4 amazing employee wellness programs to inspire yours

A balanced employee sits cross legged while half of her is in meditation and the other half is working with a computer experiencing health and wellbeing at work

Founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson once said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.”1

Despite being a cliche, his message is still relevant.

With rising health care costs in many countries, including the US,2 UK,3 New Zealand,4 and Australia,5 prioritizing employee wellbeing can result in positive outcomes for business.

For example, a healthier staff is 41% less likely to miss work due to illness. This results in lower absenteeism rates and smoother operations.6

You also create a more attractive work environment when you prioritize employee health. The alternative is a high staff turnover which will cost you one half to two times an employee’s salary.7

So how do you design and install an effective wellness program?

We’ve rounded up some of the best employee health and wellbeing programs to inspire yours. You’ll also see how to use F4S to create a program your employees will love. Let’s jump right in.

Table of contents
What are employee health and wellbeing programs?
5 benefits of employee health and wellbeing programs
What can we learn from the world’s best employee wellness programs?
Steps to create your world-leading health and wellbeing program
Benefits of a solid employee health and wellbeing program

What are employee health and wellbeing programs?

Employee health and wellbeing programs are structured efforts to improve the health, fitness, and mental state of staff.

Also called workplace health programs, wellness initiatives, or employee assistance programs, they offer support to improve the health and safety of all employees.

This includes financial wellbeing, mental health, and physical wellness goals.

Different factors influence an employee’s experience and wellbeing at work. These include:

  • Social interaction: When team members have positive relationships with each other, it improves their sense of belonging, job security, satisfaction, and mental health.8
  • Decision-Making Abilities: When employees have a say in decisions related to their work, it makes them feel valued and empowered.9
  • Availability of Tools and Resources: Being able to do their jobs easily reduces frustration and boosts team performance.
  • Reasonable working hours: This prevents employee burnout and promotes a healthy work-life balance.
  • Fair and competitive compensation: Feeling adequately rewarded for efforts can positively impact employee motivation and commitment.
  • Workplace Safety: Employees need to feel safe and secure at work. When this happens, they can perform their best without fear or stress.

Before now, wellness programs focused more on physical health and many employers considered gym memberships enough to support employees.

Sure, this helped, but it overlooks equally important aspects of an employee’s wellbeing — their emotional and mental health. Thankfully, there has been a shift in recent years to a more holistic approach to a healthier lifestyle.

As of 2023, employee assistance programs have gained popularity in the US to reduce emotional and mental health issues.10 Australia and New Zealand have seen an 84% and 70% effectiveness rate, respectively.11

Investing in employee health and wellbeing programs can be a game-changer if done right, so let’s review the benefits.

5 benefits of employee health and wellbeing programs

1. Makes hiring and retention of employees more effective

Today's employees seek more than just pay. They want employers who care about their personal and professional health and happiness.

In fact, 76% of workers view employee mental health benefits as vital when considering new jobs. An additional 42% of employees with access to these benefits are more inclined to stay, compared to only 27% without such access.12

These programs play a pivotal role in driving a positive employee experience and good retention. When employees see a genuine commitment to their holistic wellbeing, they are more likely to stay loyal to a company.

2. Helps to increase your profit margins

Wellbeing programs can increase profits by as much as 9%, which is an average of $2,400 extra for each worker every year.13

In addition, healthy employees are likely to sell more products or services, upsell or cross-sell existing customers, or bring in new customers. They also reduce costs by minimizing errors, waste, or rework.

3. Reduces health care costs

One of the biggest expenses that businesses face today is health costs.

The average annual premium for employer-sponsored health insurance in 2020 was $7,470 for single coverage and $21,342 for family coverage.14

These costs will rise in the future due to inflation, the aging population, chronic diseases, and new technologies. They also have a significant impact on your bottom line. Plus, they reduce profits, limit cash flow, and affect competitiveness.

