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The Business Case for Employee Wellness Programmes

World Health Day is almost upon us and now more than ever, our health in the workplace is seen as part of our overall wellbeing.

With companies like Asana offering nap rooms and Google offering free massage therapy to their staff, it’s clear that these programmes can give you the edge when attracting and retaining top talent.

These wellness programmes really are a win-win for companies and individuals. Join us as we delve into the world of wellness at work, with practical advice that you can implement to benefit the workplace.

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Why do Employee Wellness Programmes Matter?

Employee wellness is much more than a theory: it has a concrete impact on the business.

In the past, businesses wanted to see committed staff working around the clock, even through sickness. In fact, presenteeism and burnout are major detractors from productivity, and the impact of these is only starting to be understood.

Across the UK, companies are now starting to take real steps to promote better health, work-life balance and enrichment.

In a study undertaken by the CIPD, analysing 1,021 organisations in the UK, the business case for wellness programmes is strong.

In a case study, the British Heart Foundation found that employee engagement rose by 3%, staff turnover decreased by 1.5% and staff absence decreased by an average of 7.3 days to 5.3 days per year.

Alongside these concrete results, there were also other benefits, like 6% more staff feeling that they had a better work-life balance and the same percentage increase in the number of staff that felt the company cared about them as individuals.

These are significant increases to productivity across the board and they far outweighed any investment to implement the policy. As an HR professional, this is a strategic advantage you can implement that could drastically impact the bottom line of the business.

As with most programmes, it’s important to make the business case for the initial time and monetary investment. As well as employee satisfaction, you’re able to show that the business also benefits, which makes for a higher chance of bringing one of these programmes into the workplace.

The Secrets of a Successful Wellness Programme

A quick scout around for examples of these wellness programmes will show you that they come in all shapes and sizes. Not all of these will be feasible for your organisation or relevant to your staff, but never fear, we’re here to show you how to select the right one and make it successful.


Step 1: Selecting the Programme

You’ll find that the best wellness programmes correlate with company values.

For example, SnackNation have a suite of healthy snacks, stress relieving practices and even yoga classes for their members of staff. As a company that promotes healthy living, it makes sense for them to practice what they preach with their staff.

Companies that promote the likes of telecommuting software or cloud-based services want their people to use them wherever they like, which means they offer more flexible working locations.

If you don’t have a specific organisational value that pertains to a wellness initiative, there’s no need to let this hold you back.

In this case, you want to get to the heart of what members of staff really want. More flexibility, training, better holiday allowance and mental health initiatives are generally high on the list of improvements that can bring a better work-life balance.

Remember, if part of the initiative can’t be adopted by a team for practical reasons, you should even out the balance in another way.

For example, if retail workers can’t be given the option to work from home, you may want to increase other perks like mental health workshops, paid gym memberships or free lunches on shift.

Be mindful of the limitations that some individuals may have and be sensitive to them; not every member of staff will be able to join in on free yoga or gym classes. Creating a diverse programme with a variety of perks means that staff should still have relevant perks to choose from.

If you’re having trouble settling on a group of perks to roll out and are limited, then you can always send out a poll to staff to complete. That way, you don’t have to speculate on what they want - you’ll have their first-hand opinions.

This is also the time to get a reading on the current situation in terms of employee engagement, sick leave, productivity and any other relevant statistics. You’ll use these to track how impactful your programme is, so you need a base level to compare this to further down the line.

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Step 2: Implementation and Communication

Next up, it’s time to take your plan to the senior business partners for approval. You should be able to explain how the benefits will also benefit the business and address specific organisational issues. If your company has a high staff turnover, then you may want to hone in on how a wellness programme could tackle that.

You can rely on the CIPD for more concrete examples and case studies to aid you with this. While this can represent a lot of planning, it’s essential for a smooth and speedy implementation.

Once you have the approval that you need, it’s time to begin the logistical side of the rollout. It’s one thing to have lofty ideas of your wellness programme, it’s another to make this work in practice! Create a timeline of preparation, announcement, practice and analysis for the programme.

Communication should filter down from senior management to further levels of employees, with HR there to support any transitions. There will be teething problems for any strategy, like issues with home work or abuse of policies, but HR can govern these to ensure that all departments are treated fairly.

Encourage managers to use the perks as this will trickle down to other employees. They’re setting an example to their direct reports, so if they’re not taking advantage of the programme then it’s unlikely that others will.


Step 3: Analysis

At the end of the implementation and trial period, you want to assess the success of your programme and figure out how to improve it over time. There may be perks that are less popular, room for improvement of existing perks and new addendums to policies.

Conducting a structured analysis like a SWOT can be beneficial before reporting back to the C-suite. You can also use the same system of employee polling to find out what they think of the programme and the perks that they prefer. Anonymising this will also make employees feel more comfortable expressing the whole truth.

While you may have thought a perk would be useful to staff, in practice this may not be the case. If it’s not being used by a large portion of the staff, then you may want to allocate this budget elsewhere.

This is the time to gauge the statistics that relate to the success of the programme too. Depending on your trial period, these may not be drastically different as of yet, as you’re still fine-tuning the details.

Check in often on the hard metrics, like sick days and productivity, but also use softer metrics, like self-reported happiness at work, to get a full view of what your programme is doing. You can also use outside metrics, such as the number of job applications per opening, to understand how this is impacting your company’s reputation.

When it comes to reporting back on the programme, these will help you to make your business case for continuing or expanding what you’re offering.

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In HR, we often want to help our colleagues and improve the workplace, but we have to be ready to make a business case for doing so.

With an employee wellness programme that’s properly executed, your workplace can benefit from measurable improvements that boost the bottom line. These programmes do require time and monetary investment but implement one well to enjoy seeing happier colleagues and a strategic advantage for the business.


Implement a training perk for your teams with flexible online learning that could boost their productivity and morale.


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