Benefits Strategy

13 Great Examples of Wellness Programs for Employees

Written by Kate

Gone are the days when drinking copious amounts of coffee was the only antidote to fatigue and afternoon slump. Nowadays, it’s common to see employees swapping coffee breaks with yoga sessions, donning their running shoes for a quick jog, or even dialing into their mental health apps for a quick check-in with their counselors. This trend is growing in most workplaces as innovative companies implement cutting-edge wellness programs for employees.

Long viewed as a luxury offered by Silicon Valley tech giants with big budgets to splurge on best-in-class employee benefits, corporate wellness programs have evolved in recent years. After COVID exposed the chink in our collective health and well-being armor, stakeholders have upped their game. From chronic disease management to digital wellness apps, there are more innovations in the employee wellness program space than ever. Intrigued to learn more about these advancements and how they revolutionize the modern workplace? Check out this related article on fringe benefits for employees and why they matter.

So, what exactly is an employee wellness program? How does it work, and how do employers reap benefits? And, with all the demographic changes, what is today’s large and diverse workforce looking for in wellness programs these days? Let’s explore this and more.

What are Employee Wellness Programs?

An employee wellness program is an employer-led initiative that promotes and supports workers’ overall health and well-being. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation 2022 Employer Health Benefits Survey

  • 85% of large firms that offer health benefits in the US offer some type of wellness program for employees and their families. 
  • 55% of large firms and 40% of small ones offering health benefits offer health risk assessments.
  • 45% of large firms and 24% of small firms provide opportunities for biometric screening
  • 48% of small firms and 65% of large firms offer workers a health risk assessment, biometric screening or both 
  • 43% of small firms and 74% of large firms offer a smoking/tobacco cessation program
  • 39% of small firms and 65% of large firms offer weight management programs
  • 38% of small firms and 76% of large firms offer other behavior or lifestyle coaching programs

What is the Main Focus of Wellness Programs for Employees?

Different companies offer different wellness programs depending on their size, demographics, and financial resources. That said, most wellness programs have common components:

employee wellness

1. Physical Health

It’s often said that health is wealth indeed. However, modern life seems totally geared toward busyness, making it harder to achieve peak physical condition. Rapid digital and technological advancements have lessened physical activity, promoted a sedentary lifestyle, and increased our risk for lifestyle diseases.

Most organizations offer gym memberships, on-site fitness centers, subsidized fitness classes in local health clubs, and fitness challenges to promote healthy lifestyles.

2. Mental and Emotional Health

Mental health awareness has increased dramatically in recent years. According to the World Health Organization, mental health conditions and substance use disorders have increased by 13% over the past decade. And while remote work options are cost-effective and convenient, they’ve also exacerbated an already worsening mental health crisis in today’s high-stress work environments.

Examples of mental health solutions include access to therapy or counseling, mental health days, stress management seminars, and meditation classes. Some employers offer employee assistance programs (EAP) with resources for dealing with substance abuse, anxiety, depression, or burnout.

3. Work-life Balance

An average employee spends 1/3 of their time at work. This can create a conflict with the employee’s family obligations, social life, and even personal time. Work-related stress can also trickle down to an employee’s personal life and expose them to health risks.

Flexible work hours, remote work options, pet and child-friendly facilities, subsidized daycare, and eldercare are excellent programs that help employees manage personal matters effectively.

4. Preventative Health

“Healthcare costs for people with a chronic condition average $6,032 annually—five times higher than those without such a condition,” reports the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. Wellness programs help employees avoid potential health problems and lead healthier lifestyles.

Examples of such programs include health risk assessments, smoking cessation programs, biometric screenings, nutrition counseling, and weight management programs.

5. Financial Wellness

The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2022: Concerned for the Future, Beset by Inflation report underscores the importance of financial wellness. According to the report, inflation, the economy, and money are significant sources of stress for 83%, 69%, and 66% of adults, respectively. Furthermore, money is a major source of tension and fights in families for 55% of people.

Financial wellness initiatives help alleviate financial stress and improve overall well-being. They can include assistance with retirement planning or student loans, tuition reimbursement, stock options and equity for employees, etc.

6. Social and Community Programs

Human beings are social creatures. We’re wired for connection and community. According to Forbes, strong social connections increase employee happiness, improve physical health and boost job performance. They’re also more likely to remain with their employer and be more engaged.

“Loneliness kills,” remarked Robert Waldinger, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in his wildly popular Ted Talk, What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness. “Loneliness is as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” After a 75-year-old study, Waldinger and his team also discovered that “People’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels were.”

Social and community programs for employees can include team-building activities, volunteering opportunities, or social events that promote a sense of belonging. Some employers encourage employees to give back to the community by offering volunteer days or matching charitable contributions.

employees feel valued

7. Professional Development

Continuous learning is vital in today’s rapidly digitalized world. In fact, an opportunity for career growth within the company is a key determinant for a new job for employees aged 18-34, according to the 2023 LinkedIn Learning Report. Additionally, 31% of this demographic seeks opportunities to learn and develop new skills, and 30% of all employees seek impactful and challenging work.

