The Covid-19 pandemic sparked a legion of businesses to restructure their workforce into a remote one. This sudden reorganization heightened stress, disconnect, and pressure throughout cross-functional teams and between managers and peers. Employers who remained open, had to find new methods to meet market demand. Individuals who were fortunate to keep their jobs, had to juggle numerous professional and personal responsibilities. This “new way of life” was overwhelming! It made it difficult to stay healthy emotionally, socially, and physically. But 2021 does not have to be the same. Employers and their HR teams can create programs to support their employees’ well-being nationwide.

Below is a list of successful wellness programs that have been rolled out by government institutions and other corporate organizations for their corporate community. Though these programs are noteworthy, they may not fit every corporate group’s demographic, interest, workload, and lifestyle. In fact, if an employer desires to build the best program for his or her team, this person must conduct research and create a focus group that can attest to the efficacy of these programs.

What is wellness?

Before we review a variety of wellness programs, let us consider the meaning and importance of wellness at work. The Global Wellness Institute states that wellness is the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that leads one to a state of holistic health. It is the continuous effort to reach a state of ultimate happiness in every area of one’s life: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and environmentally.

What is Wellness?

What is a wellness program?

Concentra, a health care company, defines a wellness program as a complete health strategy designed to maintain or improve the well-being of its participant through proper diet, exercise, stress management, and illness prevention. Wellness programs can include smoking cessation, weight loss education, fitness challenges, therapy, and many other plans designed to increase an individual’s overall health. In other words, wellness programs help people focus proactively on prevention and maximization of their quality of life. They adopt new attitudes and lifestyles that improve health, prevent disease, and enhance their energy and sense of well-being. Wellness is proactive, preventive, and driven by self-responsibility.

In the past, primary care physicians and insurance companies offered wellness programs. However, due to the programs’ cost savings benefits, there has been a growing trend for companies to develop wellness programs at work.

What is the importance of a wellness program?

One of the most significant benefits of adopting a wellness program is helping people adopt and maintain healthy habits. These healthy habits lead them to have lower health risks, and with lower health risks, they have fewer chances of getting chronic diseases. With fewer chronic diseased employees on the company’s payroll, an employer has fewer health care costs in the long run. Ultimately, this plan benefits both the employer and the employee long-term.

Benefits of a wellness program

Not only do workplace wellness programs decrease medical care costs and insurance premiums, but they also increase employee morale and loyalty. Employees who receive these new benefits, believe their employer cares about their wellbeing and are willing to stay longer with the company. Plus, healthier employees manifest lower absenteeism and higher productivity. They are less likely to be injured on the job. As a result, employers experience a decrease in workers’ compensation insurance as well.

Lastly, wellness programs can help alleviate depression, its symptoms and improve satisfaction in a person’s life. If employees participate in a wellness program, they are likely to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors for years to come.

How to administer a virtual wellness program

Developing a workplace wellness program isn’t rocket science, but it is a tedious process that demands patience. One must:

  • Establish the goal(s) of the wellness program.
  • Outline the activities that will support those goals.
  • Decide the company’s level of involvement.
  • Determine the budget.
  • Choose employee rewards or incentives.
  • Write the policy and program rules.
  • Communicate the program to the employees.
  • Evaluate the program for improvements periodically.
  • Assess the return on investment (ROI) regularly.

Once the employer has completed steps 1-6, it is time to roll out the new program to its workforce. Pre-COVID-19 era, employers could provide information in a variety of formats: videos, pamphlets, emails, health-related quizzes, bulletin boards, and or in-person sessions. In 2021, employers can still distribute information in most of these formats by utilizing the web or email, especially if their employees are working remotely.

For example, websites can also host educational or motivational videos. Pamphlets can be emailed as pdfs or loaded online. Bulletin boards can be converted to e-newsletters or announcements posted on the employees’ portal. In-person sessions can be conducted virtually in chat rooms, virtual rooms, or video conferencing tools such as Zoom or MS Teams.

If an employer does not have the means to create custom websites, intranets or applications for its wellness program, he or she can utilize free programs on popular applications such as Nike, Samsung Health, Noom, or Lose It. They can download these apps at the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Free or low-cost subscriptions are available.

Types of wellness activities

Coaching: Not everyone is intrinsically motivated to follow a wellness program. Research finds that 80% of employees do not have the inner drive to do so. Therefore, employees should have some degree of encouragement and support to help them reach their goals. Utilizing health coaching and proprietary technology will help sustain your program’s participation and engagement. OMC Wellness reported that employee participation levels increase as high as 85% or higher when participants are followed. Their program helped reduce high-risk participants by 24% in the first year and increase low-risk participants by 36% in the first year.

