13 Impactful Workplace Health and Wellness Initiatives

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5 September 2023

13 Impactful Workplace Health and Wellness Initiatives

In 2016, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report advocating for workplace health and wellness programs. It cites that:

  • More than one-third of Americans are overweight or obese
  • Nearly 86 million Americans have prediabetes
  • The two chronic conditions that drove the most health-related costs for employers were depression and obesity.

However, the report also found that that making employees healthier not only involved a simple few small lifestyle changes, but also reduced healthcare costs by up to 50%.

Clearly, there are some really good reasons for companies to get on board when it comes to helping employees live happier, healthier lives. (Learn more in 7 Steps for Implementing A Workplace Wellness Program).

We sought out a few companies that are going above and beyond to help reduce workplace stress, improve worker health and make the workplace a happier, healthier place to be. Here are a few companies with innovative ideas when it comes to employee health and wellness.

Wellness Lounges w/ Massage Chairs

Finding time to relax in a hospital can be challenging, but ever since we integrated two massage chairs into the wellness lounge at our hospital, we’ve received phenomenal feedback from our employees. In fact, an employee survey revealed that 64% of our employees claimed their overall stress levels have decreased and 65% claimed they’ve seen an improvement in their overall well-being. A quick session in these chairs truly makes a difference and the mid-day recharge the chairs provide have made a trip to the wellness lounge a daily ritual for our employees.

Jamie Mandell, COO, Progressive Health Center

A Fitness Tracking App That Rewards Effort

We provide the exercise component for workplace wellness – employees use the app PK Coin to track their workouts and get rewarded for their workout efforts. We're the only workplace wellness program out there that tracks effort (i.e. how hard you're working). Your effort is 100% personalized and based on your current fitness level; to us, it's not about what you do, how you do it, or what kind of shape you're in – all that matters is the effort you put in.

Effort is displayed on your phone during your exercise (0-100 scale) for real-time feedback, providing validation for those who are new to exercise and motivation for those who need to one-up their current routine.

We've seen incredible results with the clients who've participated in our program. Previous participants reported a positive change in workout habits (longer, harder, more often, etc.) as well as more motivation to work out even when they didn't want to.

Madison Leonard, PKFitness

A Culture of Taking Care of Others

At Praytell, our culture is informed by one core value – do the right thing. This applies to colleagues, clients, vendors, our community and beyond. It means that when we see a colleague working late, we ask how we can help. When we see a client who needs more than what's in a contract, we find a way to support them. If our community needs us, we're there.

We've used this perspective as our foundation, building programs and policies on it. Our wellness program offers employees a proactive approach to their balance. Passion Project carves out time for our staff to volunteer services and skills to non-profits. Our leaders set an example for everyone by rolling up their sleeves and pitching in at every level.

The focus we've put on our culture has been intentional, thoughtful, and an important part of our growth. We're proud to say we've been named one of PR Week's Best Places to Work five years in a row. Our retention rate is above the board for an agency our size. And in five years of business, we've never lost an employee to a competitor.

Sanji Moore, VP of People and Operations, Praytell

Regular Wellness Challenges

We believe that our interactive wellness challenges and focus as a firm is one of the contributors to our less than 1% turnover for the last three years. (One theme last year was “Moving With Gratitude.”) We also give $500 a year for a wellness allowance and offer incentives for our challenges throughout the year with either additional wellness dollars or useful items such as S'well water bottles or Apple earbuds. (Learn more in How To Kick Off A Workplace Fitness Challenge And Why It's Important).

Kerry Wekelo, COO at Actualize Consulting

Regular Exercise Breaks

Health and well-being is at the core of our brand and our mission is to encourage more people to get active so we lead by example. I decided to implement a wellness initiative for my employees which we call EHOH. EHOH stands for Every Hour On the Hour and is an initiative whereby we get up from our desks every hour on the hour to do 10 minutes of physical activity, in place of a sedentary 60-minute lunch break spent in a break room. For those 10 minutes, we might go for a walk, a run, or do a group workout. I am currently spending my 10 minutes mastering the art of the pull-up. I find that EHOH is awesome for staff productivity and it also combats the negative effects of sitting at a desk, staring at a screen for prolonged periods of time, which can lead to all sorts of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. More active employees means less sick days and increased staff efficiency.

