8 Reasons Why Employee Online Wellness Programs Are Essential

8 Reasons Why Employee Online Wellness Programs Are Essential = a person in front of a cartoon image of smartphone accessing a variety of online health programs. Publié le 27 November 2023 Par

Meeting the changing needs of your workforce is just one of the 8 reasons why employee online wellness programs are essential in the modern workplace.

Employee absenteeism is not good for your business. It can happen for a number of reasons, including illness, family issues, and short or long-term disability issues. In January 2022 alone, 7.8 million employees in the US were absent due to illness. While most of these issues are unavoidable, it is still a problem that impairs an organization’s productivity and profits. 

Estimates vary as to how much this costs US businesses annually but it’s certainly billions of dollars. As well as absenteeism, presenteeism is also a major issue as those workers are not functioning at their best so again, productivity and profits can suffer. Employers should be looking to do everything they can to help and support their workforce, including providing online wellness programs.

What Are Online Wellness Programs?

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Promoting wellness via online platforms is nothing new. But they grew in popularity during the Covid pandemic and have remained popular since. As the name suggests, they are health-related programs that are facilitated via digital/online settings so that they can be accessed by any of your workers at any time and can also be used by remote workers just as they might use a screen share app to improve collaboration. 

They can focus on either physical or mental health, but can also encompass more specialist elements such as occupational or workplace health. While many businesses may have on-premises wellness programs, the obvious advantage of the online versions is that people can access them from anywhere at times that best suit them. 

8 Reasons Why Employee Online Wellness Programs Are Essential

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So, why should you consider implementing, or outsourcing, a digital wellness program? The answer to that is twofold: firstly, you should be caring about your employees and encouraging them to access services when needed. Secondly, by promoting virtual wellness programs, you can reduce the effects of absenteeism and presenteeism on your business. Just as you might monitor marketing campaigns using call tracking, so your program should be monitoring employee health. 

  1. 1. Boosts productivity 

It doesn’t matter what type of business you run, you want a company culture that fosters a sense of community. With wellness programs added to that community, you can help improve both your employees’ happiness and health. They also demonstrate your commitment as an employer to caring for and helping to improve the well being of your workforce.

The end result of all that is that your staff will feel more engaged with their work. If more engaged – and happier – then productivity levels will likely be boosted, meaning it’s a win-win situation for all involved. Practical tools such as solutions to transfer calls help on one side but knowing that there are support networks for any health issues – as well as preventative measures – your employees will generally feel better and give their best at work. 

  1. 2. Better workforce health

Of course, you want your employees to be both physically and mentally healthy. Not only can it reduce incidences of absenteeism and presenteeism, it can also help improve general well being. And, as the old saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’, and wellness programs can promote and encourage healthy habits that can help employees help themselves. 

Part of your wellness program is likely to include reflection on employee behavior and identifying ways to improve those behaviors. Examples of behaviors that can be focused on with your wellness program includes:

  • Mental health first aid
  • Healthy eating and a balanced diet
  • Physical activity at every level
  • Substance/alcohol issues and management 
  • Sleep patterns
  • Stress related to relationship issues
  • Personal growth and goals.

As you can see from that list, it’s not just about ‘feeling sick’, it’s about promoting the idea of ‘feeling good’ and what your staff can do to achieve that.

  1. 3. Lower absenteeism (and presenteeism) 

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The catalyst to launch online wellness programs may have been your high rates of absenteeism and presenteeism or it may have been another altruistic idea to better the lot of your staff. Whatever the reason, it’s a win for both sides. Employees may have to take less sick days (or feel better when they are at work) and you see less damage to productivity and profits. 

You want your employees to be at their best and your employees want to feel their best too. Thus, digital wellness clinics can support both of those goals. You should also be focusing on more general issues as well as individual issues that affect workers. These can include:

  • Physical clinics (or telephone appointments): Having access to clinics or telephone appointments with doctors can help address issues quickly and ensure any ill staff receive any attention or medications they need. This can lead to a reduction in how long an employee is absent for. 
  • Preventative steps: Offering your workforce preventative services (such as flu shots in winter) can help the spreading of seasonal and other illnesses. 
  • Personal coaching/treatment: While most elements of your wellness program will focus on general well being, they may sometimes identify the need for a more focused and personal approach. This can include things such as mental health support or counseling for alcohol or substance related issues. 

  1. 4. Reduces stress

We’ve all experienced work-related stress. Impending deadlines, the feeling that tasks are too much for you, not hitting any required quota, long working hours, the list goes on. You may already be offering practical tools such as browser calling but you should do more. Your wellness program should include a major element that focuses on the mental health of your workforce. Of course, stress outside the workplace can also be an issue and can have an adverse effect on employee performance. 

