Workplace Wellness

6 Employee Wellness Program Ideas you can Implement in 2022

Written by Kelsey

Employee wellness programs have become so popular in recent years that it’s almost strange to find a company that doesn’t offer at least some kind of wellness benefit or activity for employees to participate in. It’s even more rare when it comes to larger, more widely-known companies like Google, Squarespace, Nike, Apple, and more.

Currently in the U.S., upwards of two-thirds of employers offer employee wellness programs. It’s proven that wellness programs increase employee satisfaction, retention, productivity, camaraderie, etc. which are all extremely valuable to a company’s long term success and ability to innovate. In fact, here are 6 data-backed benefits of employee wellness programs, and a helpful ultimate guide on corporate wellness programs. Although many employers may genuinely care about their people’s personal health and well-being, the vast majority of business decisions are made to generate a monetary ROI.

So what’s the real monetary benefit to employers as a result of offering an employee wellness program?

Research shows that employee wellness programs typically generate an average ROI of $1.50 for every dollar invested into the program. So what are the best ways to ensure success and get creative with your wellness program?

In this article we’ll be discussing various key points and answering the following questions:

Examples of Employee Wellness Programs

Each company’s wellness program is going to look at least a little different because each company is made up of unique individuals with unique needs that can’t be “one-size-fits-all”-ed. The best and most successful wellness programs that receive the highest engagement rates are designed with their employees’ unique interests, needs and goals in mind.

That being said, here are 6 companies who are doing wellness programs right:

Asana

Asana has offices around the world and offers a variety of common benefits like unlimited PTO, employee stock-sharing options, a hybrid work from home or office policy, and of course, health, dental and vision insurance. In terms of wellness, Asana offers reimbursements and incentives for healthy activities like fitness classes and gym visits. Cultural benefits at Asana include team outings, team lunches and encouraging friendships among team members outside of work.

Asana also offers some more nuanced benefits such as an in-house culinary team that provides employees three healthy meals per day using locally grown produce and mentor programs that include executive coaching and monthly workshops centered around health education.

Additionally, they have some unique policies and programs. On Wednesdays, Asana has a “no meetings” policy. Lastly, believe it or not, Asana actually pays their employees to sleep! Asana provides “nap rooms” for their employees in their many offices around the world. In additionRead more about Asana’s culture and benefits here.

Asana wellness benefit highlights:

  • Unlimited PTO
  • Generous paid parental leave and new parent support/counseling
  • Paid rest/naps
  • Dental, vision, health insurance
  • Gym memberships & reimbursements
  • Free healthy & fresh meals in the office

Google

Google has a reputation of being one of the best companies to work for, but one of the most competitive companies to get hired at. One of the biggest reasons for this is the incredibly unique, creative and nurturing culture Google has cultivated for employees resembling a campus-lifestyle and environment. As a company at the forefront of workplace wellness, Google offers an all-encompassing wellness program including on-site healthcare. They have a long list of perks and benefits that make it an attractive place to work.

Additionally, Google offers its employees free fitness classes on-site. The company also has a massage service on site that is available to all employees at no charge. In addition, Google provides healthy food options in their cafeterias in order to ensure that their employees are eating nutritious meals. The company also has an employee assistance program that is available for all employees who need help with any personal or professional issues.

Learn more about Google’s perks and benefits here.

Google wellness benefit highlights:

  • Generous PTO & flexibility of work hours & location
  • EAPs and access to mental health apps
  • Onsite medical facilities & doctors
  • At-home fitness, well-being and cooking classes
  • Employee gym memberships paid for
  • Free onsite meals, snacks, cafes and restaurants
  • Massage credits for a job well-done (employees can also donate their credits to a coworker)
  • Employees are allowed to dedicate 20% of their time to pursuing other interests and projects they feel passionate about
  • Dooglers (puppy therapy program)

Outbrain

Founded in 2006, Outbrain is a native advertising company for content recommendations. Headquartered in New York City, Outbrain has 18 offices globally. with over 800 employees. Outbrain has a wellness program that offers a variety of perks and benefits to employees. These benefits are offered to help employees stay healthy, happy, and productive.