High medical costs also affect employee wellbeing, as they must pay higher deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses.

A wellness program can help employees adopt healthier behaviors, such as eating well, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, or managing daily stress levels. It also enables employees to understand their health status and treat problems early before they become serious and costlier.

4. Lowers employee turnover rates

Health and wellness programs can contribute to lowering employee turnover rates.

When employees feel their health is a priority and they have access to resources that support work-life balance, they are more likely to stay with the company. These programs create a positive and caring work environment, which leads to increased job satisfaction and loyalty.

5. Positive public image

When companies focus on taking care of their employees' health and wellbeing, it creates a good impression not only in the industry but also among people who might want to work there. This positive reputation can improve a company's brand and make it more appealing to top talent.15

Other benefits include:

  • Improved workplace culture
  • Higher productivity
  • Better customer service
  • Positive word-of-mouth referrals

While these initiatives come with many benefits, their impact is limited when companies view employee wellness as a checkbox rather than a genuine commitment.

For these initiatives to succeed, they require more than superficial participation. You should foster a culture that genuinely values employee wellbeing.

This involves integrating wellness into core values, encouraging leadership to participate, and providing ongoing support and resources. That’s how you build a happier and more fulfilled workforce.

Let’s go over some companies that offer impressive employee wellness programs.

What can we learn from the world’s best employee wellness programs?

1. Canva

Canva’s people strategy is to guide individuals, leaders, and teams to excel in their performance, wellbeing, and happiness at work.

Its wellness program revolves around creativity and nurturing wellbeing. As most staff are remote, programs are run virtually to connect global employees.16 At the height of the COVID 19 lockdown, Canva transitioned its health and fitness program to an online environment.17

Canva also offers the following incentives:

  • Vibe & Thrive Allowance: A dedicated allowance that employees can use for wellbeing support, including health memberships, celebrations, and education resources.
  • Future of Work Policy: A policy fostering flexibility and team connection, catering to the diverse needs and priorities of employees.18
  • Employee Assistance Programme: A confidential program offering mental health support through paid sessions with qualified practitioners.19
  • Meet-Free Wednesday and 'Sacred Lunch Hour': Dedicated time for deep work and breaks from virtual meetings to support work-life balance and employee wellbeing.
  • Wellness Memberships: Free access to fitness studios to promote physical wellbeing.

To support its rapid growth, Canva needed tools to help teams identify and scale their unique culture in the early stages. Canva’s focus was to hire top talent and develop high-performing teams with exceptional communication and collaboration.

Fingerprint for Success (F4S) is the only tool Canva uses to run its internal coaching program. Canva uses F4S as the core of its people strategy, including recruitment, people development, and team dynamics.

New starters are invited to take the F4S assessment as a part of their onboarding process. The assessment evaluates 48 motivational traits, providing insights into strengths and areas for improvement.

The report helps new hires understand themselves in the context of their new team and allows managers to quickly understand the new team dynamics.

F4S also helps Canva’s Internal Coaching team to quickly resolve cross-functional team conflict. The results speak for themselves:

  • #1 on Fast Company's best workplaces for Innovators list 202320
  • 370% increase in job applicants21
  • 300,000 job applicants22

2. Salesforce

Salesforce ranked second on the Fortune 100 best companies to work for in 2021.23 This company offers a variety of benefits that support its employees’ personal health and social wellbeing, such as:24

Mental Health Program and Wellness Focus: Salesforce supports employee mental health through therapy, coaching, and stress management resources. They also provide personalized care for substance use and gender affirmation medical reimbursement, ensuring inclusive healthcare for all.

Flexible Time-Off Plan: Employees in the U.S enjoy unlimited time off while those outside the U.S receive generous time-off benefits.

Expanded Family Care Leave: Salesforce offers additional support to working parents through expanded family care leave. This benefit enables employees to balance family responsibilities while excelling in their professional roles.

