April 27, 2022

Prioritizing Wellness and Employee Engagement in the Workplace

Apr 27, 2022

What's the key to an engaged workforce? It could be a wellness program! More and more companies are looking into wellness and employee engagement because it's clear that their basic employee benefit plan just doesn't cut it anymore.  

The U.S. corporate wellness market was estimated at $20.4 Billion in 2021 – a clear indicator of the popularity of workplace wellness. Organizations realize that they need to look beyond their traditional program of rewards, incentives, and penalties to engage employees and make a sustainable positive impact over the long term.

As a financial wellness benefits provider, we know a lot about employee wellness, especially regarding their finances. We recognize the impact of employee financial stress on the workplace and partner with companies who want to help their employees work toward financial health and wealth. With a wide range of affordable financial tools and educational content available in an emotionally supportive online environment, we put money management back into the hands of the individual, not the financial system. 

We also recognize that financial wellness is just one of five areas that contribute to the overall well-being and engagement level of employees: 

  1. Physical well-being
  2. Environmental well-being
  3. Emotional well-being
  4. Financial well-being
  5. Social well-being 

Different company well-being programs support each of these areas to various degrees. For example, a Cigna study revealed that 77% of wellness programs promote physical well-being, while only 62% promote financial well-being. Furthermore, social well-being was only promoted in 52% of companies. 

As a leader or human resources professional, you may be asking yourself how your company can prioritize employee wellness to improve engagement. In this article, we'll discuss:

  • The benefits of employee wellness programs
  • Types of wellness programs to consider
  • How employee wellness can improve employee engagement

Let's start with some of the benefits of wellness programs in the workplace! 

Wellness and Employee Engagement 

Most companies are focused on the bottom line instead of workplace culture, but improving employee wellness is actually one of the best things a company can do to improve its bottom line. When employees feel valued, they come to work excited and engaged.

In an age where companies are under more pressure than ever, wellness programs' role in the workplace is critical. Increasing wellness has become a mission for many organizations across diverse industries. As technology and supply chains continue to advance, companies have realized that their employees need to be well-rested, focused, and motivated to keep pace with innovation demands.

The good news is that many companies are getting hip to the benefits of worker wellness programs. The recent Harvard Business Review found that a healthy workforce also leads to $3,000 in annual savings for employers — and increases productivity and employee commitment by 44 percent. So let's dig into these outcomes and discuss how they may benefit your workplace. 

Creating Happier, Healthier Employees 

90% of employees who reported very low physical wellness also reported poor emotional health, according to Quantum Workplace. The study also found that physical, financial, and emotional wellness directly correlate to engagement. So it's easy to see how working to support these areas of your employees' lives can positively impact your company. 

Wellness programs are in the business of creating happier, healthier employees. Unfortunately, when employees aren't feeling well, it's hard for them to stay focused and engaged in their jobs. Plus, if they're struggling with health or finances, they may be more distracted at work and even develop absenteeism. 

However, employees who participate in workplace wellness programs can overcome the areas of their lives holding them back. Wellness programs empower employees and give them a better sense of control in their lives. As a result, happier, healthier employees exhibit:

  • Improved morale
  • Higher levels of productivity
  • Stronger workplace relationships 
  • More creativity and innovation

The list goes on. 

So if you want happier, more engaged employees, it's time to add a wellness program to your benefits list. Taking care of your employees should be a top priority. 

Inspiring Employee Loyalty

Improved productivity and a good mood aren't the only appealing outcomes of workplace wellness programs. Wellness programs have also been shown to increase employee loyalty and retention. It can also support employee recruitment. 

In the wake of the pandemic, employee attraction and retention have become one of the biggest challenges companies face. In April of 2021, 4 million employees left their organizations. The Great Resignation has disrupted the ordinary talent strategies and challenged organizational culture for many companies. As a result, organizations are battling high turnover rates and the associated costs. 

Research shows that highly engaged employees are 4.4 times less likely to actively look for another job. SHRM estimates that the cost of departing employees ranges from one-half to two times the amount of their salary for some organizations. If you ask us, the cost of replacing employees should be reason enough to revisit your employee benefits plan. 

So if you're looking to inspire employee loyalty and reduce your turnover rate, wellness is the answer. But how can you know what kind of wellness program will work best for your company? First, it's essential to understand the ins and outs of the different types of programs. 

