How to improve your employees' wellbeing at work

workplace wellbeing

When investing in your employees' wellbeing at work, you may find allocating a budget challenging. Fortunately, there are plenty of health and wellbeing initiatives that meet the needs of small and large businesses alike. Additionally, workplace mental health initiatives often produce a positive return on investment (ROI).

What is employee wellbeing?

Employee wellbeing is a term that describes how a person's job affects their overall health and happiness. When an organisation prioritises wellbeing, their teams are likely happier and experience less stress.

Several factors contribute to an employee's wellbeing and they can include

  • Physical health
  • Emotional health
  • Financial health
  • Psychological wellbeing 
  • Social wellbeing

It's important to keep in mind that employee wellbeing touches on all aspects of working life, consequently, it has a significant impact on retention, engagement, and business success. 

Health initiatives

The following initiatives can help with employee wellbeing.

1. Provide healthy snacks

healthy office snacks

We are what we eat. One of the most important elements of health and wellbeing is a balanced diet. However, many people find it difficult to prioritise a healthy diet in their busy lifestyles. 

Consider providing healthy food like fruit, vegetables, nuts, smoothies, and yoghurts in your staff room. It shows that you care about employee health and provides employees with convenient, nutritious snacks to munch on when they're having a busy day.

Remote working option:

  • Remote employees often miss out on some workplace wellbeing initiatives, especially if they involve lunch. However, you can include them by organising a healthy lunch delivery a few times a week. Alternatively, you could also send them a voucher for a healthy food retailer and they choose the lunches they want.

2. Make lunch break mandatory

Picture this. It's 12 o'clock and you're in the middle of an insanely busy work week. Your stomach is grumbling and it's time for your break. You glance at your inbox and the piles of papers on your desk, and decide to work through your lunch hour. We've all been there.

A great workplace wellness initiative is to make lunch breaks mandatory. That is, make sure your employees are taking their breaks. Employers can reinforce this by walking the walk. If employees see all the managers and higher-ups taking a lunch break every day, they'll be more likely to follow their lead.

3. Reward staff for a job well done with a healthy lunch

healthy boardroom lunch

In any workplace, there are ample opportunities to dish out some praise and recognise great work. 

A great way to reward team members for a job well done is by ordering them a healthy lunch. This makes an especially nice treat as healthy choices can be expensive. Your employees will thank you for the company lunch, as well as the opportunity to socialise informally as a team.

4. Reinforce the importance of sick days & time off for those with health issues

Workplace burnout is a thing. Although many factors can contribute to burnout, a big one is the notion that employees need to power through any struggles they're having.

Additionally, in the context of COVID-19, many people may feel wrongly pressured to go into the office when they're worried about getting sick or potentially presenting symptoms themselves.

To fight these kinds of situations, a great employee wellbeing strategy can reinforce the importance of sick days and health-related time off to employees.

Communicate this to your employees. Make sure they know this is a rule and not an exception. Staff shouldn’t feel obligated to come into work if they feel unwell. Likewise you should trust your employees enough to feel assured that they won't take advantage.

5. Ensure that your work environment has plants & lots of natural light

light open office space

This might seem silly, but hear us out.

Natural light in the workplace has a documented relationship with employee productivity and wellbeing. Tellingly, a 2018 study by Dr. Alan Hedge of Cornell University showed that employees working in an office with optimised natural light experienced a 51% drop in eyestrain, a 63% drop in headaches, and a 56% drop in drowsiness.

Plants also have a positive effect on mental health by lowering anxiety and stress, improving concentration, and stimulating creativity.

There's no need to completely renovate your workplace to take advantage of the benefits of plants and natural light. Try arranging your office in a way that optimizes natural light exposure and investing in some pretty plants to place around the office and on employees' desks.

6. Set up mental health resources for employees

With 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem every year in England, introducing wellbeing initiatives in the workplace has never been important. Helping your teams to take care of their mental health is a great step towards enhancing their overall wellbeing and reducing absenteeism at the same time.