Employers who prioritize employee growth often facilitate skill enhancement workshops, guided support programs, leadership training, mentorship programs, and continuous learning opportunities. Some also provide tuition assistance or support relevant certification courses to help employees advance in their careers.

8. Spiritual Health

Though often overlooked in discussions about both employee health and wellness, spiritual health is crucial to overall well-being. According to multiple studies, workplace spirituality increases positive outcomes such as job satisfaction, reduced burnout, and improved well-being.

Initiatives that promote spiritual health vary greatly depending on a company’s culture and the diversity of its employees. Some companies offer meditation or yoga classes to promote mindfulness. Others offer chaplain services or prayer rooms. Employers might also implement policies that respect religious holidays and customs.

Why Do Companies Offer Wellness Programs for Employees?

The simple answer is that employers value their employees. And healthy employees are happy employees. However, it doesn’t stop there. As some of the most brilliant scholars have noted, wellness programs for employers do, in fact, benefit employers directly and indirectly. To put that into context, here’s a roundup of interesting stats:

  1. 75% of people with access to a wellness program said it positively impacts their health. (2022 UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey). Better health improves productivity. 
  2. Employees with unhealthy diets are 66% more likely to have lower job performance.
  3. Employees who smoke are 28% more likely to report lower productivity.
  4. Organizations with a disease management wellness program report higher healthcare cost savings. One study showed reduced per member per month costs of $38, a decrease of 50 emergency room visits per 1000 member years, and a decrease of 16 hospital admissions per 1000 member years. (Effect of an Employer-Sponsored Health and Wellness Program on Medical Cost and Utilization)
  5. Health-related work losses cost US employers $260 billion annually.
  6. Companies with a wellness program saw a 28% reduction in employees calling in sick and a 30% decrease in workers’ compensation and disability management claims costs.
  7. Wellness programs would make 45% of workers stay longer at their current job.
  8. Workplace wellness programs can reduce health insurance claims by over 50%.

The benefits of implementing a workplace wellness program for employees go further. For example, replacing a single employee can cost a business up to 2X their annual salary. On top of that, you’ll also have to factor in the training and settling-in period, which can be as long as 12 months. When you add other factors, like how wellness programs boost employee engagement and morale or elevate your brand image, you can see why adding this extra perk becomes a no-brainer.

What Do Employees Want in a Wellness Program?

We’ve discussed how employers and employees benefit from workplace wellness programs. However, these benefits won’t materialize if you’re out of touch with your workers’ needs. In fact, the mismatch between employee needs and employer offerings is a major reason why most employee wellness programs don’t work.  It’s worthwhile to get to know your employees and explore what wellness topics matter most to them. These valuable insights will help you tailor the program and select employee wellness activities that resonate better.

So, what exactly do employees want?

Holistic Well-being

“Many talented workers are leaving for workplaces that align with their personal belief system and show an authentic concern for individual employee well-being,” writes Iseult Morgan for Gallup. “People want a good job and a life well-lived.”

As Michael C. Bush notes in his “This is what makes employees happy at work” TED talk, a comprehensive wellness program goes beyond offering ping pong tables and pet walking services. While they certainly play a role in improving employee wellness, perks are not enough incentives on their own. Employees want an all-encompassing program that supports all aspects of their life. In short, a robust wellness program that caters to career development, spiritual wellness, physical and mental health, financial and retirement planning support, etc.

Personalized and Flexible Offerings

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to wellness. Whether it’s a fitness plan, nutritional guidance, or stress management strategies, every person has unique needs and interests. Additionally, the shifting workplace dynamics leave no room for rigid programs.

For example, work schedules can be unpredictable for most in-office workers. Most remote workers have flexible schedules. There are lifestyle choices to consider and personal goals as well. Consequently, what works for the first group may not work for the other. Access to one-on-one, customized solutions that address their unique needs can make a wellness program more effective and engaging.

Incorporating flexible financial arrangements, such as HSA, FSA, or HRA, into the wellness program can also help tailor employee healthcare spending to their specific needs.

Inclusivity and User-Friendliness

Wellness programs should accommodate all employees irrespective of age, physical abilities, or health conditions. Additionally, they should not single out vulnerable employees or shame them. Instead, the employee well-being program should aim to include everyone in the company.

If your program has a digital component, it should be simple and user-friendly. Ensure it’s accessible to all users, with information that’s straightforward to find and understand.


Privacy concerns about personal health information and discrimination can reduce employee participation in wellness programs. Employees want assurance that their sensitive health data is safe and their privacy is respected. They want to know their biometric outcomes won’t be used against them in the future.

