Guide to a Successful Workplace Wellbeing Program

Physical Health

A group of employees taking part in a workplace wellbeing program

It’s one thing for an organisation to have a wellbeing program, but another to have a program that employees value and take part in.

Some programs aren’t worth the employee handbook paper they’re printed on because they don’t deliver positive outcomes. Successful wellbeing programs should provide employees with a valuable benefit and also a substantial return on investment for the organisation.

So how do you offer a successful program that workers appreciate, and how do you measure its success?

What is Wellness?

Wellness at work is defined as a ‘state of being that is shaped by engagement and other workplace factors such as physical and psychological health’.

How to Make your Wellbeing Program Successful

Some organisations introduce a lunchtime walking group and pay for staff flu shots and call it a wellbeing program. But a successful program covers more than the employee’s physical health. A good wellbeing initiative includes components that care for employees’ physical, emotional, mental, and social state. Organisations should ensure the program fits within the culture and mindset of its employees.

Organisation is Dedicated to Employee Wellbeing

It’s not enough for a small group from HR championing a wellbeing program. For a program to be effective, most people in the organisation need to get behind it, including management, line managers and employees. Everyone in the organisation should believe that employee wellbeing is a priority at the organisation.

Culture Must Support Wellbeing

Wellbeing programs aren’t stand alone initiatives, they must integrate into an organisation’s culture and operations. Programs can quickly fail if the culture doesn’t align. For example, if the organisation’s culture is to stay in the office late and only look after individual interests rather than working as a team, the culture isn’t conducive to a successful wellbeing program.

Program Interests Employees

An organisation can spend big on a wellbeing program, but it’s worthless if employees don’t engage and see the value of it. Look at the demographics of the workforce and ask employees what they want to make sure the program appeals to everyone. Inform staff that wellbeing programs are more than gym memberships and provide examples of potential inclusions.

More than Just Productivity Gains

The organisation needs to show genuine care for employees’ mental health and emotional needs. While the outcome of the program may deliver an improved bottom line, its focus should be employee wellbeing. Design the program so employees can use it to cope with personal and work issues.

For example, improved relationships outside of the workplace with their partner and kids can increase an employee’s quality of life. It will most likely have a positive impact on their work performance too, but the focus is on improving their personal life.

Individual’s Privacy

Employees need to feel they have choice and privacy around wellbeing programs. Survey responses should be anonymous, health screening and counselling information should only be available to the employee. No one wants to feel like their employer knows everything about their personal life. Employees shouldn’t feel pressured to take part in any section of the program if they choose not to.

Successful Programs with a Return on Investment

Organisations judge the success of wellbeing programs differently. Some don’t expect or measure a return on the program, while others expect to see an improvement in the bottom line. Programs differ from a negative return on investment, to as high as $8 for every $1 invested, depending on the industry.

An Australian research group reported that improved staff wellbeing can deliver the following benefits:

  • Workers can be more productive to the value of around $1,000 USD

  • Can cut sick days by half

  • Wellbeing improves organisational citizenship behaviour (helping colleagues)

  • More positive to changes at work

  • More positive opinion of their workplace

  • Less likely to look elsewhere for work


Reduced Staff Turnover

If a wellbeing program is deemed valuable by its workers, it’s one more reason to stay with an organisation. Even a small decrease in the staff turnover rate can have a big impact on the bottom line. Employing new staff is expensive. There are the costs for recruitment, training and time it takes for a new employee to get up to speed and be productive in their role.

Reduced Absenteeism and Presenteeism

An Australian report estimated that the cost of a depressed employee over one year is $8,025. When there are multiple employees in the organisation suffering from depression, the annual cost to the employer can be staggering. The major costs are absenteeism, presenteeism (working when sick) and increased staff turnover. Work-based mental health interventions delivered through a wellbeing program can quickly provide a good return on investment.

Improved Culture 

The culture of an organisation can improve by implementing a quality wellbeing program. the shift in culture can occur through:

  • Staff feel their employer values their contribution

  • The employer cares about the mental and physical health of employees

  • Stronger co-worker relationships

  • All staff understanding the importance of wellbeing


How to Measure Success

An organisation can evaluate the success of a wellbeing program with staff focus groups and surveys to gain their opinion of the program and to ask if it has helped with their physical or mental health at work or at home. There’s also the company’s reports that can help highlight how the organisation is going before and after the program’s introduction.

  • Sales and profit numbers

  • Quality of product or service output

  • Customer satisfaction levels

  • Number of staff sick days

  • Staff turnover rates

  • Culture of the organisation

If you would like to know more about introducing or improving your employee wellbeing program, call PeopleSense by Altius on 1300 307 912 or contact us online.

Category: Physical Health