If you're a manager, make sure your employees know your door is always open to share whatever is on their minds. That said, some people may not want to discuss their concerns within a professional environment and would prefer speaking with a counsellor through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

Perkbox offers a comprehensive solution to take care of your employees' mental health and wellbeing. It provides an extensive library of wellbeing content and has plenty of stress-reducing resources such as guided meditations, talking therapy, and sleep stories. Additionally, Health Assured, a Perkbox partner, offer counselling and therapy as part of an EAP

Other mental health resources Perkbox offers include:

  • 24/7 confidential support helpline
  • Online health portal
  • Talking therapy
  • On-demand yoga classes
  • Hypnosis

Learn how you can deliver a successful wellbeing strategy with Perkbox

The benefits of workplace wellbeing initiatives

With some brainstorming, creativity, and an employee experience solution, you can come up with — and implement a variety of remote and office wellbeing programmes in your organisation that will have a big impact on all of your employees' lives.

The biggest reward arising from wellbeing initiatives is a healthy and happy workforce. They also bring about exciting results like:

  • Improved morale, productivity, and motivation
  • Reduced presenteeism
  • A strong employee value proposition
  • Increased employee loyalty and retention
  • Benefits that will attract top talent in your field

Why is employee wellbeing important?

Wellbeing gifts for staff can take many forms, all of them worth it. Taking care of your employees' wellbeing is incredibly important and every organisation should make wellbeing a core element of their HR strategy.

When people are happy and healthy at work they're more productive and take fewer sick days.

Furthermore, with an increasing number of people taking time off to recover from stress, anxiety, and depression, prioritising your teams' health and happiness has never been more important.

Creating a workplace environment that your people love, will not only protect their wellbeing but also strengthen your company culture. When people enjoy their work, their positive can-do attitude influences others, which in turn promotes business success. Whether an employee is achieving great successes or taking a long time off after turning in a sick note for bereavement, their wellbeing should be top priority.

Social initiatives

The following initiatives can help with social wellbeing.

7. Organise a walking meeting

Walking meetings are exactly what they sound like. Instead of sitting down in the office, take your informal meeting outside whilst going for a walk in the fresh air. This allows meeting participants to integrate some movement into their day while still being productive.

casual outdoor walking meeting

Big names like Steve Jobs, Harry S. Truman, Sigmund Freud, Charles Dickens, and even Aristotle have been big fans of walking meetings over the years.

A great way to integrate walking meetings into your employee wellbeing programme is to challenge employees to organise at least one walking meeting per week.

For remote employees:

When people are working from home, they're probably taking the same approach to meetings as they did in the office. However, as office-based colleagues are beginning to embrace different working environments, remote employees risk being left behind. Now, it's important to keep in mind that not all remote colleagues have access to a suitable outdoor space. That said, mentioning they can sit in their garden while on a call is a great way of encouraging them to think more about how they can use their home workspace.

8. Try out company exercise challenges

In order to reap great health benefits from exercise, it's advisable for adults to do at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity activity per week. However, many people just can’t find the time or motivation to exercise during their busy work weeks.

This makes company exercise challenges a great addition to a wellness programme. They'll get employees motivated and moving, but also contribute to a healthy corporate culture and foster employee engagement around something that isn't purely work-related.

You can try different kinds of exercise challenges depending on your employees' tastes and interests, but here are some ideas:

  • Walk, run or bike to work 
  • Stretching 
  • A new habits challenge where participants try a new kind of exercise
  • A stair challenge where employees take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Push-up or sit-ups 
  • Yoga, HIIT or pilates 

9. Set up situations that encourage colleagues to mingle informally

One of the biggest contributors to employee happiness and wellbeing in the workplace is authentic friendships between coworkers. They provide trusted sounding boards for new ideas, increase engagement and trust, act as support systems, decrease workplace stress, and increase productivity. What's not to love?