Supportive Environment

leadership impacts wellness programs

A workplace wellness program alone won’t improve employees’ health if the overall work environment is unhealthy. It certainly won’t bear any fruit if the C-suite remains disconnected from the real needs of its workforce. As an HR executive or team leader, it’s your duty to solicit management support. Keep a finger on the pulse and ensure you communicate clearly and consistently if there are changes in the program. Employees participate more in wellness programs if the leadership models what they preach.

13 Great Examples of Wellness Programs for Employees

Now that we know what employees want, let’s look at some innovative and flexible wellness programs. Here are 13 programs to help you supercharge your employees’ health and productivity in 2023:

1.  Digital Fitness Subscriptions

The rise of digital fitness platforms and advancements in wearable technology makes it easy to provide remote, personalized, and flexible wellness solutions. Consider offering your employees subscriptions to solutions like Peloton, Apple Fitness+, and Calm to encourage physical activity.

2.  Virtual Mental Health Support

At least 1 in 5 adults in the US lives with a mental health issue. Unfortunately, there are 350 individuals needing care to 1 mental health provider. Offering subscriptions to digital mental health platforms like BetterHelp or Talkspace can provide employees with easy, confidential access to professional support.

3. Personalized Nutrition Plans

Poor nutrition is a major cause of poor health. Partner with services like PlateJoy or Noom, which offer personalized meal planning, nutrition coaching, and health tracking to support employees’ nutrition goals.

nutritional wellness

4. Online Learning and Development Platforms

According to a recent Goldman Sachs report, over 300 million jobs are at risk of automation in the next 10 years. Conversely, experts reckon that up to 85% of the jobs in high demand in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. According to the World Economic Forum, “6 in 10 workers will require training before 2027, but only half of workers have access to adequate training opportunities today.” Offering access to platforms like Coursera, Udemy, or LinkedIn Learning can support employees’ professional development and mental stimulation.

5. Financial Wellness Webinars

Money-related stress is growing among Americans today. To alleviate that, collaborate with financial advising platforms or experts to offer them financial literacy and wellness webinars on budgeting, investing, and retirement planning.

6. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

If not already in place, implementing an EAP is crucial. Having one will help employees manage life’s challenges that might impact their work performance or personal life.

7. Flexibility and Autonomy

87% of employees accept their employer’s offer to work remotely, and 65% say they would be willing to work remotely full-time. 59% of millennials and 54% of Gen Zs believe hybrid work improves their mental health. Offering flexible work hours, remote work options, or more autonomy in task management can enhance these employees’ work-life balance, improve employee health, and boost overall job satisfaction.

8. Virtual Team Building Activities

The flip side to remote and hybrid work arrangements is social isolation and loneliness. Organize regular online team-building activities like virtual escape rooms, trivia, or even online fitness challenges to boost team members’ social well-being and connectivity.

virtual team building

9.  Healthy Home Office

Still on remote work, enhance the employee experience by providing ergonomic assessments of home workspaces. You can also offer stipends for employees to invest in ergonomic furniture to promote physical health.

10. Micro-Learning Wellness Modules

56% of employees cite lack of time as the major reason they don’t participate in wellness programs. Provide micro-learning wellness modules with bite-sized pieces of information or activities related to health and wellness that employees can complete in short bursts. This could include tips for quick stress-relief exercises, healthy snacks or food recipes, mini workouts, or brief mindfulness practices.

11. Community Service Days

Corporate social responsibility benefits the local community and also provides an opportunity for employees to bond. Organize activities like cleaning a local park or volunteering at a food bank. Offering services within your team’s expertise to non-profit organizations is another excellent low-cost idea.

12. Recognition and Reward System

Genuine appreciation and recognition shows employees their employer values them as individuals. Create a program where employees are regularly recognized and rewarded for their contributions. This could be a low-cost “Star of the Month” program, where colleagues nominate each other based on team spirit, innovative ideas, or exceptional performance. You can also offer a range of rewards such as small cash incentives, gift cards, or extra time off.

13. Walking/Running Clubs

Lastly, establishing a walking or running club is a cost-effective way to encourage physical activity and team bonding. Consider setting regular times for walks/runs, creating fitness challenges, or even training together for a local race. Remote workers can participate by tracking and sharing their own progress.

Closing Thoughts

Adopting healthy behaviors takes time. The good news is that there’s room to be creative and innovative with your offerings. Whether your company already boasts a wellness program or is just beginning to chart this territory, there’s always room for improvement.

As we’ve pointed out, your employees are not a monolith; each individual has distinct needs and motivations. Ultimately, the success of your program lies in understanding your workforce’s preferences, offering diverse options, encouraging employees, and continually adapting based on employee feedback and past results.

And while this can feel like a daunting task, it needn’t be a solo venture. At IncentFit, we specialize in creating tailor-made wellness programs that are engaging and effective. Book a free consultation with one of our wellness advisors today, and let’s brainstorm wellness program ideas to boost your team’s health, morale, and productivity.

Corporate Wellness Benefit Managers having a discussion while looking at an electronic tablet.

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