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Workplace Wellness Programs: How to Implement One for a Healthy Team

Public sector employees are fuelled by passion and purpose for the work and support they provide for communities and society, but this can lead to burnout, stress and even sick days.

That’s where workplace wellness programs come in.

Since we are now taking more care when it comes to our mental and physical well-being, wellness initiatives have been pushed to the forefront.

Today we’ll cover what an effective workplace wellness program looks like, how to test if your current one is effective for your team and how to implement a new one.

Three managers learning how effective their workplace wellness program is


What is a Workplace Wellness Program?

From discounted gym memberships to a free monthly therapy session, workplace wellness programs consist of wellness or health-based incentives to keep a team or organisation healthy and motivated to work effectively.

Along with the most common stressors faced by public sector employees, they have also faced additional implications in the past two years such as the COVID-19 pandemic, increased work demands and health and financial concerns from the rise in the cost of living. Let’s face it, the majority of people do not work well under stress. Wellness programs might not be the answer to solving all wellness-related issues, but they can help relieve some of the stress your employees might be facing in or outside of work.

Some wellness programs may include parts of a mental health program, but you may find it easier to keep them as two separate programs. Either way, it’s important to include some mental health aspects as 27% of public sector employees say that their employers don’t offer mental health initiatives to help reduce their stress – which can lead to low productivity levels and retention rates.

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Do Workplace Wellness Programs Actually Work?

“63% of public sector employees say that having access to a wide variety of benefits improves their loyalty to their organisation.” – MetLife Report 2020

Since COVID-19, there have been more and more studies on the well-being of our public sector employees. Take the education sector for example. According to the Teacher Wellbeing Index 2021 by Education Support, out of 3,000 education staff, 77% have experienced symptoms of poor mental health due to their work, and a further 46% said they always go to work unwell (mentally or physically). This shows we need to take action, not just in the education sector but across the public sector to improve the lives of employees in and out of work.

New research has also just been released by The Telegraph on younger job seekers who are shunning higher salaries for mental health and wellness support in the workplace such as free counselling or gym memberships.

Here’s a list of other workplace wellness initiatives that have proven to be effective:

  • Transit initiatives – e.g. bike hire or public transport incentives.
  • Virtual therapy discounts or free sessions for outside work hours
  • Wellness challenges – e.g. step challenge to promote greater physical activity
  • Team days out – Team building activities outdoors or lessons in a new sport to take time away from the usual working environment
  • Gym membership discounts
  • Discounted financial planner
  • Stress reduction programs

Are there benefits of implementing a workplace wellness program for the organisation?

Whether your stress is caused by health, financial or mental strain, these can all impact public sector employees' overall health which can lead to greater pressure on the effectiveness of services which has a knock-on effect on the safety and health of the general public.

If done right, here are 5 benefits a workplace wellness program can offer organisations:

  1. Saves employers money

Due to lower absenteeism rates from decreased stress or burnout causing the need for time off, a wellness program can save employers money by not having to rehire or give staff extra hours to support the lack of absenteeism.

Read: Benefits employees prefer over a raise

  1. Boosts productivity and engagement levels

Whether your employees are not feeling mentally or physically well, you’ll likely see the impact of this on productivity and service quality levels quicker than you may think. Implementing a targeted wellness program may take time, effort and research, but a healthier team is often more motivated and engaged, giving your organisation or team a better chance of reaching goals and achieving targets together.

  1. Improves teamwork and morale across departments

Using team-based wellness initiatives can help to improve the overall quality of work, collaboration and innovation of new or current processes across different teams. Employees also get the chance to get to know one another more, strengthen those relationships and hold each other accountable when it comes to communication and task sharing in the workplace.

  1. Attracts new talent to the organisation

Wellness programs don’t have to stay private, if you’re proud of the program your organisation offers, and your employees are too, why not shout about it? Since the pandemic, employees have been more concerned with their health and wellness, so those organisations with a strong wellness plan are automatically going to attract and retain greater talent to the organisation.

  1. Improves employee health

Wellness programs have been proven to help manage overall mental and physical well-being by promoting plans or group activities that enable employees to begin healthy habits. For example, eating more healthily or promoting exercise initiatives which can have a positive impact on the working day and life outside of work.