You can't force your employees to be friends, but you can set up social activities that encourage them to get to know each other, and improve employees' mental health while they're at it! Try organising after work meet-ups or drinks, starting team traditions, planning company trips, and establishing a buddy system for new hires.

Financial & professional staff wellbeing ideas

The following initiatives can help with employee performance and motivation.

10. Conduct performance reviews employees look forward to

Employee satisfaction in the workplace revolves around more than just financial compensation. It's also highly dependent on employees finding their purpose, feeling that they're dedicating their work to a meaningful cause, and working towards their professional goals.

Generally speaking, performance reviews aren't seen as a positive thing. Many people find them intimidating, and they've definitely contributed to a blood pressure spike or two. Nevertheless, a great wellbeing initiative is transforming performance reviews into positive things and focusing them on professional purpose and career development. This will help greatly with morale and long-term employee retention.

If you work in a managerial or human resources role, centre performance reviews around how employees feel in their current role. After all, any performance problems likely also stem from this.

11. Start an employee recognition programme

employee recognition good job note

Once in a while, we all want to be told that we've done a good job. All too often, workplace feedback is limited to the negative. However, a much more effective approach to promoting wellbeing in the workplace is focusing on the positive and recognising employees for a job well done.

There are many ways to incorporate employee recognition into your organisation. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Promotions or new titles
  • One-on-one thank you meetings
  • Social media or newsletter shoutouts
  • Congratulatory emails
  • Employee of the month programmes
  • Raises or bonuses
  • Rewards and gifts

12. Provide company swag that contributes to employee wellbeing

Lots of companies give out company swag, however, it's often not overly exciting. Think pens, cheesy t-shirts, and stationary. If you want to give your employee wellbeing a boost with your company swag, try gifting items that people will benefit from. A few ideas include:

  • Water bottles to increase H20 intake
  • Fitness gear and workout clothes
  • Thermoses or mugs for coffee and tea
  • Reusable, eco-friendly cutlery, cups, and straws
  • Comfy blankets or sweaters
  • Seasonal accessories like umbrellas or beanies

13. Give workers raises

chart trending up

Put simply, organisations should give regular raises to employees they value and want on their team in the long term. This doesn't mean you have to give everyone working at your company a raise, but regular raises do wonders in terms of employee satisfaction and staff retention.

If you want to implement a concrete employee wellbeing initiative, create a transparent raise and/or bonus programme in your company. Let employees know when you review salaries and what criteria you look at when considering giving them a raise. Providing employees with a clear path to more compensation (and responsibility) will foster motivation and trust.

Personal development with workplace wellbeing initiatives

The following initiatives can help with employee development and job satisfaction.

14. Invest in your employee's personal & professional development regularly

In order to maximise employees' professional health and wellbeing, show them that you care about their personal and professional development. This builds trust by demonstrating that you’re invested in their long-term career paths and general growth as human beings.

Make this a workplace wellness initiative by regularly providing staff with training opportunities. Training can be related to work skills and competencies that need to be developed, but it can also be completely unrelated to the workplace and focus on personal development. Think about training on mindset, financial literacy, and languages, for example.

15. Plan for regular team building activities

outdoor team activity

Organising regular team building activities is great for employee wellbeing. Despite their cheesy reputation, they've been shown to build trust, reduce stress, increase collaboration, and prevent conflict. Done well, they'll encourage staff to get to know each other on a personal level and break up their regular work weeks.

There are so many team building activity options, whether you want to play a game in the office, do a day trip or organise an activity online. Here are some of our favourite suggestions:

  • Virtual after-work drinks on Fridays
  • A team hike
  • A cooking class or cook-off competition
  • A board game tournament
  • Office trivia
  • A sports tournament
  • A community volunteering day
  • An art or pottery class
  • Charades or Pictionary

16. Arrange topical webinars

Organising seminars and webinars for your employees is another way you can invest in their professional development and promote their wellbeing. No matter how good you are at your job, there's always more to know. However, there's never enough time in the day (or work week) to spend time learning and enriching skills, even if you might want to.