Physical Wellness: Promoting exercise with creative programs and friendly competition is vital. A wellness technology portal can deliver online fitness programs and wellness challenges for a dispersed workforce. Employers should provide education on the importance of recovery and rest after high impact exercise. This information is essential for an employees’ physical well-being. Also, videos on healthy sleep and stress management habits can help employees begin to value self-care. If the budget allows, employers can offer employees sleep monitors or guided meditations. However, there are free mobile apps that can track sleep cycles as well.

Fortunately, YouTube is saturated with fitness classes employees can do. Employers can choose to subscribe to a specific channel or create a custom channel –with the help of their managers and employees. Then distribute that channel to all its employees.

Social Wellness: One way to promote social and physical wellness simultaneously is by creating “get active” meetings. Instead of following a specific YouTube channel or joining the office gym, an employee can hosts a recurring meeting with colleagues to lead physical activity, such as walking, running, or virtual yoga. A 30-minute session each day or every other day is a worthwhile investment for the company when you consider the value physical and social wellness have on the business. If this seems like a viable option for one’s group, please remember to follow all the CDC’s safety guidelines and social distancing practices.

Nutrition: Food is an integral part of wellness. With six of the ten leading causes of death directly related to nutrition, effective wellness programs should include strategies to educate and coach employees on making healthier food choices to prevent or treat chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. YouTube or Noom, a health and nutrition app, provide healthy cooking demos, recipes, and nutritional webinars that are excellent options while employees work remotely. Employers should be prepared to recommend a variety of resources to their employees and to provide options for vegans, vegetarians, diabetics, and individuals with high blood pressure.

Environmental Wellness: Since the goal of environmental wellness is about improving the world around us, employers can organize numerous initiatives throughout the year. These activities could include fundraisers for the homeless, food, clothes, or toy drives for women’s shelters or orphanages around the holidays. Furthermore, giving back to the community does not have to be limited to a local region only. Employers should survey their workforce to determine popular interest and see if the company’s budget can take on part or all the expense. This is the best way to ensure the highest participation.

Emotional Wellness: Anxiety is real, and stress is prevalent in today’s environment. More than 50% of US adults said COVID-19 had negatively impacted their mental health (Discover Benefits). About one-third of those adults said they have had trouble eating and sleeping because of stress. As a result, a wellness program should include strategies to help employees manage and accept the unknown. It can play a central role in a business’s daily operations. Employers can opt to integrate mental health offerings as part of their wellness initiatives . These offerings can include Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).

Financial Wellness: With unemployment rates skyrocketing, it is no surprise that financial wellness has become a vital element of wellness programs. Providing timely programs relevant to your workforce can help employees who are struggling. Please remember that a well-paid employee can have just as many financial concerns as an hourly employee, so information should be made available to all employees.

Types of employee rewards

To ensure the workplace wellness program’s success, employers should provide rewards or incentives to encourage employee participation.

Cash Reward: Employers can donate cash prizes up to $500 per program or activity. They can offer free memberships or discounts for benefits listed in their master benefits portfolio. For example, if it is safe to attend a local gym, employers can partner with a local gym to offer free or discounted complimentary memberships. Also, if an employer offers an employee assistance program (EAP), he or she could offer 2-4 free sessions to the winners of each program. Ultimately, the reward will vary per the employer’s budget.

Activity-based HSA contributions: Another form of cash incentive employers can provide for completing a wellness program or activity is by donating a portion of the rewards to the employees’ health savings account (HSA) contributions. For example, a client could offer HSA consumers $3 a day (which would be $1,068 per year) by giving $1 a day for each of these activities: 7 hours of sleep, 10,000 steps and 30 minutes of exercise. These activities can be tracked on the fitness trackers of employees with an HSA who chooses to participate.

Paid Time Off: Employers can also provide paid time off. This additional time can help the individual accomplish the life goals they have; thereby helping them pursue their ultimate state of happiness and wellbeing.


We are still living in crisis mode and we don’t know when this pandemic will end. Consequently, we must learn to live and thrive in this climate. One of the best ways to ensure the business’s success is to make certain your employees are happy. You must care proactively for their physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual, financial and environmental wellbeing. Because if they are not well in their being, they cannot perform effectively.

If you have not built out an employee wellness program for your teams, use this guide to do so. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our HR department here.