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What Makes an Effective Workplace Wellness Program?

Depending on your organisation and goals, an effective workplace wellness program might mean something different compared to another organisation, and that’s okay. To make a wellness program effective, ensure you follow these three things:

  1. Target initiatives to your employees – no one likes a generic “quick fix” to just show that you have something in place for the sake of it. What you’re adding to your program needs to be activities your employees will actually get involved with and benefit from.
  2. Leaders showing their support – having leaders or senior managers get involved in wellness initiatives are more likely to keep driving engagement forward. Some senior leaders may struggle to see the benefits of a wellness program, but that is your chance to educate them and show how it is important for organisational performance too.
  3. Building strong and frequent feedback time – you need to see if your program is having the desired effect, right? Take the time to organise short feedback sessions with groups of your employees in the form of surveys for non-verbal feedback and group discussions for real-time insights.

Got a Wellness Program? Here’s How to Test if it’s Effective

Workplace wellness programs can have many benefits for an organisation, but how do you actually measure its success? Here are 4 ways you can test if your workplace wellness program is effective:

  1. Satisfaction surveys

Conduct quarterly surveys to find out if the wellness offerings your program uses are satisfying employee and employer needs. This will help you see things to include, take away, improve upon or find recommendations for new areas employees want to gain more of. Or, if you’re offering more short-term wellness initiatives, conduct post-employee wellness questionnaires to gain more detailed feedback on that specific initiative.

  1. Value on Investment (VOI)

Wellness programs save organisations money, rather than generate it – hence the use of VOI instead of measuring Return on Investment (ROI). Whether your organisation offers employees discounted bike hiring or coverage of transport costs, you may be able to work out the direct savings that have had a positive impact on employees and their lifestyles.

  1. Productivity and participation satisfaction

Even if your wellness program has all the benefits under the sun, not all employees will take part. Is your wellness program attracting the volume of participants you hoped? If so, aim to find out why. It’s important to measure how eligible your program is for all employees and how the things you offer will actually benefit them. On top of this, measure how the participation levels correlate to productivity by looking at a time away from work and overall employee performance through feedback sessions, checklists and meeting deadlines efficiently.

Read: 4 employee engagement strategies every public sector manager needs

  1. Retention levels

Workplace wellness programs have the power to lower retention rates in an organisation if the initiatives are targeted to employee needs. For this, look at employee retention rates before the wellness program and then after, giving a minimum of six months to see change.

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Don’t Have a Wellness Program in Place? Here’s How to Implement One

Think about your goals as an organisation

Before you start implementing a wellness program, you should think about why you’re implementing one. Is it to give your employees a better chance of success? Or is it to improve productivity after you’ve seen a dip in the previous months? Defining your goals before you start will help you when it comes to evaluating the success of your program.

Conduct a team or organisation-wide wellness survey

You need to find out what your employees’ thoughts are on their own wellness, how they may be struggling at work, how they think their wellness could be improved and the type of initiatives they are likely to get involved in. After you’ve got the surveys back, analyse them and highlight key statistics that you want to improve and set some benchmarks for them, ready to compare them to the after-wellness survey later down the line.

Start Planning

Now you’ve seen the wellness challenges your employees face, now is the time to create and plan initiatives that will help address them. Establish key parts of your plan, such as resources, budget, staffing or looking after the program etc. Think about how you are going to market the program to your employees.

Whether HR or the learning and development team themselves are the ones who will be the first point of contact when it comes to the program, establish key “health champions” among your teams to keep employees motivated and communicate any goals to reach.

Implement the Program

Now it’s time to show your employees what you’ve been planning, why they should get involved and how. Ensure everything is clear and no question is left unturned as a simple thing could put employees off for good. It’s best to be prepared.

Learn How to Invest in Your Employees Effectively with our L&D Handbook

As an organisation, you need to be there for your employees through the good and the bad – and in turn, they’re more likely to be there for you. To take the next best steps towards supporting your employees’ wellness in the workplace, access your free copy of our L&D Handbook filled with tips on what to do and how.

Click ‘Get Access Here’ to start reading.

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