conference rooms — spurring them to take a quick break for fitness.

8. A Mindful Breathing Video Series

Mindfulness is sweeping America’s workplaces and for good reason. Mindful practices such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises can reduce stress, combat depression, and improve focus. Best of all, mindfulness requires no special equipment; often, all you need for a bite-sized mindfulness practice is a video or recording and a little peace and quiet.

You can share mindful breathing exercise or meditation videos with your employees through an HR microsite or portal. Local instructors might be available to create videos for you, or you can search online for high-quality recordings.

9. A Healthy Commute Options Map

Employees who are new to your company, along with plenty of existing employees, may be interested in biking, walking, or even running to work, but they may not be sure about the safest or most pleasant routes.

An interactive healthy commute options map (perhaps provided through your company’s onboarding portal) can direct new hires and everyone else to the best bike paths and pedestrian-friendly roads. They can also offer tips for safety and sightseeing along the way.

(Hint: You can also encourage more people to bike and walk to work by installing shower facilities in the workplace.)

10. A Wellness Program Success Stories eBook

Is company leadership unconvinced about the value of employee wellness? Nothing changes minds more than a well-told story.

There are plenty of wellness program success stories to be found online. (For example, according to a study that tracked Johnson & Johnson’s worksite health promotion over six years, the program produced an ROI of $1.88 to nearly $4 for every dollar spent.) Find these stories, compile them into an ebook, and share them with your company’s decision-makers.

11. A Stress-Management Toolkit

The constant deadlines, the pressure to perform, the oppressive commute — there’s no denying it, work can get intensely stressful from time to time. About 65% of American workers say work is a significant source of stress. Unmanaged stress can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and burnout and physical symptoms such as hypertension and digestive disorders.

A stress-management toolkit gives your employees something to turn to when the stress gets too much to bear. The toolkit can include stress-relieving exercises, guided meditations, self-care tips, and resources for finding qualified help.

12. A Mindfulness at Work Ebook

We tend to believe that mindfulness requires a tranquil environment free from distraction. But plenty of mindfulness practices can be done from anywhere, even amid a bustling workspace.

Your mindfulness at work ebook can compile quick, work-friendly mindfulness practices into one accessible resource. (Here are a few to get you started.) Ask your company design team (or hire a freelance designer) to enliven your book with clear and colorful illustrations.

13. A Healthy Snack Recipe Book or Guide

Snacks can either help or derail a person’s efforts to maintain healthy eating habits. Harvard University says nutritional snacks can curb the appetite between meals, but ultra-processed snacks high in added salt, sugar, and fats can contribute to unwanted weight gain and various diet-related health issues..

A downloadable healthy snack recipe book can help employees choose wisely between meals. Your book can include easy-to-follow recipes for healthy snacks that employees can make at home or bring to work. The book can also include a list of healthy store-bought snacks for employees who don’t enjoy preparing their own food.

14. A Mental Health First-Aid Checklist

Most people know at least a few warning signs of a stroke or heart attack, but how many people know when a mental health crisis is occurring? You can distribute a mental health first-aid checklist to help your employees identify the symptoms of mental health issues.

The checklist can include resources on recognizing and responding to common mental health warning signs in the workplace so that employees can get help before their minor issues become major concerns.

15. A Work-Life Balance Assessment Quiz

Interactive quizzes make excellent wellness resources because they engage employees and offer personalized results instead of simply providing information.

A work-life balance assessment quiz can help employees understand how close they are to achieving the elusive but highly-beneficial balance between their work and personal interests and obligations. The quiz would also offer individualized recommendations for improvements based on the employee’s response.

(Here are two examples, one from the Canadian Mental Health Association and another from the University of Massachusetts.)

16. A Healthy Office Snack Delivery Guide

When they’re hungry but pressed for time, employees (and people in general) tend to grab whatever is convenient. Stocking the break room with nutritional snacks is an easy way to encourage healthy eating habits.

Several food delivery services cater to healthy workplaces. Your healthy office snack delivery guide can provide HR managers and team leaders with a list of approved vendors and information on how and what to order. (Don’t forget to ask your employees about their favorites.)

17. A Mental Health Benefits Comparison Chart

It’s not always easy determining which health plan offers the best value and coverage — especially when it comes to mental health benefits. Employees often get discouraged by the mountain of plan documents and choose more or less at random or whatever’s cheapest.

A mental health benefits comparison chart is a spreadsheet or infographic designed to help employees make side-by-side comparisons and identify the right plan for their needs. For more advanced digital features and easy-to-use interactivity, consider offering a benefits decision support tool.

18. A Sleep Hygiene Checklist

Nearly one-third of Americans fail to get adequate sleep, and almost 40% of employees have experienced fatigue at work during the previous two weeks. Working while deprived of sleep can impair focus and attention and make employees more susceptible to stress. According to the Sleep Foundation, fatigue costs employers nearly $2,000 annually per employee!

You can help your employees get a better night’s sleep and arrive at work refreshed and recharged with a sleep hygiene checklist. Your checklist can include sleep-promoting tips like choosing the right mattress, turning off electronics 30 minutes before bed, and maintaining a fixed bedtime and wake-up time. (Again, Harvard provides the perfect model.)

19. Virtual Mental Health Support Groups

Struggling with a mental health issue can feel isolating, especially for remote and hybrid workers with limited human contact. Support groups bring people with similar challenges together to discuss their experiences, offer encouragement, and share coping strategies. Virtual support groups help remote employees forge meaningful, supportive relationships from the comfort and safety of their homes.

Workplace peer support groups are becoming more common. Keep in mind, however, that maintaining trust and privacy within the group is paramount. What is discussed in the support group must remain within the group.

20. A Wellness Resource Library

A wellness resource library is a microsite or portal where employees can find everything they need to learn about their wellness benefits, find solutions to their wellness challenges, and join company wellness initiatives. You can also include access to wellness-related reading material and videos.

(We’re talking about a virtual library here, but you can also host a physical wellness lending library at your workplace, stocked with informational and inspirational books and guides.)

21. Adult Coloring Books

Adult coloring books have become increasingly popular in recent years for promoting mindfulness, reducing stress, engaging creativity, and just having lowkey fun. You can keep adult coloring books in common areas around the office (plus some pens or colored pencils) for employees to use freely whenever they need to turn off their minds. Puzzles and board games offer similar tension-relieving pleasures.

22. Workout ‘Passes’

According to one survey, 42% of Americans don’t exercise more frequently because they don’t have time; 36% skip planned workouts because they have “too much work to do.”

Workplace workout passes take these common excuses away from your employees. Workout passes can be printed or digital, giving your employees “permission” to take an hour away from work to focus on their health. They can use the time to go for a jog, visit a nearby gym, practice yoga, or do any other exercise they choose.

Workout passes might be a bit gimmicky, but they send the message that your company genuinely wants your employees to take the time to take care of themselves.

23. Employee Wellness Surveys

We’ve shared 22 great employee wellness toolkit options here, but the truth is, your employees know better than anyone what they need to feel and perform their best. So ask them!

Some of the most innovative and effective wellness ideas come from employee surveys. Multiple low-cost survey platforms are available online, or you can survey your employees more informally through email or text messaging. You might be surprised by what your employees suggest.`

Start Assembling Your Employee Wellness Toolkit

There are countless ways to support your employees’ health and well-being. These 10 tools represent just a sliver of the possibilities. Check this space often (or subscribe to our blog); we’ll offer more tips and tools for workplace wellness programs (and all kinds of other HR initiatives) regularly.

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