Help employees out by giving them the time and resources to do so. Ask them what skills they'd like to develop, and find a professional in your field to conduct a seminar just for them.

17. Make company-wide meetings a thing

company wide virtual meeting

Many businesses try to reduce the size of meetings in order to maximise efficiency. While this makes sense in more urgent circumstances, there are some serious advantages to conducting larger or even company-wide meetings every once in a while.

Company-wide meetings allow for great personal development opportunities because they mix teams up. Rather than talking to the same people all the time, staff get to interact with employees from other teams and departments. This spurs creativity and creates a more enriching company culture.

Company-wide meetings are also great opportunities to transmit values, get everyone on the same page, announce important news, and recognise the great work that's being done.

Work-life balance workplace wellbeing initiatives

The following initiatives can help maintain a work-life balance.

18. Implement flexible work hours

Flexible work hours have significant health and wellbeing results. This is because they contribute to a healthy work-life balance, which makes employees happier, less stressed, and less susceptible to burnout. They're also easier to implement than ever, due to the rise of remote working.

To set up this wellbeing initiative in your company, you'll need to develop a policy that will work for you. Some examples of flexible work hour policies include:

  • Condensed work weeks
  • Working from home (on select days or always)
  • Fully customised work hours
  • Partially customised work hours
  • Flexible vacation and/or personal days

19. Start an employee volunteer initiative

employee volunteer initiative

This wellbeing programme is an investment in both your employees and your community. Many people don't have the time to volunteer but would love to give back to their communities. Give them the chance to do so by starting a volunteering initiative in your company.

There are a couple of ways to go about this. For example, you can organise a staff volunteering day where the whole team gets the day off and works on one big project together. This is a great team-building activity.

Another option would be to follow in the footsteps of companies like AppDynamics and give employees VTO (volunteer time off), where they receive paid time off to volunteer for a cause of their choice each year.

20. Normalise extended time off & sabbaticals

Last but not least, many people avoid taking extended time off because they're afraid that it might look bad or jeopardise their career, even if they have a great reason to do so. Owing to this, it's a great employee wellbeing initiative to normalise extended time off and/or sabbaticals in your workplace.

Employees usually become eligible to take a paid sabbatical once they reach a certain level of seniority, usually between 3—7 years. During their sabbatical, they may choose to travel, conduct research, focus on professional development or otherwise contribute to their personal or professional wellness. As such, it's no surprise that sabbaticals have been shown to reduce stress, increase general wellbeing, and improve job performance in the long run.

Similarly, it's important to nurture a company culture where long-term employees feel comfortable having conversations about extended time off for reasons such as maternity/paternity leave, personal or family issues, and care for a sick family member.


Making adjustments for remote workers

Wellbeing initiatives are a vital part of employee satisfaction and motivation. However, more often than not, staff wellbeing ideas fall short in delivering great outcomes for remote employees. However, with a bit of extra planning and care, you can implement ideas that will resonate with all of your teams, regardless of where they're based.

Usually, making slight adjustments to activities is enough to ensure they're applicable to remote colleagues. However, in instances where this isn't possible, we recommend choosing another activity that has more flexibility.

For example, take team building days, most of the time these occur in the office or at another location. Now, because the purpose of team building activities is to bring your teams together, unintentionally excluding remote colleagues from the event undermines what you're trying to achieve. So, in this case, we recommend holding an inclusive virtual team event, so that everyone can take part.

Inclusivity is a crucial element of company culture and employee experience, so it's important that your approach to wellbeing takes into consideration both office-based and remote employees. 


Optimise your employee wellbeing strategy and prevent burnout

We've put together this guide to help you create the best possible employee wellbeing strategy.

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