5 Types of Employee Wellness Programs 

Workplace wellness has evolved in recent years. It has grown beyond the designation of physical health to focus on a broader scope of holistic well-being. Instead of an extra perk to attract  employees, wellness programs have become a crucial element that candidates look for in every job description. 

How are other organizations implementing wellness programs? Cigna shares its insights on how HR professionals are promoting well-being in their workplace: 

  1. 77% promote physical well-being
  2. 67% promote workplace environment well-being 
  3. 67% promote emotional well-being
  4. 62% promote financial well-being
  5. 52% promote social well-being

So what does it look like to launch a wellness program in one of these categories? Let's discuss. 

1. Physical Wellness Programs

Physical wellness has been a long-standing focus of workplace wellness programs. That's because the benefits of healthier employees are hard to ignore. 

Gympass, a wellness benefits provider that connects employees with premium gyms, studios, and well-being apps, published a case study of 17 U.S. companies with over 1,000 employees to measure the impact of their physical wellness programs on employee retention rates. Companies report a 43% retention gain for active Gympass users. In addition, they found that active employees who used Gympass were almost twice as likely to stay and grow with the companies than those who were not active. 

But retention isn't the only benefit of this kind of wellness program. 

Benefits of physical well-being:

  • Reduce health risks
  • Improve productivity 
  • Improved mood 
  • More focused employees 
  • Lower health care costs
  • Improved recruitment and retention rates 

So what does a physical wellness program look like for your company? It depends on the needs of your employees. We recommend first taking a look at your workforce. What are some areas of health that can be improved? Surveying your employees on what they want out of a wellness program is a great way to ensure they are engaged and fulfilled. 

Physical wellness program ideas to ask employees about: 

  • Weight loss programs
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Exercise programs and activities 
  • Nutrition education
  • Health screenings 

If you're looking to keep your employees physically fit and lower health care costs, a physical wellness program could be the right choice. 

2. Workplace Environment Well-being

Nobody wants to spend 8 hours of a day in a dimly lit, disorganized office space filled with cubicles. And while many often overlook the idea, workplace environment well-being is just as important as the other categories. 

Creating a space where employees can work comfortably without distraction can significantly improve employee productivity and collaboration. In addition, if you find some of your younger employees dragging their feet about coming back to the office, creating a space where they feel the same comforts as their home office can make a big difference. Finally, creating a workplace that encourages healthy habits like getting up from your desk often, eating more nutritious snacks, and engaging with your coworkers, can help improve emotional and physical well-being. 

Benefits of workplace environment well-being:

  • Employees may spend more time in the office
  • Improved creativity and collaboration
  • Better productivity 
  • Better company culture

So how can you improve your office environment for your employees? Here are a few ideas. 

Ways to improve environmental well-being: 

  • Ergonomic workspaces (i.e., standing desks)
  • Office plants 
  • Adjustable lighting
  • Collaborative spaces
  • Relaxing spaces 
  • Stocked kitchen
  • Routine cleaning

While this kind of wellness priority may feel more "invisible" than the others, the benefits are hard to ignore. Make your office space a place your workers want to be. 

3. Emotional Wellness Programs

Many people don't seek treatment for mental health issues because of the stigma and cost. Unfortunately, this can cause symptoms to worsen, and experiencing these symptoms can hinder productivity, job performance, and engagement on the job.

To address this vital issue, you need to understand how employee mental health programs work and what you should consider when crafting your wellness initiatives. Work is more stressful than ever. If you can support mental health among your employees, you'll capitalize on two things at once: overall employee job satisfaction and lower stress levels in the workplace.

Benefits of emotional wellness programs: 

  • Lower levels of stress
  • Improved psychological safety
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Lower health care costs 
  • Less burnout 

There are many reasons employees lack engagement or feel burnout or stress in the workplace — from company culture and job satisfaction to relationships with managers and colleagues, work-life balance, job security, and pay. And there's no one-size-fits-all solution for addressing these issues, particularly when addressing employee mental health issues. But there are several things that employers can do to help their workers focus on wellness and improve their engagement levels in the workplace.

Emotional wellness program ideas include: 

  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • App-based mental health support (i.e., BetterHelp, BrightUp)
  • Mental health days (PTO)

While our primary focus is on financial wellness, BrightUp pairs financial education with uplifting, empathic, and compassionate messaging. That's because we believe that how employees feel about themselves impacts how they manage their money. We support the money mindset just as much as money management! 