Camp B-Well - Salesforce’s Wellbeing Headquarters: Camp B-Well is a virtual platform that empowers employees to take charge of their health. It offers an array of resources, mindfulness activities, and wellbeing events with renowned speakers, making it a hub for holistic growth.25

Salesforce also offers virtual programs such as B-Well Together, a video series that features wellbeing experts who share insights on topics such as resilience, mindfulness, sleep, nutrition, and more.  

Employees can watch these videos on demand or join live sessions with interactive Q&A.

There’s also Wellbeing Trailhead, a learning platform that offers interactive modules and badges on various aspects of individual wellbeing, such as mental, physical, emotional health, and social wellbeing.

Salesforce motivates its employees to participate by offering incentives, such as:

  • Rewards Points: Employees earn rewards points by completing wellness activities or challenges on Camp B-Well. They can redeem these points for gift cards or donations to charities of their choice.26
  • Wellness Reimbursement: Employees are reimbursed up to $100 per quarter for wellness-related expenses, such as gym memberships, fitness equipment, or wellness apps.
  • Wellness Days: Employees can take up to 4 days per year to focus on their wellbeing without using vacation days. They can use these days for activities like self-care, volunteering, or learning.

Salesforce also allows its employees to personalize their mental and physical wellness journey by setting their own goals, tracking their progress, and getting feedback from coaches or counselors.

3. Atlassian

Atlassian is fostering an inclusive and supportive workplace with its Employee Resource Groups (ERG) program using people analytics tools.

Atlassian’s ERG program is designed to accommodate its diverse and distributed workforce, which spans 13 different countries.27  To ensure all employees can participate and benefit, Atlassian offers various virtual programs that are accessible, flexible, and engaging.

The company has several ERGs that focus on education, resource-sharing, allyship, and connection with senior leaders. The team built its ERGs around the feedback and suggestions of staff. Employees can voice their opinions and ideas through surveys, polls, forums, etc.

Atlassian ensures all ERGs have equal access to resources and opportunities by following a consistent internal structure.

The team also provides sufficient resources to ERG leaders to avoid additional unpaid labor. Resources include funding, training, tools, and platforms to run and measure their programs.

Some of the best program ideas are:

  • Atlassian Women in Tech (AWIT): AWIT aims to empower women in tech by providing mentorship, networking, career development, and community events.
  • Atlassian Black Employee Network (ABEN): ABEN strives to create a safe and supportive space for Black employees by offering cultural education, professional growth, and social activities.
  • Atlassian Accessibility and Mental Health (AAMH): AAMH promotes accessibility and mental health awareness by providing resources, support, and advocacy for employees with disabilities and mental health challenges.

Atlassian also rewards employees for participating in its ERG program with incentives that include:28

  • Health coverage: Comprehensive health insurance for employees and dependents, covering medical, dental, vision, and mental health services.
  • Paid volunteer days: Atlassian encourages employees to give back to their communities by offering four paid volunteer days per year.
  • Fitness classes: Free fitness classes, such as yoga, Pilates, boxing.
  • Coaching and therapy: Free and confidential coaching and therapy sessions for employees to address personal and work-related challenges.

Like Canva, Atlassian also uses people analytics tools such as F4S to track and improve the impact of its ERGs. F4S helps Atlassian identify the gaps and opportunities for improvement in its ERG program.

Accelerate understanding between teams

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Motivated by macro big picture thinking, these teammates value moving quickly to connect dots between abstract ideas to 'get the gist' of things.

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These teammates value being concrete and specific, getting into details to understand the steps or tasks required.

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4. DocuSign

DocuSign prioritizes mental health as a cornerstone of its employee wellness program. Partnering with Spring Health, they offer a comprehensive approach to mental health care, ensuring that employees and their dependents have access to the right care at the right time, regardless of their level of need.