Outbrain’s wellness program includes many unique perks such as free coffee, stocked kitchen, free lunch, gym membership at discounted rates, and even free massages. And if all of that wasn’t enough, they also offer in-office meditation sessions and an on-site yoga studio for employees to take part in a relaxing and energizing workout.

In addition to some very thoughtful and generous perks and benefits, what really helps nurture and support employees’ mental health is the tight-knit culture the organization has cultivated. Outbrain has curated a very supportive, “take care of each other” attitude company-wide, encouraging employees to go out of their way to help when they see someone struggling.  

Learn more about the perks and benefits of working at Outbrain here.

Outbrain wellness benefit highlights:

  • Health insurance
  • Company outings & happy hours
  • Fitness subsidies
  • Game rooms
  • Stocked kitchen
  • Free meals
  • Paid volunteer time

6 Employee Wellness Program Ideas You Can Implement Today

  1. Provide healthy meals or snack options in the office
  2. Encourage personal time off and self-care
  3. Provide mental healthcare support and resources
  4. Offer reimbursements for health and wellness expenses
  5. Encourage team-bonding in and outside of the office
  6. Offer wellness Incentives

1. Provide healthy meals or snack options in the office

Considering we spend most of our day in the workplace, sometimes we have limited options when it comes to food options. Some employees may not have time to cook nutritious meals from scratch. Some employees may not be able to afford nutritious foods or meals within the vicinity of the workplace. Some employees may just have unhealthy eating habits and need a little support when it comes to changing those habits.

Providing healthy meals or snacks in the office allows employees easy access to nutritious foods and makes it easier to maintain a healthy diet. This can be an expensive perk to offer, but can lead to employees feeling more energized, focused, productive and happy. It can also encourage employees to be in the office and encourage more conversations in the common areas. 

Some healthy food subscription options to look into: Hungry Root, SnackNation, Garten 

2. Encourage personal time off and self-care

Whether you’re an employer or an employee yourself, it can be easy to unintentionally take the humanity out of being an employee. Recognizing that employees are people who can become overwhelmed and experience burnout. In order to be productive, people not only need a healthy amount of rest and relaxation, they need the flexibility to rest and relax in the moment they need it. Unfortunately, that need doesn’t always surface outside of the 9-5 schedule, but allowing employees to rest when they say they need to benefits your organization in the long run.

When employers encourage their employees to take care of themselves, even when it may not be ideal for what the company needs in the moment, it shows that they genuinely care about the wellbeing of their people. It also allows employees to pause and refresh when they need it to prevent a larger issue. It’s better to allow a personal day when needed than to have months of low productivity due to stress.

Asana paying employees to sleep on the job in their in-office nap rooms is a quite generous perk that we wouldn’t recommend without the research and strategic plan to back it up. Even still, promoting healthy sleep for employees can greatly improve productivity and engagement in employees. There aren’t many to ensure that employees are getting healthy sleep, but using wearable technology like an Apple Watch or Fitbit can help track the amount of sleep a person is getting.

3. Provide mental healthcare support and resources

Mental health care can be a tricky component of a wellness program. Some of the biggest reasons being the stigmatization of mental health in general, the difficulty of getting coverage through a health insurance plan and also because it’s difficult to track progress. Mental health can be difficult to navigate because not everyone is comfortable talking about it and some may also be afraid that talking about it may lead to crossing professional boundaries.

But the truth is that mental health needs to be acknowledged, maintained and treated for improvement to be made. Life, especially in this post-covid age, can feel overwhelming at times, curveballs can be thrown and pre-existing mental health issues can affect anyone at any time. Providing mental health support and resources for employees can help them navigate these struggles and enable them to show up to work as their best selves.

While some companies may not put importance on or willing to invest in the mental wellness of their employees, the cost of not meeting this need can add up to more than just providing support in the first place. Studies show that the global economy loses an estimated one trillion dollars per year due to lost productivity as a result of neglecting mental health needs.

