Workplace wellness that actually works

Does your office offer yoga classes? Nutrition counseling? Onsite acupuncture? Physical wellness programs drive an $8 billion workplace wellness industry, but—according to a recent Harvard study—80% of these programs just don’t perform. An 18-month review found no appreciable drop in absenteeism, no noticeable improvement in job performance, and no measurable downward trend in health care use or spending.

Why?

While programs like these are valuable, workplace wellness isn’t just about the caliber of your programs. Another study, from HR research firm Future Workplace, suggests that more subtle factors in workplace wellbeing—namely better air quality, access to natural light, and the ability to personalize their workspace—have an outsized and undervalued impact. But companies may be hesitant to spend big on these kind of elements…after all, they don’t rate air quality or window size on Glassdoor. 

Understanding factors like these is key to keeping your workplace happy—and those who are happy at work, according to Gartner, are 16% more productive, 18% more likely to stay, and 30% more attracted to their company over competitors. Superb surroundings can lead to lower absenteeism—up to four days a year in some cases—leading to thousands of dollars in savings per employee. 

Whether you run your own company, or lead a workplace experience function, here are some insights to help you build wellness programs that really work.

Talk to employees before building that gym

Want to drive workplace wellness? Stop reading studies, and start listening to what your employees want. The biggest issues that came out of the Future Workplace study are temperature, lighting, and noise. Many of the respondents wanted to be able to personalize their environment, such as being masters of their overhead and desk lighting domain.

Others sought workplace technology, like an app that would give them the ability to raise or lower the temperature. A company called Regeneron Pharmaceuticals gives employees a cell phone app that allows them to control how much natural light can come into their workspace.

Your team, however, might evaluate physical workplace wellness differently—maybe they want more standing desks, or maybe they’re concerned about wheelchair accessibility. Ask before you build, and build for maximum flexibility.

Wellness apps that are apt to make a difference

Are your employees more likely to join a recreational soccer league, or to play FIFA at home? If your workplace culture is tech-centric, you might find that a technology-driven approach to workplace wellness is more effective than physical programming. Each of the wellness apps listed below offers a unique way to contribute to an overall better state of mind for an overall better workplace experience. 

Meditation Studio
Yup, work is stressful—and stress can have serious adverse impacts on your employees’ physical wellbeing. This app, which boasts over 200 guided meditations, can induce calm anywhere—at one’s desk, before and after meetings, or during an office happy hour.

InsideOut25
Don’t overlook mental health in the larger workplace wellness conversation. InsideOut25 confronts the issue head on via on-demand tools and diagnostics that match employees with personalized content as well as therapists and coaches. Video calls make it easy for employees to access therapy anywhere, anytime, and anyplace.

Elevate
While employees use their brains all day long, this cognitive training app offers them a chance to improve a variety of skillsets. More than 3 dozen game-like activities make working on everything from pronunciation and name recall to comprehension a fun exercise.

Workplace wellness and your workplace experience strategy

Workplace wellness is a key part of a larger, holistic strategy—which is why a growing number of companies hire specific roles (if not entire teams) dedicated to workplace experience. In a recent episode of Envoy’s Empowered podcast, we sat down with Head of Workplace Flash Coughlin to discuss why physical spaces are critical to your workplace experience. Listen (or read the transcript) here.