Creating a thoughtful wellness program design provides an opportunity for employees to access resources to improve their health and well-being, creating a positive cycle of improvement that boosts morale and productivity and promotes a higher quality of life overall.

For the health of your business as well as your employees, it’s essential to design wellness programs that excite your employees, promotes participation, and gets results. Here are a few things you’ll need to consider.

Wellness Program Design: What’s Trending

In speaking of wellness, health and fitness often come to mind. Indeed, gym memberships, weight-loss programs, on-site exercise classes, personal training sessions, massages, flu shots, and more are still popular elements of company wellness programs.

There is an increased focus on mental health, as well, with many companies offering mental health days or access to therapists and other mental health resources. Considering that about 20 percent of adults in the United States are living with some sort of mental illness, ranging from mild to severe, this is an essential component of your program.

From there, it’s time to get creative. As you design your wellness program, keep in mind that employees want perks that enhance their quality of life, but they need those perks to be easy to use, too. That’s why a weight loss program with time-consuming tracking and regular check-ins might not encourage participation.

  • Sleep: “Sleep deprivation increases the risk of mortality by 13 percent and leads to the U.S. losing around 1.2 million working days a year….costing the economy up to $411 billion a year…” Some companies offer nap rooms, flexible hours, or even more education on the importance of sleep—many people don’t realize just how detrimental sleep deprivation can be.
  • Healthy Food: A break room is traditionally stocked with packaged junk food; switching to healthy snacks is one easy way to promote healthy eating among your employees.
  • Celebrations: Everyone wants to be recognized for their contribution—and their presence. Take the time to celebrate milestones, anniversaries, and successes within the company as well as birthdays and personal achievements. This can take the form of a cake and a quick party or even a card, signed by the rest of the department, congratulating an employee on a job well done.
  • Activity Breaks: Employees can take 15 minutes to walk around the block, play an active video game, or participate in a short stretching class.
  • Ergonomic Options: High-quality chairs, ergonomic keyboards, and standing desks are simple ways to make your employees more comfortable and keep their bodies healthier.
  • Continuing Education: Often, this is job-related, but it wouldn’t have to be. You could offer a book, course, or conference allowance, depending on your budget, to encourage employees to explore their own interests. Curiosity is always a good thing, and additional education will benefit your company directly or indirectly. If time is one reason employees don’t take advantage of this, you could even offer some work hours to devote to approved courses.
  • Financial Wellness: Offer classes and provide access to financial advisors to help your employees manage debt, take charge of their money, and plan for their futures.
  • Special Events: Company outings, catered dinners, or optional volunteer opportunities give your employees a chance to connect with each other outside the work environment and may help them feel more connected to the company and its mission.
  • Online Portals: Employees can log in for access to their stats, food and exercise tracking, on-site fitness class schedules, health resources, and more.

Integrating Wellness into Workplace Culture

The best wellness program in the world means nothing if your employees don’t jump on board and use it. Encouraging participation can be tricky: people are often tired and overwhelmed between work and personal responsibilities.

The job of your wellness program is to ease that overwhelm, not contribute to it. This is why your wellness program design is critical to driving employee engagement and participation.

This Washington Post article mentions the importance of leadership. When company owners and managers are on board, employees are more likely to follow. Those in leadership roles can actively encourage employees to take their vacation or mental health days or to adjust their work schedules to meet family needs. Bosses should also actively participate in the wellness program.

If physical activity is the main component of your wellness program, make it a point of conversation. You could start a group chat or Facebook group where people report on their experiences with new fitness classes at various gyms.

A bulletin board or online photo collection can highlight post-workout pictures and before-and-after success photos. A thoughtful wellness program design takes an omnichannel approach so that employees can participate on their platform of choice.

Your leadership team (which could include an appointed person who is passionate about fitness and regularly attends classes and activities) can invite co-workers to the classes they plan to attend after work that day: “Hey, Jim is going to cycling tonight if anyone wants to go with him, and Sara is kickboxing over the lunch hour; send her a message if you want to meet her there.”

Wellness Gamification

Gamification elements can be built into your wellness program design, perhaps via an online wellness portal if you use one. People often respond well to the opportunity to earn points and badges for completing tasks, even if those points don’t add up to any real-life reward.

However, you could easily incorporate tangible rewards for milestones met within the portal: free lunch, additional time off, gift cards, pay bonuses, and more.

Even without an online portal, participants could earn points for the number of fitness classes they attend per month, with bonus points for trying new classes or activities. Rather than rewarding the person who does the most, place your rewards on a scale so participants aren’t competing against each other.

For example, 10 fitness classes or gym sessions per month is one milestone. Anyone who reaches that milestone gets the reward for that level of achievement. Including gamification in your wellness program design is a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated to reach their goals.

Game-based elements could also be incorporated into work itself, which can help make less-than-enjoyable tasks more interesting for your employees. Knowing they can earn a point for making an uncomfortable phone call, for example, gives more meaning to that phone call and helps them avoid procrastination.

Anything that helps your employees enjoy their jobs is part of workplace wellness. Ultimately, your wellness program design should be reflective of your organizational values and priorities.

Gympass is a convenient way for your employees to improve their physical fitness with access to thousands of gyms around the world; for many companies, we’re a proven part of a successful workplace wellness program.