Again, effective and authentic mental healthcare isn’t easy for an employer to provide. Most insurance companies offer little or no coverage for mental healthcare, even though they may offer insurance sponsored wellness programs, so what are your options? Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are a great alternative option to paying for employees’ mental healthcare. Most EAPs provide telehealth services with mental health professionals.

There are also many mental health platforms and online services that employers can explore. A few good examples are:

4. Offer reimbursements for health and wellness expenses

Reimbursements are one of the most popular health and wellness benefits employers tend to offer. Most commonly, companies will reimburse employees for gym memberships or fitness classes like yoga, boxing, pilates, etc. As more health and wellness products and services have become popularized and more accessible to individuals, many companies have expanded their reimbursement offerings.

Employers can reimburse employees for online courses and programs like Pacific Nutrition Partners and or this “Science of Wellbeing” course from Yale University. An employer may also consider offering reimbursements for meal subscription plans, fitness equipment and app subscriptions like Headspace, ClassPass, etc.

5. Encourage team-bonding in and outside of the office

The more your team gets to know one another, not only do relationships among coworkers become stronger, but also; communication enhances, brainstorming and idea-sharing happens more frequently, and daily workflow becomes more efficient. For these exact reasons, many companies like Squarespace, Asana and Urban Outfitters strongly encourage friendships and team bonding in and outside of the workplace.

Relationship building in the workplace:

A great place to start is by implementing weekly team lunches. Most people don’t like to chat while working, so facilitating weekly team lunches gives employees the opportunity to engage in casual conversation and get to know each other better.

Relationship building outside of the workplace:

Consider implementing quarterly team outings and events. This can encourage employees to build stronger bonds and friendships over non-work related topics and conversation.

6. Offer Wellness Incentives

Research shows that one of the best and most effective ways to get people engaged and stay motivated to participate in your corporate wellness program is to offer incentives. Incentives can fall under a variety of categories:

Cost IncentivesExample: Cash rewards, gift cards, reimbursements
Low or No-Cost IncentivesExample: Paid time off, extended breaks
Progress-based IncentivesBest for increasing and maintaining participation. Employees can earn multiple incentives throughout the program. Increasing the size/value of the incentives as the program continues is an additional way to motivate your team to participate
Participation-based IncentivesThis type of Incentive can be given to anyone who participates in the program. Because of its non-competitive nature, this type of incentive is best for increasing camaraderie and cohesiveness among employees
Performance-based IncentivesThis type of incentive can be given as employees reach certain goals or milestones in your program. If you have a team of highly-competitive people, this type of incentive is an effective way to ensure high participation rates
Results-based IncentivesThis type of incentive is typically given at the end of a program to employees who reach an overall goal

The most common type of incentive is, of course, monetary.

This could be in the form of:

  • Cash rewards given directly to employees as bonuses
  • Reimbursements for classes, memberships, subscriptions, equipment purchased by employees, etc.
  • Money deposited into an Health Spending Account (HSA) – which we’ll talk more about later in this article.

In addition to monetary, there are many different types of incentives that employers can offer employees. Other types of incentives can include:

  • Material gifts (i.e. apparel, appliances, tech, equipment, etc.)
  • Gift cards
  • Company events 
  • Free meals/lunches
  • Free subscriptions or memberships

There are also low or no-cost incentives like:

  • Paid Time Off (PTO)
  • Extended or additional breaks

A Few Tips for Best Practices To Make Employees Feel Successful & Valued

  1. Provide Healthy Snacks, and promote healthy nutrition in your wellness program
  2. Promote open communication and listen to employees needs
  3. Acknowledge your employees with employee recognition ideas
  4. Conduct consistent pulse surveys and monthly one-on-one check-ins
  5. Give frequent and consistent positive feedback and acknowledgement of employees’ hard work and accomplishments
  6. Make a big deal out of small wins
  7. Do something nice for birthdays and holidays (i.e. handwritten notes, cards, small gifts)
  8. Incorporate stress management into your wellness program

For more ideas on how to get creative with designing your wellness program, you can always browse our products and resource library.