Your Ultimate Guide to Workplace Health and Wellness

Your Ultimate Guide to Workplace Health and Wellness

Engaging with the concept of workplace health and wellness is about so much more than just offering a few days off. With the overall decline of mental health in the workplace, it's time to commit to an all-encompassing workplace wellness program. If you're asking yourself what that means, you're in the right place! Welcome to Cooleaf's official guide to understanding health and wellness in the workplace.

Introduction to health and wellness in the workplace

There are several reasons why businesses should want to engage with the concept of workplace wellness.

To begin with, companies offering wellness perks stay competitive in the fight for top employees. Workplace wellness benefits give them an edge over those offering just financial incentives.

But office wellness is more than just about fancy workout rooms, online yoga classes, and gym reimbursements. It’s also about creating a workplace culture that favors employee well-being and psychological safety. This makes employees feel valued, appreciated, and accepted while also preventing employee burnout.

Workplace wellness helps employees be:

  • Healthier
  • More productive
  • More agile in the face of uncertainty

Our essential guide to workplace health and wellness will help you analyze the benefits and best practices, while offering a multitude of ideas to kickoff your program!

What is an employee wellness program?

Employee wellness programs come in various shapes and sizes, but at the most basic level, they’re intended to improve and promote employee mental and physical well-being.

With employee wellness programs, organizations can:

  • Reduce health-risk behaviors of employees
  • Identify and correct conditions that can compromise the health of employees
  • Reduce levels of stress and associated risk factors
  • Increase productivity + engagement
  • Reduce escalating health care costs
  • Address workplace mental health

Employees are a company’s most valuable resource, and company policies should include programs that focus on employees’ physical health, along with addressing mental health issues.

Organizations that want to support their people to be productive and engaged aim to create a culture of care and respect. Progressive companies have increasingly understood that has to encompass the whole person with a holistic approach. Implementing workplace wellness offerings are one step in that direction.

Wellness activities and corporate wellness initiatives can make your program better—if you are strategic about how you do them. Each must be communicated effectively, tracked, and incentivized.

Wellness ideas by themselves are just perks. Wellness ideas that are properly implemented change lives by improving health and reducing health care costs.

Do workplace wellness programs work?

Corporate wellness is a huge industry and with good reason: according to the Harvard Business Review, for every dollar that a large company spends on wellness, its medical bills drop by around $3.27. As well as being good for your business’ bottom line, instituting a wellness program for employees can have a tremendous effect on your teams’ happiness.

Employee well-being should be one of your top priorities. Happy employees are productive employees:

1. A workplace that enhances employee health and wellbeing can encourage 7 out of 10 to stay at their current job.

2. 89% of workers at companies that support wellbeing efforts are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work.

3. Research has demonstrated that workplace health initiatives can help reduce sick leave absenteeism by 27% and healthcare costs for companies by 26%.

4. 61% of employees agree that they’ve made healthier lifestyle choices because of their company’s wellness program.

5. 74% of employers view wellbeing as important to employees and a useful tool for recruiting and retaining staff.

6. 84% of employers now say offering financial wellness tools helps increase employee retention.

These numbers definitively show why workplace wellness programs are so important.

Benefits of Workplace Wellness Programs

Employee wellness programs have multiple benefits, both for employers and employees, beyond just financial.

Reduce Health Care Costs

One of the direct benefits of employee wellness programs is reduced healthcare costs. Taking care of your employees’ health with proactive initiatives makes them less likely to fall sick. Investing your efforts in an employee wellness program is the best way to take care of this.

Johnson & Johnson has stated that its wellness program has saved the organization $250 million over six years, resulting in a wellness program ROI of $2.71 for each dollar invested!

Increase Productivity

Wellness programs help increase productivity levels in employees. Often employees are so consumed with packed family and work schedules that their health takes a backseat. This results in poor work performance or a drop in productivity levels in the long run. With wellness programs, you prioritize the mental and physical wellbeing of employees. Workplace wellness programs consistently report improved employee productivity.

Higher Engagement

The American Psychological Association has found that an overwhelming 91% of employees at companies that support wellbeing say they feel motivated to do their best.

Fun wellness activities can turn into opportunities to bond with other employees and create a culture of enthusiasm. Once people start communicating with each other better, it directly results in better collaboration and engagement at the workplace.

Reduce Absenteeism

Frequent absenteeism can adversely affect productivity, and a major contributor to this is both mental and physical ailments. With wellness programs in the workplace, you can help employees stay fit and healthy - in mind, body, and spirit. When your workforce is stress-free and absenteeism is reduced.

And the tangible benefit is highs well. Research suggests employers save on average $5.82 in lower absenteeism costs for every dollar spent on employee wellness.

Employee Retention

A successful wellness program shows your employees you care about them as a whole person, and not just for what they can give to the organization.

According to research conducted by the American Psychological Association, in companies without employee wellness programs, 51% of employees said they intend to leave their job in the following year.

Build Employee Morale

Most organizations have a jam-packed work schedule. Tight project completion deadlines compete with multiple meetings in a day. While your team might feel energetic about work initially, their morale might get impacted in the long run.

