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5 Ways To Promote Workplace Wellness Programs And Improve Employee Engagement

Workplace wellness initiatives have become very popular all over the world, and with good reason. The health of a company is dependent on the health of its employees. Workplace wellness programs have been shown to improve physical and mental health, reduce absenteeism, boost morale, and attract and retain top talent.

According to a research study by the career experts, Zippia:

  • "72% of companies saw a reduction in healthcare costs after implementing a wellness program.

  • The average return on investment (ROI) for employee wellness programs is six-to-one.

  • Wellness programs can reduce absenteeism by 14-19%.

  • 87% of employees consider health and wellness offerings when choosing an employer."

But the benefits reach far beyond workplace productivity. Healthy people are better for our society at large. When an employee thrives at work, they thrive at home, too. We create better families, friends, and communities.

The elusive work-life balance becomes not only attainable, but sustainable, preventing burnout. By giving people tools to manage stress better, they become more resilient. Resiliency empowers us all be our best, despite challenging circumstances - an excellent character trait for employees in any industry.

According to the CDC, 75% of large companies (1,000 employees or more) have a workplace wellness program in place. Programs vary from biometric screenings and nutrition counseling to company funded gym memberships and onsite wellness classes. One third (34%) of small companies (50 - 100 employees) and just over half (56%) of medium sized companies (100 - 500 employees) have workplace wellness programs.

While large organizations may often have more resources to fund and execute workplace wellness initiatives, there are so many opportunities to provide meaningful offerings to small and medium sized businesses alike. Full time workers spend over 50% of their waking hours at work, making the office a prime location to integrate practices and habits that support one's wellbeing.

Full time workers spend over 50% of their waking hours at work, making the office a prime location to integrate practices and habits that support one's wellbeing.

Our mission here at Unfold is to inspire companies and employees to prioritize wellbeing. Our vision is to banish burnout. We believe a world of happy, healthy, and balanced workers benefits not only companies, but the world at large. We help companies define what workplace wellness means to them, and then make it happen. After almost a decade of experience, we've learned a thing or two!

Whether you're a small business looking to build a workplace wellness program from scratch, a large company trying to refine your existing offerings, or an employee striving to kickstart the process within your organization, here are five common threads that promote workplace wellness and improve employee engagement.

1. Walk The Walk

Your actions speak louder than words! Leaderships' engagement in company wellness programs set the tone for the entire organization. When the CEO shows up for the weekly office yoga class, employees take notice. Years ago, Unfold taught a weekly office yoga class at a tech company. Every week, without fail, the HR Director attended class. She was the one who hired Unfold, and made it a priority to participate. We believe that her engagement was a key factor in the consistent attendance throughout the duration of the program. We had folks join who had never done yoga before. It was wonderful!

Regardless of your roll, set an example by making a commitment to your wellness practice. This will help employees truly realize that wellbeing is a part of their job, not an afterthought. Research from Zippia shows that "over 80% of employees whose employers are engaged in their wellness say they enjoy work."

"Over 80% of employees whose employers are engaged in their wellness say they enjoy work." (Zippia)

desk and chair yoga, workplace wellness, corporate wellness
Co-Founder Katie Leading Desk + Chair Yoga

2. Create A Vision + Culture Of Wellness

What does wellness mean to your business? How does your workplace culture facilitate this vision? If you want your employees to take ownership of their physical and mental health, there needs to be specific strategies in place that align with that vision. Examples include providing healthy snacks, prioritizing movement breaks, promoting mental health, and offering flexible hours and PTO.

Take the time to think about how the wellbeing of your employees is woven into the fabric of a thriving business. Communicate these values to your employees and keep the wellness vision top of mind. Simply starting each meeting by actively thanking everyone for their hard work can go a long way. Tell your employees that their wellbeing is valued. Remind them of the wellness programs they have access to and keep resources top of mind. Ask for feedback and allow your wellness program to evolve over time to best serve your company.

One of Unfold's clients is consistently listed as one of the best places to work in Chicago. They offer flexible hours, generous maternity leave, and many opportunities to stay healthy at work. They provide their employees with fully funded access to Unfold Digital, our online membership program designed to support busy desk workers with office-friendly movement and meditation classes. It's lovely to see folks showing up for live classes and using their benefits.

3. Empower Calendar Ownership

One of our most valuable assets is time. Empower employees to take ownership of their work calendar. Schedule in wellness practices the way you would schedule any other work meeting. 30 minutes of desk + chair yoga is valued just as much as a conference call. A 10-minute breathing practice will provide the much needed focus and clarity for a big presentation.

Better yet, include a wellness initiative into a company wide meeting! One of Unfold's clients shared that one of their teams spends the first five minutes of their weekly team call sharing one thing that they are grateful for with the group. This practice brought so much positivity to the team. Gratitude practices are so simple and powerful - just five minutes is enough to totally shift your mindset. Gratitude is free and anyone can do it.

Office Yoga, Corporate Wellness, Workplace Wellness Program
Co-Founder Nicole Leading An Onsite Wellness Presentation

4. Reframe Rest As Productive

Research shows that rest is productive. When you rest at the end of an office yoga class, or close your eyes to meditate, your brain is organizing information - sorta like a system reboot. You're better able to problem solve, communicate, empathize, and engage in creative work.

Reframing rest goes against the grain of our busy badge culture and it can take time to undo. Make it a priority to communicate not only the benefits of rest to employees, but also make it known that your organization views rest as productive. Intentional rest improves your ability to do your job. It's not a luxury - it's an effective productivity tool.

A loyal Unfold client has a quiet corner filled with bean bag chairs and encouraged employees to take short rests throughout the day. It was also a way for teams to mix up where they had meetings. Sitting on the floor is a great way to improve your hip flexibility and spine health. Give it a try!

5. Prioritize Accessibility + Simplicity

While fancy gyms and dedicated nap rooms are nice to have, they are by no means necessary to a successful wellness program. In fact, the simpler you make it for employees to stay healthy, the better! There are so many ways to encourage healthy habits without employees having to leave their desk of change their clothes. Chair yoga, mindfulness meditation, or five minutes of slow deep breathing can make a big impact.

Virtual offerings are also and excellent way to include people who are working from home, on the road, or at the office. Here at Unfold, we've found that a mix of live and on-demand content is an excellent way to provide resources to employees, as folks have different schedules, deadlines, and time zones.

Unfold offers FREE on-demand weekly 10-Minute Tune-Ups, quick office friendly classes to get employees moving, breathing, and back to work. Here is one of our more popular Tune-Ups, De-Stress At Your Desk, lead by co-founder Katie. Follow along, right at your desk.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our newsletter to receive weekly 10-Minute Tune-Ups and wellbeing inspiration. These classes are quick office-friendly chair yoga and meditation breaks to get you moving, breathing, and de-stressed - no change of clothing or equipment needed. Thanks for reading.

In Gratitude,

Katie Rowe Mitchell

Co-Founder + CMO


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