Daniel Puddick, CEO of Sundried

Co-Worker Relationship Counselling

My company, Arammu, offers proactive interpersonal relationship checkups for both personal and professional relationships. Everyone tends to wait until relationships are strained before they do something. At work, you might wait until you can't stand your boss or your co-workers to do something. Sometimes that's mediation, sometimes it's just quitting. The same thing happens at home. We wait until the last possible moment before we're willing to go seek couples’ therapy. Arammu turns the current system on its head. We offer pro-active checkups to strengthen relationships and help teams identify concerns and issues before they boil over.

Matt Rubin, CEO Arammu

Unlimited Paid Time Off

Burnout is high in the IT world, so we believe it's crucial to value our people and create opportunities for them to truly succeed. One way we do this is by offering real unlimited PTO. While many companies promise it, many, unfortunately, still track their employees’ days and hours off. This creates confusion and mistrust. I believe real unlimited PTO is based on trust. Since starting my company 20 years ago, I trust my employees will do their work, and they trust we won’t micromanage their time or penalize them for taking “too much.” In fact, this is one of our biggest selling points for attracting and retaining the best talent.

Scott Grausnick, CEO of Harbinger Partners

Meditation and Mindfulness Training

Meditation is catching on throughout the corporate world, as employers realize this ancient practice helps ease the demands of 21st century work and home life.

Companies such as Google, Target and General Mills all provide mindfulness training for employees, since they know that mindfulness reduces stress, increases focus, and enhances well-being. Many companies who want to be competitive and attract talent are turning to mindfulness.

Most noteworthy, scientific journals are reporting the positive effects of mindfulness at work. Studies show that mindfulness makes employees more resilient in the face of challenges. Studies also show that mindfulness decreases reactivity to stress and decreases the risk of burnout.

Joy Rains, author and mindfulness speaker at Joy Rains Mindfulness Training

Anniversary and Experience Bonuses

In addition to generous anniversary cash bonuses (every employee gets a cash bonus on their yearly anniversary, and every five years, the amount is multiplied by a thousand, i.e. $5,000 for five years, $10,000 for 10 years, and so on), we also offer experience bonuses. The experience can be something they may never do with their own money – for instance, watch their favorite golfers compete at the Masters or take a Napa Valley wine tour. These types of bonuses improve employee happiness, especially millennials. I believe culture and concern for employee well-being trumps pay every time! Of course, it's still important to note we have traditional 401k matching, an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) and pay for all education and training for our staff.

Scott Grausnick, CEO of Harbinger Parnters

A “Relax Room”

We moved a few things around and created a special "relax room" for employees to use whenever they're feeling overwhelmed or stressed. The "relax room" includes mattresses, dim lighting, massage chairs, speakers playing relaxing sounds and cold beverages. We also made sure to put the beds on adjustable frames so employees can lay down and relax yet still get work done if they want. So far, the "relax room" has had a tremendous impact on productivity and stress levels. I can tell our employees are in much better moods and like taking breaks in there.

Matthew Ross, COO of MySlumberYard

Active Work Stations

We purchased a few Flexispot desk bikes for employees to use at their convenience. Essentially, they're just like the exercise bikes you would find at your gym except they have desktops that extend upwards to hold laptops. The employees don't use them all day but I can tell they like to get up from their desks and cycle a little bit to relieve stress and let out pent-up energy. Plus, it's beneficial for their health to get a little exercise as opposed to sitting down in a chair for eight straight hours.

Matthew Ross, COO of MySlumberYard

Free Yearly Flu Shots

Healthy employees are happy employees, and happy employees make for a happy office. So, to ensure your team’s health and wellness, bring someone into the office each year to give your employees flu shots as soon as the vaccine hits the market. This ensures not just that your employees actually get the flu shot, but that they do so early on in the season.

Nate Masterson, CEO of Maple Holistics

A Wellness Allowance

Employee health and wellness extends beyond simply preventing the sniffles. There should also be a focus on exercise as well so that workers can get their bodies in better shape. I recommend offering employees "wellness allowances," which are bonuses to be used for the things which keep them alive and well. In addition to gym memberships, diet plans and workout equipment, employees can also use this bonus for their private insurance. This is a truly meaningful way to show your employees that you care and that you are committed to their longevity.

Nate Masterson, CEO of Maple Holistics