DocuSign's employee wellness program also offers virtual mental health support, including counseling and on-demand mindfulness content, to address the unique challenges of remote work. This ensures that employees can access mental wellness resources conveniently, promoting wellbeing and reducing feelings of isolation or cumulative stress.

One of the most significant benefits of DocuSign's mental health support program is the reduced wait time for therapy appointments. While the national average wait time is 25 days, DocuSign employees enjoy an average wait time of just 1.2 days.29 This rapid access to care demonstrates the company's commitment to promptly addressing employee needs and supporting their wellbeing.

DocuSign also offers personalized mental health care, leveraging people analytics tools to identify each employee's specific needs and tailor coaching sessions and training programs.

To encourage employees to prioritize their wellbeing, DocuSign offers confidential access to counseling, on-demand mindfulness content, a wealth of work-life resources, and a monthly wellness reimbursement program.

This strategy has seen 66.5% of active participants from DocuSign experience improvements in their depression symptoms after just one appointment.30 This significantly outperforms the national average of 47% improvement in clinical trials over an average of 6.3 appointments.

Steps to create your world-leading health and wellbeing program

1. Start with your vision

What do you want to achieve with your program? How are you going to measure success? What are the needs and preferences of your employees?

You need to do a deep dive and answer these questions in as much detail and clarity as possible. You can survey your employees anonymously to get their input and feedback. This will help you design wellbeing initiatives that are relevant, engaging, and effective for your workforce.

2. Build a wellness team

Find employees who are passionate about wellness and committed to encouraging others. Choose a group of employees who will be responsible for designing, implementing, and evaluating your well being plan. They will be your wellness champions who can inspire, motivate, and support colleagues in their wellness journey.

3. Set SMART goals and objectives

Based on your vision and employee feedback, set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals for your program.

For example, you may want to reduce absenteeism, improve employee productivity, or enhance employee engagement. Having clear and realistic goals will help you track your progress and adjust your strategy as needed.

4. Find the right wellness resources and partners

Depending on your goals and budget, you may want to offer a variety of services and activities, such as coaching, counseling, fitness classes, screenings, or online resources.

You can also partner with external providers for expert guidance and support for your program. Make sure to choose resources and partners that align with your vision and values.

5. Offer rewards for participation

One of the best ways to increase employee participation and engagement in your program is to offer rewards for their efforts.

Use incentives such as merchandise, recognition, time off, or bulk gift cards for employees to reward those who complete wellness challenges, attend events, or achieve milestones. Rewards also create a sense of fun and competition among employees.

6. Communicate and promote your program

To ensure employees are aware of your program, you need to communicate and promote it effectively.

Use channels such as email, intranet, social media, posters, or newsletters to inform employees about the program. Describe the resources and activities available and promote upcoming events. You can also use testimonials from your wellness champions and participants to showcase the impact of your program.

7. Measure results

To evaluate the effectiveness of your program and identify areas for improvement, you need to measure the results .

Use metrics such as participation rates, satisfaction scores, health outcomes, or business outcomes to assess how well your program is meeting its goals. You can also collect feedback from employees to understand their experiences.

8. Celebrate wins

Remember to celebrate the successes of your program and recognize employee achievements.

Share the results of your program with employees through newsletters, meetings, or events. You can also celebrate individual or team accomplishments through awards, certificates, or shout-outs.

Benefits of a solid employee health and wellbeing program

A good employee wellness program promotes a healthy lifestyle, by offering a range of fitness activities, encouraging healthy eating, and providing resources for stress management and mental health support.

If team members work onsite, you can make your program effective by offering physical activity initiatives, nutritious snacks, and health screenings to support physical health and wellbeing. For remote employees, consider virtual programs like Canva.

It’s tempting to focus on the bottom line and ignore your company’s most important asset: the wellbeing of workers. Like Branson said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.”

Use F4S to learn more about employees and create personalized health plans that match your employees’ profiles. That’s how you build a winning team that thrives in today's competitive landscape.

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