One of the by-products of an environment that makes employees feel appreciated and cared for  is high morale. And this is contagious, reaching all areas of the business.

Encourage Employees to Participate

For employees, staying healthy can seem like a daunting task, as most of their time is spent sitting in their offices, so they can find it hard to take time to work towards their health.

This is why employers must promote good health behaviors and create a culture of wellness at work. Here are some proven ways to encourage employees.

Appoint health ambassador

A health ambassador for the workplace can do wonders for your organization. However, you don’t need to look for them outside. There might be several employees in your organization who are passionate about their health and have created healthy lifestyles.

These people also serve as role models for others at the workplace. Leverage the positive attitude and wellness strategies of these individuals to help encourage other members of your teams.

Gym membership

Another smart way to encourage wellness at the workplace is to offer your employees a gym or health club membership. While there’s nothing like having a gym in your office, it is also an expensive affair.  the next best thing is partnering with a gym or studio in your area and offer free or subsidized memberships to your employees.

Offer healthy snacks

Snacks are the most underrated and overlooked meal we consume.

Research indicates that the food we eat directly impacts our cognitive abilities and performance. And snacks are critical as they often negatively impact one’s diet.

As an organization, you can leverage this opportunity to provide your employees with healthy snacks. This includes stocking your vending machines with healthy alternatives to ordinary snacks. Similarly, if you have a team gathering or event, make sure to add healthy food choices to the menu.

Create active workstations

With modern research kicking the traditional stereotypes, a lot needs to be done at the workplace. This includes changing the way people work at their stations.

Sitting on a chair for more extended periods can impact metabolism by slowing it down, leading a whole host of health problems.

An great way to overcome this is to create standing workstations. When you stand for short periods or have a stationary bike in place of your chair, you stay active.

While it might be a high calorie burn, it indeed promotes a healthy option of getting up and adapting to more dynamic positions. In the long term, it can increase productivity and keep your employees healthier.

Monday motivation

Monday blues aren’t that uncommon. Most employees hate Mondays because that’s when they have the least motivation to work. After all, there’s an entire week full of work lined up for them. As a responsible organization, you can try to turn this situation around by organizing wellness sessions on Mondays that help employees reduce their stress and stay motivated.

Encourage work breaks

Many employees rarely take lunch, breaking only to use the restroom or other short activities. Seldom do they realize that this habit can adversely impact their mental and physical health. From backaches to eye strain, this sedentary lifestyle can lead to more severe health issues long term.

Therefore, encourage your employees to take more frequent breaks. This helps release the stress gathered in the mind and body and feel refreshed.

Games + activities

Once in a while, organize an offsite wellness program to have some fun at work. Even the idea of going outside the workplace can release stress and help employees feel energetic. You can either organize indoor games like table tennis, chess, and pool or take your team on a hiking trip, volunteering activity, or other active session.

Virtual wellness retreat

Virtual retreats are extended company gatherings to bring all your employees together and celebrate wellness. These retreats can easily take place via video conferencing platforms like Zoom.

These events might include fun games and activities, online yoga classes, nutrition sessions, and bonding time,  and you can arrange a full-day or half-day retreat.

The purpose of these retreats is to allow your staff to disconnect from normal work, socialize, and increase engagement.

Wellness Activity Categories

There are endless employee wellness ideas programs that employers can choose for their employees. Each program can be selected according to what the organization's best interests are. Typically, the main focus for wellness programs is Nutritional and Healthy Living, Group Activities and Fitness Hacks, Fun Fitness Challenges, Competitions, and Contests, Active Rejuvenation, Cool Perks and Just for Fun, Productivity Boosters, and Mental Health and Personal Growth.

Nutritional and healthy living

Mindful, healthy eating helps the body get the nutrition it needs. Adding incentives such as nutritional snacks, encouraging laughter, celebrating wellness days, standing desks at each workstation, having a chef to teach easy recipes, holding a health fair, having a virtual wellness week, providing smoking cessation incentives, reminding employees to focus on their health, and have an onsite massage chair or a massage therapist to help promote healthy habits.

Group activities and fitness hacks

Who does not like to have a workout partner? Encourage employees to join yoga classes, sports league instead of sitting for a meeting walk, keep hula hoop, volleyball, and footballs in the office, post reminders for employees to use the stairs instead of the elevator to have employees engage in group wellness activities for employees.

Fitness challenges, competitions + contests

Who is in for friendly competition? Employees can engage in friendly competitions such as team scavenger hunts, fitness challenges, employee field days, wearable technology to track activity, sleep, water, and weekly fitness challenges, and cooking contests.

Active rejuvenation

There is nothing worse than feeling exhausted while at work. Employers can offer fun rejuvenating wellness programs such as a scheduled recess, unlimited vacations, paying employees to volunteer, making the employee lounge a "No Work Allowed" space, giving a vacation day for employees birthdays, hourly scheduled breaks, and offering flex-time as wellness programs.

Cool perks and just for fun

Who wants a work environment where everything is routine? Having employee wellness ideas like attired themes, listening to music, ridesharing, company happy hours, and gift card giveaways for project completion helps to promote healthy morale in the workspace.