4. Financial Wellness Programs

Financial wellness is essential for employees, who often cite it as a top concern. A professional-grade employee financial wellness program (EFWP) can help your company support the overall well-being of your workforce.

The term EFWP refers to various financial wellness services aimed at helping employees better manage their finances. This can include anything from health savings account (HSA) counseling to student loan repayment assistance to budgeting tools. An EFWP can help employees stop spending company hours worrying about their wallets and instead focus on their work. 

Benefits of financial wellness programs: 

  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Increased productivity
  • Employee retention 
  • Increased use of other benefits 
  • Employees retire on-time

Business owners need to rethink their approach to employee engagement, focusing less on traditional benefits and more on Employee Financial Wellness Programs (EFWP). These programs allow employers to invest in their employees' overall well-being for a fraction of the cost of traditional benefits.

Types of financial wellness benefits:

These are just a few examples of benefits you can offer as an employer. Since 2020, BrightUp has worked to democratize financial wealth building and personal well-being by partnering with companies striving to give their employees a brighter future. We work with employers to provide evidence-based tools to help their employees feel financially healthy. 

BrightUp is the perfect partner in launching an employee financial wellness program in your workplace. Our employer solutions are affordable and engaging and fit in a phone app that delivers educational content and planning tools. 

5. Social Well-being Programs

Social well-being: the final element of employee well-being companies should consider. 

Work is a significant part of all our lives, but what's more important is work/life balance. These days, individuals spend long hours working and may be spending less time at home with their family and friends than they'd like. Unfortunately, this can lead to social isolation and mental health issues—statistics that will only rise as we advance and integrate further in the age of the digital economy.

For this reasons, social well-being is another aspect of the wellness equation that HR professionals should include in the workplace for better productivity and higher employee engagement levels. This kind of well-being is an important but often overlooked aspect of a team's health and productivity. Engagement in the workplace is directly correlated to financial results, retention rates, and employee morale.

Benefits of social well-being:

  • Improved company culture
  • Higher morale 
  • Improved employee retention 
  • Better teamwork
  • Improved sense of belonging

So how can you improve the social well-being of your employees? 

Ideas for improving social well-being: 

  • Team-building retreats 
  • Plan team volunteer days
  • Encourage team interest groups 

Create a space where employees can make valuable emotional connections with one another. 

Improving Employee Engagement in Wellness Programs 

So you've decided to create a wellness program. You've got your plan, goals, and all the tools you need to succeed. But what about your employees? Are they on board?

An employee wellness program is only as good as employees' results when they're engaged. 

One of the reasons your employee may not participate in a wellness program is because they don't think they have enough time. But when the wellness goals are aligned with productivity goals, it becomes more appealing to participate. Start with asking your employees to complete simple tasks like taking a break from their screens and going for a walk around the block. 

Here are a few other ideas for making your wellness program successful: 

  1. Use technology to track participation. Whether it's a fitness tracker or an app that needs to be downloaded to their phones, leveraging technology is a great way to offer continued reminders to employees to participate. 
  2. Communicate benefits frequently. Send reminders or gentle nudges to remind employees of the benefits of participating in the wellness program. You can do this through emails, group calls, or your intranet. 
  3. Offer incentives to make it rewarding. Maybe you set a savings goal or a weight loss goal. Make sure you're giving a reason to participate and an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments. 
  4. Evaluate often. Survey your employees to ensure your program delivers the benefits your organization is prioritizing. 

These are just a few tried and true ways to get your employees on board and engaged in your wellness program! 

It's Easier with BrightUp

Companies can no longer get away with ignoring their responsibility to provide value to their employees. They need to spend more time thinking about differentiating themselves from other companies in the competitive talent market. Your employees want to achieve work-life balance and prioritize their well-being – so why not help? 

If you're an employer, HR team member, or benefit plan administrator, BrightUp can help you launch a successful financial wellness program. Creating lasting behavior changes can be challenging with an internally managed program. The best wellness programs leverage a suite of resources from experts in the industry.

Launching a financial well-being program can be an exciting and rewarding accomplishment. BrightUp can help you from start to finish by offering coaching, financial education, and much more. Ready to join the movement? You have three options to contact us: 

  • Drop a note on our contact page 
  • Call us at (833) 513-1302
  • Send us an email at hello@getbrightup.com 

Together, we can build a brighter future for all. ‍

Was this helpful? You might also like: 

Featured Image Pexels

Written by Slam Media Lab