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Employee Wellbeing: 7 of the Best Wellness Programs

29 January 2019 10 min read

Best employee wellness programs

Any business in any sector is only as good as its people. That’s why businesses that make employee wellbeing programs a priority can look forward to long-term success.


You know the benefits of employee wellbeing. You understand how it can lead to increased productivity, better employee relations, and an improved reputation for the company as a whole. You know that a satisfied and fulfilled workforce can result in reduced absenteeism and improved staff retention.


You know you need your employees to be healthy and happy. You know you need an employee wellbeing program.


But have you got the slightest idea where to start?



What is Employee Wellbeing?

Employee wellbeing refers to the impact someone’s job has on their overall health and happiness. When we talk about wellness or wellbeing, we’re talking about a combination of good physical health and good mental health.


Wellbeing in the workplace is influenced by several factors – some physical, some social, some psychological, and some environmental.


According to the CIPD’s health and wellbeing report, HR managers identified within a survey that only 40% of UK businesses have a standalone employee wellbeing strategy. What’s more, mental health is responsible for 56% of long-term unplanned absences, making it the most common cause of long-term absence.


While many companies are taking steps to address their employees’ wellbeing, far too many companies are doing it on an ad-hoc basis, with no real strategy in place. And that’s if they’re doing anything at all.


So, if you one of many organizations without an employee wellbeing program, where’s the best place to start?

Where to Start with an Employee Wellbeing Program

You need a plan. You need to define exactly what you want to achieve, and you need to outline the numerous components you’ll need to be in place to achieve your goals. You’ll need a budget, and you’ll need a strategy to overcome the numerous barriers that can stand in the way employee wellbeing.


Does all of this sound a little overwhelming? Relax. Maybe all you need is a little bit of inspiration. And as usual, it pays to look to the very top.


How do the most successful businesses in the world handle employee wellbeing? What sort of employee wellbeing programs do the truly game-changing organizations offer?


Let’s take a look at some of the best employee wellbeing programs in the world. Maybe you don’t have the budget to introduce some of these ideas (though many would argue that any money invested into employee wellbeing is money well-spent). But here you should find all the inspiration you need to put together a popular and effective corporate wellness program of your own.



One Important Thing to Remember About Employee Wellbeing

There’s a world of difference between employee wellbeing and general “perks”.


Some employees look with envy at the sort of fun and flashy offices certain major organizations operate in. But things like slides, pinball tables, air hockey, and quirky working spaces don’t necessarily lead to happier and more fulfilled employees.


Nope – effective employee wellbeing is all about emphasizing a good work/life balance while helping employees to stay healthy and active. It’s also about creating a supportive environment where employees can feel valued and respected. That way, if anyone ever has a problem, they’ll feel safe to talk about it.


These are the sort of factors we’ll be focusing on in our list of good employee wellbeing programs. Go for things that you know will get results!


7 of the Best Employee Wellbeing Programs




Well, why not start right at the top, with one of the biggest companies in the world?


There’s a page on Google’s career site called “How We Care for Googlers.” It’s the textbook for effective employee wellbeing. Google has schemes designed to help their employees spend as much time as possible with their families, such as generous parental leave policies and retirement savings plans. You can even bring your dog to work!


Then there’s the healthcare. Canteens serve healthy and nutritious meals. Everywhere you look you’ll see plant life, and every space is flooded in natural light. As well as gyms and onsite office fitness centers, some Google locations feature their own chiropractic, physical therapy, and massage services.


Finally, Google encourages its employees to “give back”. You’re allowed to take time off to volunteer, and the company will match any charitable donation made by a member of staff.


So maybe you can’t afford to get your own onsite Yoga master. But look at the things Google is trying to achieve with their wellness programs – health, fitness, fulfillment, and a very good work/life balance. If you’re looking for a good place to start with your employee wellbeing program, you could do much worse than establish these as your goals, too.



Yep, another of the world’s biggest companies. These guys are trailblazers in more ways than one.


Microsoft’s goal is “empowering our employees”. They’re focused on “bringing out the best in people, supporting their goals, and allowing them to find deep meaning in their work.”