Productivity boosters

Productivity can diminish when employees do not have the freedom to work their preferred way. Having morning huddles, allowing employees to work from home at least one day a week, having flexible hours, and sharing personal goals and accomplishments can help employees be more productive.

Mental health and personal growth

Mental and personal growth is just as significant as physical health. Employees are more appreciative when employers acknowledge their hard work and dedication. A wellness program idea can implement an acknowledgment jar, have emotional wellness classes, create a department vision board, have a wellness wall, have lunch and learn seminars, and create "high-five" board programs to help promote mental health and personal growth.

Employee Wellness Program Ideas

Here are some curated workplace wellness ideas you can offer both in office and remote employees:

At home

At home activities make it easy for employees to engage in wellness in the comfort of their own home. Offering practical, well rounded activities employees can do at home aids in reducing stress levels which helps increase morale in the office.

  • Meditate for 5-10 minutes
  • Cook healthy recipes at home
  • Walk around the neighborhood
  • Participating in virtual fitness classes
  • Go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual
  • Listen to a mindful podcast

For Remote Employees

For many people, working from home has its ups and downs. Most times, employees enjoy being in the comfort of their own home and being able to work freely. However, constantly being at home can generate stressed out people. It also limits the amount of human interaction one has each day, especially with their coworkers. As an employer, building a workplace environment, even remotely, that offers opportunities for people to take care of their health is crucial for the wellbeing and success of employees.

  • Dedicate 2 meetings per week to be taken as walking meetings
  • Motivate people to exercise daily (walking, running, biking, etc.)
  • Offer nutrition advice from expert sources
  • Encourage mindful movement
  • Set up a weekly virtual lunch with coworkers

In the Workplace

The workplace is  where business gets done, of course, but it should also foster an environment that supports employees wellbeing. Worksite wellness is essential to the employee experience and also attracting future talent. The addition of employee wellness activities in the workplace doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or even time-consuming. Here are some ideas for wellness activities / tactics any organization can use in the workplace:

  • Lunch & learn sessions about wellness topics like nutrition, exercise, sleep, hydration, etc.
  • Monthly wellness newsletters
  • Market local health-related events
  • Host monthly lunches where each employees brings a healthy snack or dish
  • Offer a rewards program that uses an incentive to encourage employees to take part in wellness activities
  • Provide standing desks or desk treadmills

For Everyone

5 Minute Activities

Although it seems short, dedicating just 5 minutes of your day to complete a wellness activity can increase focus, improve productivity, enhance employee experience and boost morale tremendously.

These short, yet effective, activities help create a foundation for developing healthier behavioral habits. Here are some quick wellness activities employees can take part in:

  • Drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning
  • Engage in 5 minutes of breathing exercises daily
  • Standing & stretching throughout the day
  • Call a friend
  • Read a nutrition/fitness/mindfulness article

Mental Wellness Activities

As an employer, providing a resource to employees that explains the importance of prioritizing their mental health is extremely beneficial for everyone. Between the stress of work and home life, people tend to push their mental wellbeing to the side. A person’s mental state can affect their entire body and how it functions. As an employer, building a culture that speaks openly about mental health betters the relationship employees have with one another and also the company leaders.

  • Meditation, stretching, yoga, etc.
  • Journaling
  • Gratitude lists
  • Read a good book
  • Prioritize getting enough sleep
  • Taking breaks

Try to include as many as possible to create a unique corporate wellness benefits program for a better, healthier work culture for your employees.

Workplace wellness program best practices

Ask your employees first

Do an internal survey to determine what kind of things your employees want and would value. You can ask questions like:

“What are your health goals?”

“Do you think conducting wellness programs during office hours is helpful?”

“Do you feel that we could do more to support you with your physical and mental health? If so, how?”

Buy-in leadership

A wellness program will not work without support from the management. It takes time, money, and resources to build and launch a successful employee wellness program. And leadership buy-in is critical for funding purposes, for guidance, for getting support throughout the organization, and for approving program policies and processes.

Appoint wellness champions

The next step is, creating an internal well-being champions team to lead your program and build a wellness culture in the organization.

Make sure that management sets clear and measurable objectives and supports them with a budget. Here are some responsibilities of the wellness champions team:

  • Evaluating the current workplace programs and policies
  • Assessing employee needs and preferences
  • Developing a wellness program plan and process (which includes a vision statement, goals, objectives, and activities)
  • Monitoring and evaluating the wellness program

Incentives and rewards

Employee incentives or rewards are effective tools to increase participation rates and encourage individuals to complete a program. You can offer reward points that can be exchanged for shopping, gifts, food, or monetary awards.


Well-executed wellness programs require exceptional employee communications. You can create a dedicated wellness program webpage, signage, and posters in the office.

Also, appoint a dedicated team to answer any questions or concerns your employees may have. You can post new program updates in the Slack channel, company-wide newsletter, emails, or any other corporate communication.

Measure the program results

Evaluating the results of your employee wellness program is the only way to determine if it’s working and what you can do to improve the results in the future.

A corporate wellness program is more than an incredible employee perk. It's an effective way to ensure your employees have sound mental and physical health to live their best lives both on and off the clock.

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