What Is Workplace Wellness? (+ How to Promote It)

Woman relaxing.

Every startup wants its employees to thrive. After all, it’s good for the employees and good for business. Workplace wellness is a key factor in employee engagement, helping to support your team's mental and physical health and overall well-being.

But what exactly is workplace wellness, and how can you achieve it at your startup? In this article, we define workplace wellness, explain why it’s particularly important for startups, and discuss strategies to promote it.

What Is a Workplace Wellness Program?

Workplace wellness is multifactorial and encompasses several aspects of employees' well-being. Although there's no perfect recipe for promoting wellness, corporate wellness programs should address the following areas:

Mental and Emotional Health

Workplace mental health is crucial to a successful company. Employees who are healthy mentally and emotionally are more confident, optimistic, motivated, and encouraging to their colleagues.

Financial Wellness

Money is a major stressor for many people. An employee wellness program should address financial wellness whether it is through raise schedules, complementary financial planning, or other services to help them better manage their financial wellness.

Physical Health

Physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. Workplace wellness programs should include incentives for physical health and wellness, such as stipends for gym memberships.

Why Is Workplace Wellness Important?

Workplace wellness is important for any company, but it’s especially important for startups whose employees face unique pressures and challenges. It’s critical to build a strong team when you’re starting a company, and you need to take care of them so they stay engaged, happy, and healthy.

With that in mind, here are several benefits of workplace wellness for startups:

  • Higher Productivity: When employees are happier, they are often more productive. Not only does a workplace wellness program convey respect for your team it may help engage employees more into their work.
  • Lower Health Care Costs and Absenteeism: Healthy employees are more productive. One way to incentivize this is by creating a wellness program that helps cover healthcare costs and prioritize physical and mental health.
  • Increased Employee Morale, Loyalty, and Engagement: If your employees feel well taken care of, they're more likely to enjoy their jobs and be loyal to the company. Conversely, if they feel ignored or neglected, they might just do the bare minimum with a lousy attitude.
  • Company Culture: Finally, high workplace wellness can make employees feel like their coworkers and supervisors actually care about them as people. This will help build a sense of community and shared values – and everyone wants to work at a place like that.

How to Promote Workplace Wellness

It's not a secret that employee wellness programs benefit both staff and employers but how do you create a workplace wellness program? We've got you covered with these steps you can take to increase workplace mental health and employee wellness overall.

1. Offer Health Insurance

Startups don’t always provide this, which is a mistake. With good health insurance, your employees will be happier, less stressed, and more productive. Plus, access to healthcare services can help you attract top talent and grow your team of all-stars.

2. Establish a Mentorship Program

Especially in today’s world of remote work, every employee can feel like they’re an island. One way to combat this is to connect less experienced employees with more experienced mentors. Mentors can show mentees the ropes, act as a sounding board during stressful times, and help mentees grow professionally. 

3. Offer Mental Health Days

Working at a startup can seem like – and often is – a 24/7/365 job. However, everyone needs a break from time to time. Providing days off that are explicitly for mental health allows employees to recharge, recalibrate, and refocus.

4. Focus on Company Culture

Is your company inclusive? Do employees feel valued, empowered, and supported? Does everyone believe in the company mission? These are some questions to ask yourself in evaluating the culture you’ve built at your startup. If something needs to change, start working on it today.

5. Pay Your Employees Well

As mentioned above, one key to employee health is mitigating financial stress. To do this and hopefully attract even more top talent, make sure you are paying your employees well. Additionally, establishing a raise schedule or additional financial incentives can keep employees productive and motivated.

6. Be Reasonable With Workload

If your employees are experiencing burnout, you are likely not going to receive the quality of work you're hoping for. Being reasonable with the workload you give your employees is key to ensuring they are able to deliver quality work without sacrificing their mental health and wellness.

7. Prioritize Good Leadership

The parties that implement and carry out employee wellness programs are typically the company's leadership team. Good leadership is an essential part of a well-run company and a major factor in employee satisfaction and well-being. Make sure your managers are top-tier and focused on creating a positive company culture for your staff.

8. Offer Wellness Initiatives

Whether it be access to wellness apps like Calm or Headspace, stipends for gym memberships, or access to outside wellness programs, incentives like these can help encourage employees to prioritize their own health and wellness.  

9. Schedule Activities for Staff

Group activities are a great way to create a stronger bond between coworkers and improve corporate culture. This can be something as simple as an office party or an outing to a local park. The key to scheduled group activities is to initiate group bonding and strengthen your team.

10. Be Receptive to Employee Feedback

Finally, encourage employees to give feedback and be receptive to hearing it. The best way to create a wellness program that employees appreciate is to learn from what will help their mental health challenges and assist them in living a healthier lifestyle.

Tips to Create a Successful Wellness Program

The strategies above (and others) are well and good, but to implement them effectively, it’s best to establish a formal wellness program. Here’s how, according to healthcare giant Anthem.

  1. Identify your objectives. You can’t tackle everything all at once, so determine the most critical issues your employees are facing and design a wellness program that targets those first. Don’t guess; survey your employees, and let them tell you what they need.
  2. Turn your objectives into short- and long-term goals. As with employee performance goals, make your wellness program’s goals specific, measurable, flexible, and achievable.
  3. Develop a mission statement and project plan. The mission statement should state the wellness program’s functions, purpose, and stakeholders. The project plan should be more specific about budgets, timelines, etc.
  4. Create a marketing strategy. The wellness program will need employee buy-in to be successful, so determine the best way to persuade your employees that it’s the right thing to do.
  5. Identify movers and shakers. No doubt there are people at your startup with excellent people and leadership skills. Enlist these individuals (at all levels of the company, preferably) to help implement the wellness program.
  6. Determine how you will measure success. Whether it’s the number of program participants, reductions in turnover and absenteeism, or responses to survey questions, decide how you will measure your wellness program’s success.