How to Create an Epic Wellness Program

Sep 11

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Corporate wellness programs have never been more important, when so many face stressors from so many different aspects of their lives. We talked to a couple of our own team members to learn what an all-around beneficial wellness program should be. Recent months have seen an uptick in studies looking at how employees are doing in the workplace, and corporate wellness programs have taken centre stage in these discussions. And we also interviewed Tracey Ferstler, PhD, Assistant Vice President and Head of Return to Health at MetLife to learn more about how employers can build trust among their employees, and the importance of getting to know a team’s diverse needs. 

Through carefully-curated social or team-building activities, general health benefits, stress release activities, and even community service activities, a wellness program can go a long way towards building stronger and healthier employees. At Thriver we’re obsessed with helping you and your teams fuel your potential in the healthiest way possible. 

Create a program tailored for your team

It’s important to keep in mind that, at the end of the day, however fulsome the wellness program you curate is, it is your unique team that will be making use of it. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. Getting to know your employees is crucial if you don’t want to be setting aside money for services that they are not interested in. An effective wellness program that will support an organization’s employees in their work will take into consideration not just its audience’s needs, but also its own unique goals as an organization. 

Getting to know your team also allows you to identify those individuals who might be able to spearhead the wellness initiative. “You may want to think about creating a committee,” Adriana, HR Manager at Thriver, says. “Engage a few people in the organization that have an interest in wellness, because whatever they practice their personal life, they can probably bring to the organization.” If budgets are tight at this time, an internal committee like this can allow your organization to circumnavigate the need for an outside expert. 

Learn to speak to the diversity of your team

“Make sure that you’re communicating the components of the wellness health program [with your employees] and really reaching out to groups that you feel may have a hesitancy to access those, and try to share as much information as you can,”

Tracey Ferstler, PhD, Assistant Vice President and Head of Return to Health at Metlife

Accessibility is the pillar of a well thought wellness program. According to a study conducted by MetLife, female workers are certainly interested in wellness offerings from employers (such as mental health days, organization-wide days off, and therapy sessions). However, Metlife’s study found that only 36% of female employees were comfortable asking their HR manager or direct manager for help with mental health matters, compared to 46% of male employees. Women reported feeling more uncomfortable with colleagues and peers knowing about their mental health concerns. Overall, the study found that female workers are more cautious in seeking help from their employer due to the concern of creating a stigma or protecting their privacy. 

Narrow in on what wellness looks like for your team 

Not all businesses are the same and wellness looks different for each one. While some organizations are centered around manufacturing, others require employees to be more desk bound. Accordingly, if someone spends their day sitting at a computer, they will need activity in their day. 

“It’s important that you identify the needs of your population, and then work off those pillars. What’s the atmosphere you want to create for and with your employees?” 

Adriana, HR Manager at Thriver.

For example, educational and mental health resources for employees will be the priority for one business, while for another, recreational activities as part of its wellness program might take the forefront — it’s all a matter of getting to the root of your company’s identity and the measures that will allow you and your team to realize it, Tal says.

Keep the Mind in Mind

“When people think of wellness programs, they think of physical health solely,” Adriana says. Some organizations just narrow in on activities relating to sports and exercise, but wellness is a broad category that encompasses every facet of human existence, including the mind. “It’s really important to incorporate activities like meditation, or sessions on how to navigate stress, or bring awareness to how important mental health is, because this is applicable across every organization.” 

According to the MetLife Employee Benefits Trends study, 1 In 4 Gen Z employees have sought mental health help due to stress, burnout or other mental health reasons since the beginning of this pandemic. 

Improving your workplace’s mental health can lead to more engaged employees, which in turn leads to happy and more productive teams. As part of our effort to foster positive workplace cultures around the world, we incorporated Thriver’s Virtual Experiences on Health and Wellness, like group sessions on managing stress and avoiding burnout with an emphasis on creating healthy work habits, which ultimately have a profound influence on the wellbeing of an organization. 

Promote financial literacy and boost morale

It’s no secret that people around the world are currently worried about the security of their jobs, whether and how they will be able to support themselves and their families during these uncertain times. Info sessions on how to make use of the benefits plan that your organization has in place, or all that it offers, in addition to sessions about how to maintain a good budget, or how to save money properly, or how to invest your money would be great to offer through your organization’s wellness program. 

Additionally, while it’s great to have a robust wellness program, it’s even better to have your employees engaging with it actively. To this end, make sure that you and your organization are informing employees of all that the program has to offer, that these resources are in place to help them cultivate healthy habits when it comes to mental, physical, and financial health. “Even if one or two employees find the program helpful, that’s one or two people in your workforce that are already feeling better,” Adriana says, and they could in turn inform their colleagues, having a domino-like effect throughout the organization. 

Provide family-friendly opportunities

A well rounded wellness program should include family benefits. With almost 50% of Millennials being parents already, offering family-related benefits such as access to childcare providers, educational assistance, and paid parental leave is undoubtedly attractive for new talent and beneficial for members of your team.

Allowing opportunities for employees to involve their families in recreational virtual experiences can be another wonderful way to engage and alleviate the toll the pandemic is taking on families. Virtual concerts and shows allow for teams to come together with their families and unwind.

Promote feedback culture and adjust the program regularly

Giving your program the flexibility to accommodate for busy schedules allows your team to feel as though they aren’t completing something like the weekly yoga session out of obligation, as that would defeat the purpose of a wellness activity. 

“You should always be thinking about how often your team wants to facilitate activities, but allow space for realism, for a frequency of activities that keeps pace with the cadence of your organization’s work”

Tal, Sr. Director of Business Development at Thriver. 

If employees voice that certain activities simply cannot be engaged with during a particular week, take this feedback and adjust the program accordingly. 

“Thriver provides employee feedback collection after every VX session, and helps distill and analyze the feedback into actionable results. If something isn’t working, be open to making program adjustments as needed; if something is working, consider doubling down on it.” 

Tal, Sr. Director of Business Development at Thriver.
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