Schemes involve a minimum of 12 weeks of paid family leave, meetings conducted in calming woodland locations, and many extensive, forward-thinking personal development opportunities. There appears to be a big emphasis on learning, with strong relationships between staff and managers.


And once again, there’s a commitment to letting employees do amazing things. For example, there’s the “largest private hackathon on the planet”, in which the great minds of Microsoft join forces to solve global problems.



Asana specialises in work management software, so they know a thing or two about employee efficiency. Their mission is to enable their employees to “work hard, better.” They want people to achieve their very best without risking employee burnout. How? With naps.


Yep, Asana is an organization in which, at times, you’re actively encouraged to sleep on the job. As well as the ample plant life, the floods of natural light and the plentiful health food, their offices also feature dedicated “nap rooms”.


Beyond this, Asana has nailed the fundamentals of employee wellbeing, with daily yoga programs and free gym memberships for all employees. And if you’re looking for more inspiration from these efficiency experts, their Wavelength blog is full of great ideas for any budding corporate wellness program.



Another organisation that practices what it preaches. Business management consulting company Accenture is renowned for putting wellbeing “at the forefront of its culture.”


Their employee wellbeing program is truly impressive. Rather than aiming for a nebulous concept like “improved health”, they’ve instead defined four pillars of good workplace health and wellbeing: heart and lungs; wrist, core, and spine; nutrition, hydration, and digestion; and sleep and mental health.


Having defined these pillars, you can imagine how the rest of their wellbeing program fell neatly into place. Employees get health assessments, subsidised gym memberships, confidential counselling, and health coaches. They’re encouraged to join employee-led sports and activity clubs, and there’s a big push to break down the stigmas surrounding mental health.



Just do it! As one of the world’s leading sports brands, of course, Nike offers some truly exemplary employee wellbeing programs.


Obviously, with Nike, the emphasis is very much on physical fitness. On their 200-acre campus, you’ll find weight rooms, yoga studios, an indoor basketball court, a turf field, a cross-training room, a rock-climbing wall, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.


So there you go! If you want to kickstart a good employee wellbeing program, all you have to do is install an Olympic-sized swimming pool in the office.


But seriously, there are ways to help your employees get active without going all out. It’s likely that every company on this list offers subsidized (or free) gym memberships. Yet even if this is out of your budget, you could encourage employees to take the stairs instead of the lift, to stand for at least a minute for every hour of work, and to take walks during their breaks.



Expedia’s UK HQ was once described as “the happiest workplace in London.”


Employees get a Wellness Allowance. It’s between £400 and £1,200, and it’s to be spent on fitness-related items. That could be running shoes, skis, a new tennis racket, a gym membership – you name it! The point is, it’s up to the employees to decide. This freedom to choose surely makes it more likely that employees will get on board with the wellbeing program.


It gets better. Employees that stick around can expect to receive a travel allowance of between £6,000 and £10,000. Yep – stay with Expedia for more than 12 months and they’ll pay for your holiday. As you might expect, staff retention is high at this travel company.



Writing for the Huffington Post, workplace culture specialist Timothy Stenovec identified Netflix’s employee policy as a key reason for the company’s success.


Their big idea? Unlimited time off, and up to one year’s paid time off for new parents.


It’s all about ensuring that employees can do their jobs without worrying about what’s going on at home. If there’s ever any major changes to anyone’s circumstances – whether that’s a new child, a new cat, a family emergency, or something else completely unexpected – Netflix employees can take time off, with little notice and no questions asked.


It’s the ultimate in flexible working, and it effectively guarantees a healthy work/life balance for every member of staff.



What Can We Learn from the World’s Best Employee Wellbeing Programs?

Despite the nap rooms and the tennis courts and the Olympic-sized swimming pools, all of the businesses listed above have kept things relatively simple. We’ve looked at some of the biggest companies in the world, and they’re all taking a similar approach to employee wellbeing.


Common to pretty much every good corporate wellness scheme is an emphasis on:


  • Health, exercise, and nutrition
  • Access to nature and lots of natural light
  • Flexible working schemes
  • An emphasis on a good work/life balance for everyone


So if you’re looking to start your own employee wellbeing program, start with these goals in mind.

Additional Free Resources


Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
January 29, 2019

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.