Some of this focus should contain ‘self help’ elements, tools that employees can have in their mental health first aid kit. However, you can also have parts of the program that take place at work including quiet spaces and meditation workshops. Whatever mindfulness elements you have in your program, the end goal is to provide your staff with coping strategies whenever they experience stress

  1. 5. Better employee retention rates

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Employee retention may not be the first thing that springs to your mind when thinking of digital wellness programs. However, such online programs are part of your overall company culture and community and can lead to higher rates of employee satisfaction which in turn can lead to better staff retention rates

Also, it’s not just about your existing staff. When recruiting new employees, you want to attract the best talent and have access to the ideal recruiting pool. While jobseekers may initially look at remuneration and opportunities for career progression, they will also look at other benefits you offer. For many jobseekers, wellness benefits are now as much a priority as salary levels. Offering good wellness packages and discounted access to services can make you an attractive employer to new and existing staff.

  1. 6. Brand image

Although your first thoughts about wellness programs may focus on employee well being and lower absenteeism, there are fringe benefits to such programs that are all interlinked. When you show you care about your employees by implementing the various aspects of a wellness program, you are boosting your company community and the satisfaction levels of your workforce. 

From those linked factors, you can also gain external advantages. When your staff see you as a good employer, you will find that positive reviews on sites such as Glassdoor will improve. In turn, consumers will view your brand in a positive light. In today’s competitive marketplace, many consumers base their purchasing choices on ethical and moral grounds and, if you have a very positive image, then you may see an increase in customers. 

  1. 7. Cost savings

There are various areas where a good workplace wellness program can save you – and your employees – money. The most obvious ones, of course, are the costs incurred by absenteeism and presenteeism. Your company can see lower productivity levels and thus lower profits. And your employees may be on reduced sick pay which can lead to financial pressure and related stress. 

However, there are also the costs of the conditions or illnesses themselves. Depending on the health insurance package you offer as an employer, your premiums may rise dramatically if you make multiple claims. But employees can incur significant medical expenses above and beyond any coverage offered which can again lead to financial pressure on them and their family. 

  1. 8. Higher referral rates 

We’ve already mentioned that being seen as a good employer can make you more attractive to job candidates. However, that attractiveness extends beyond jobs you may advertise in the media or on platforms such as LinkedIn. If your staff have high satisfaction levels and see you as a great employer, then they are more likely to refer you to people they know who would suit an advertised position. 

When you consider that referrals account for 30-50% of all new hires, and that referral recruitment can offer you significant savings on the whole process, then you can see that this is another benefit that can come from you implementing virtual wellness programs. Every business looks to save costs wherever possible, and this is yet another example of how wellness programs can help you achieve that goal. 

When looking to measure your referral rates, implement an applicant tracking system. This will help you sort and scan candidates, allowing you to analyze where your candidates come from and how many are from referrals. 

Things to include in your online wellness programs 

While we’ve touched on some of the things in wellness programs that can offer you and your staff benefits, it may help you if we focus on the main things you should be including when constructing a wellness program from scratch. 

  1. 1. Mental health support

Image sourced from News Gallup

For many years mental health was the elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about. Thankfully it is now much more openly discussed, especially when you consider facts such as 29% of all adults in the US being diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.  Mental health support should be an integral part of any wellness program you design. That support can take many different forms, including: 

  • Self help: Encourage better mental health by providing employees with mental health first aid kits so that they can recognise basic issues and have strategies on how to deal with them. 
  • Working space: Look at ways to improve working spaces and environments to promote mental wellness
  • Useful apps: It’s no surprise that part of a digital wellness program should include digital solutions. These could be apps that provide AI-powered text therapy or apps that help people with mediation and mindfulness programs.
  • Specialist help: Sometimes you need to call in the cavalry. Depending on the size of your organization, you could have in-house services or a contract with external experts. These specialists should be able to provide a wide range of counseling services; everything from addiction help to relationship counseling. 
  • Financial assistance: There may be only so much that your wellness program can do and even any linked experts may be unable to help. If an employee has to seek more help than you can provide, then your program – or healthcare benefits – should provide as much financial assistance as possible. 

  1. 2. Physical health 

There are almost limitless options you can provide with your program that will lead to the betterment of your workforce. What you provide – and what you can afford to provide – will vary greatly between businesses. But you should look at doing as much as you possibly can. 

  • Fitness: Large organizations may have their own gym or sports facilities that can promote physical fitness. If you’re a smaller organization, you can look at negotiating big discounts with local gyms and other facilities to encourage your employees to get fitter. 
  • Regular health checks: Again, these services may be offered in-house or you may make arrangements with local clinics or hospitals. Even offered annually, these health checks can screen for common conditions and may spot an issue before it becomes a real problem. 
  • Diet: With more than 40% of American adults being classed as obese, it’s a very real problem that can lead to other issues such as cardiovascular conditions. As well as promoting physical fitness, your wellness program can offer advice on healthy eating and, where required, can refer employees to specialists. 

The takeaway 

Free to use image sourced from Pixabay

Promoting the wellness of your workforce has perhaps never been more important. Putting aside the financial costs of absenteeism and presenteeism, being an employer who genuinely cares about their employees can make you stand out from the crowd. While it may seem daunting to implement a full digital wellness program, there are always ways to work around any hurdle, financial or otherwise. 

Many people will point to the recent pandemic as being a major catalyst for mental health issues. However, it may be more true to see that the pandemic made us address those issues more openly. But whether mental or physical health issues, a good wellness program offers benefits both to you and your workforce.

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