Employee wellness: 8 steps to launching a best-in-class programme

Oliver · 12 Jan

With stress having a tangible impact on 81% of British adults, we spoke to leading healthcare professionals about how employee wellness programmes can provide an antidote, reducing absence and boosting productivity.

Why do you need employee wellness?

HR professionals tend to spend a lot of time on the procedural tasks that keep employees ticking over and less time helping them to excel – on both a professional and a personal level.

As a result, programmes to improve employee wellness have typically been considered a nice-to-have, rather than an employer’s duty. But the more we’ve explored the topic, the more evidence has surfaced about the positive correlation between employee wellness and business performance.

By improving employee wellness, you don’t just reduce absenteeism, they increase engagement, performance and retention too. But to get these results, we need to think beyond purely physical fitness: the best programmes also cater for employees’ financial, emotional, and mental wellness.

While researching for our latest eBook on the topic, we caught up with representatives of leading health and wellbeing charities and not-for-profit organisations, as well as practitioners at the coal face of HR. The following eight point plan is a distilled elixir of their combined wellness wisdom. Each item is tailorable to fit organisations of all sizes and sectors.

8 essential steps to launch the perfect employee wellness programme 

1. Get buy-in

Your first challenge is earning senior leadership buy-in for the programme. To do this, you need to appeal to their rational and emotional drivers, while demonstrating the cost of not having a programme in place.

Arm yourself with the proven benefits wellness programmes bring to both employees and employers – such as reduce absence rates and increased retention – along with the in-depth research highlighting their economic and medical advantage, then express how your wellness initiative won’t just change the lives of your employees, but will also help the business reach its goals.

2. Set up a dedicated team

Whether it’s solely HR or a wider collaboration, the programme should be spearheaded by wellness champions to ensure goals are achieved and the benefits ripple throughout the organisation.

The people who make up these teams should have a good understanding of the business and the backing of the organisation.

3. Collect the data

Go to the people whom the initiative will apply: your employees. Use a combination of existing data – absence rates and turnover data – and primary research in the form of internal surveys and in-person meetings to pinpoint the areas that need addressing.

4. Make a plan

Based on your research and analysis, build a roadmap to formally document the goals of the initiative and the actions you’ll take to achieve them. Linking the programme to existing company initiatives, such as pension schemes, and demonstrating value on investment (VOI) will add extra credibility.

Once you have a clear idea of the wellness initiatives to introduce, do the research into costings per item. A powerful feature for your budget is to compare it to the cost of not embarking on the wellness programme – the current cost of employee absence against a forecasted rate, for example.

5. Design the interventions

With your plan in place, now’s the time to put the wheels in motion and solve the problems. The most successful employee wellness programmes are ones that offer financial, emotional, and physical wellness initiatives.

For inspiration of which items to include in your wellness programme, check out chapter five of our eBook.

6. Communicate the programme

This step is perhaps the most important, yet least well performed: communicate the wellness programme to your employees. Create a buzz and make sure everyone understands the schemes involved, educate them as to the importance of wellness, and how it will positively affect their lives.

But the communication shouldn’t stop with existing employees. Information about the wellness programme should be used as a recruitment tool, and an introduction to it should become a key feature of your employee onboarding process once they’re in the door.

7. Measure the impact

Measure areas such as participation, budget expenditure, behavioural changes, and participant satisfaction. This would be a good time to send out a company wide survey to measure engagement levels.

The wider analysis should link back to organisational goals: has business performance improved since you introduced the scheme?

8. Celebrate your successes

Using the same communications channels, report back to your people with success stories of how your wellness intervention has made a positive effect.

For more guidance on how to kickstart your employee wellness programme, download the full and free eBook now.

Employee wellness programme  


In summary

Focusing on employee wellness is vital to reduce absenteeism and increase engagement, performance and retention. 

An employee wellness programme must embody employes' physical, emotional, financial and mental wellness. 

The 8 steps to launch a perfect employee wellness programme include: 

  • Get senior leadership buy-in 
  • Set up a dedicated team
  • Collect employee data
  • Use your research to develop goals and actions of the programme
  • Communicate the wellness programme to your employees - getting everyone involved and understanding the importance 
  • Measure the impact and engagement levels 
  • Report back to teams with stories of how the wellness intervention has made a positive effect

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