Workplace Wellness Programs: It’s Not Just a Trend, It’s a Smart Investment

workplace wellness programs

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Human Resources professionals hold the keys to a thriving workplace. You aren’t just handling hiring, payroll, and benefits—you’re shaping the very heartbeat of your organization. The well-being of your employees is a core element of a company’s success and resilience, and HR leads the charge. Workplace wellness programs are critical to a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce.

The Hard Return on Workplace Wellness Programs 

Wellness initiatives can seem like optional extras, but they have profound ripple effects. Not everything that counts can be counted, but we can measure the ROI of workplace wellness programs in the three following areas. 

1. Reduced Healthcare Costs

A healthier workforce means lower healthcare costs for the company in the long run. In 2022, one of my clients experienced a spike in pharmaceutical sleep aids. We reviewed the medical reports and designed a wellness strategy around healthy sleep habits the following year. Their healthcare costs, specifically in pharmaceutical sleep aids, went down significantly. 

Employees experiencing a sense of well-being at work are likelier to adopt healthy lifestyle practices, lowering the risk of stress-related health issues and promoting overall vitality. Johnson & Johnson’s leaders estimate that wellness programs have saved the company $250 million in healthcare costs. The return was $2.71 for every dollar spent. This complementary relationship between workplace well-being and physical health highlights the advantages of investing in employee well-being.

workplace wellness programs

2. Reduced Turnover Costs

Employees who feel physically and mentally supported are less likely to look for work elsewhere, leading to a more consistent and reliable workflow. Another one of my clients, whose leadership embodies well-being at work, did not lose a single employee during the pandemic. The team of 218 people stayed together even when business was slow and uncertain. Employees believed in the company, trusted management, and knew they would survive the pandemic intact. They have since hired 12 more employees as the business continues to grow. 

In addition to reduced attrition rates, leaders who invest in employee well-being are more likely to attract and keep talent. Today’s top talent wants more than a paycheck, and companies that invest in employees with strong wellness programs have an advantage in the competitive hiring landscape.

Research shows that employees who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall well-being are 67% less likely to search for a new job, 71% less likely to report experiencing burnout in their jobs, and 5 times more likely to advocate for their company as a place to work, and to strongly agree they trust the leadership of their organization.

3. Boosted Productivity

Healthy employees are more focused, present, and energized, which results in better output and creative problem-solving. In contrast, poor workplace well-being, marked by stress or dissatisfaction, can impede productivity and contribute to absenteeism, highlighting the crucial role of well-being in optimizing individual and collective work performance. Burnout is not just an inconvenience. Poor well-being affects your organization’s bottom line through lower productivity, higher turnover, higher absenteeism, and higher medical costs (due to preventable conditions). On average, burnout costs organizations 15–20% of total payroll through voluntary turnover. Wellness offerings show employees they are valued, not just as workers but as people. This boosts morale, loyalty, and productivity.

What Workplace Wellness Programs CAN NOT Do

workplace wellness programs

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Workplace wellness programs are not a band-aid for a toxic work culture. Employees’ basic needs must be met for a wellness program to thrive. Essentials include a livable wage, sufficient time off or flexibility in schedule, and healthy interpersonal dynamics. If an employee feels stressed because they are not meeting economic demands, yoga isn’t going to help. Meditation profoundly benefits concentration and reduces stress, but employees can’t meditate their mortgage payments down or pay for their rent in backbends. In addition to implementing a well-being program, ensure employee’s basic needs are met. 

Designing Your Wellness Strategy: Ideas to Get You Started

Workplace wellness isn’t one-size-fits-all. Ideally, a wellness program is an extension of the company’s values and aspirations. I’ve worked with a client who makes sustainable pet food and toys. Their core values include environmental health and animal care, so our wellness strategy included plant-based snack options in the break room and offering pet insurance for employees with furry loved ones at home. Having a wellness strategy streamlines efforts and leads to faster results. Consider these ideas tailored to different areas of well-being:

Physical Health:

  • Desk yoga classes that focus on posture and productivity
  • Healthy plant-based snack options in the break room
  • Opt for a walking meeting or lunch outdoors
  • Set up ergonomically-friendly workstations

Mental Health:

  • Access to counseling or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • Mindfulness and meditation workshops
  • Flexible work schedules to reduce stress and burnout
  • Mental health awareness training for managers

Financial Well-Being:

  • Pay employees a livable wage
  • Host financial planning workshops
  • Offer a 401k program
  • Include a short-term employee loan program

Workplace Culture:

  • Create a wellness channel to share articles and video tutorials
  • Have leadership participate in wellness initiatives
  • Encourage open communication and feedback
  • Promote a culture of respect and inclusivity
  • Schedule team-building activities and social events during work hours
  • Implement recognition programs for employee achievements

The HR Champion: Making Wellness a Priority

workplace wellness programs

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As HR professionals, you advocate for your company’s most valuable asset – its people. Lead by example – take those breaks, go for walks, attend the wellness sessions, and prioritize your own wellness. Your passion is contagious. It’s time to position wellness programs not as a luxury but as a cornerstone of success.

What kind of workplace environment do you want to foster? Start a conversation about wellness in your organization today. Your investment will pay tenfold in a workforce buzzing with health, happiness, and dedication.

ZaaS offers workplace well-being services and strategies onsite and virtually to companies worldwide. Contact us today for support