Increasing employee morale through health and wellbeing programs

Health issues have become a real concern for employers in the past few years. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. employers lose more than $225 billion each year in productivity due to employee health problems. As a result, companies have started to recognize the need for employee morale and wellbeing programs.

Employee health status directly influences work behavior, attendance and on-the-job performance. According to SHRM’s Wellness 2013 Report, more than 75 percent of high-performing companies regularly measure health status as a viable component of their overall risk management strategy.

While 50% of US companies have not yet formulated a clear HR wellbeing strategy, 18% have already stated concrete goals for health and productivity programs, another 16% have effectively designed and communicated these plans and 14% have customized these programs for specific workforce segments. (Source: Tower Watson)

In Europe, the percentage of companies who have not yet figured out a concrete strategy is 47%, whereas 17% have started setting goals, 13% have completed and communicated their strategies and 8% have designed tailored programs for different talent segments. (Source: Tower Watson)

“Employers are now seeing that employee health is important beyond health care costs, it has profound impacts on productivity, retention, workplace engagement and morale.”

Beth Bierbower, President of Humana’s Employer Group Segment

Employee morale is both a cause and a consequence of workplace wellbeing

Low employee morale is usually a sign of stress, low engagement, lack of physical exercise and health issues. As an employer, you should always be on the lookout for these signs and build a preventive strategy.

At the same time, wellbeing is an indirect driver of employee morale and productivity. That’s why wellbeing and health programs should be a part of every HR strategy. Employee morale should be tracked and monitored to ensure the quality of the work experience.

Despite employers’ mounting interest on workplace wellness programs, many companies struggle with how to successfully execute them and measure their value.

The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed 255 US-based senior HR executives with direct knowledge of their organization’s employee wellness program and 630 full-time US employees of organizations that offer such a program.

The study found that two-thirds of executives feel data collection and interpretation is the biggest challenge in successfully implementing an employee wellness program.

Things to consider when designing a health and wellbeing program

In designing a health and wellbeing program, the focus should be on determining and meeting individual needs, with the goal of optimizing the work experience.

Many companies select wellness programs that impose goals on employees rather than empowering them to set their own goals. If such a program is to be effective, it needs to ask employees what it is that they want to accomplish and then answer those needs.

1.       Start with what you know

Before designing such a program, managers have to assess the current state of wellbeing in the company and determine clear goals that the program will achieve. Measuring the program is just as important as having it in the first place.

Companies using Hppy have a better understanding of how employees feel on day-to-day basis. Managers have a clear overview of their teams, following real-time data and anonymous feedback. This valuable insight lets them know what the level of employee morale and, most importantly, the reasons behind it.

Data from Hppy can be exported over different periods of time, giving team managers an essential understanding of what makes employees happy and fulfilled at work, but also what drives their productivity to low points.

2.       Link your wellbeing program with your business objectives

A successful health and wellbeing program has to be part of an articulated HR strategy designed to increase retention and the general quality of the work experience. Determine the cost effectiveness of such a program.

Increasing employee morale through health and wellbeing programs

3.       Get management buy-in and active involvement

The goals behind this strategy should be supported and communicated by the leaders of the organization, as being a part of business priorities.

Oftentimes, managers don’t understand the potential power of a wellbeing program and its impact on employee morale and productivity. If that’s the case, human resource professionals should drive employee-centric programs, policies and incentives in order to increase positive results throughout the organization.

Direct managers can also have a strong influence on the level of employee engagement in wellness programs. They have the possibility to adapt work schedules and staffing arrangements to encourage employee participation in these programs, that’s why it’s important to inform, educate and motivate them about their role.

4.       Promote your program

A recognized challenge in implementing such a program is the lack of employees’ engagement in their own health. Surprisingly, employees need to be made aware of the need for a health and wellbeing program and the benefits that it entails.

According to the 2014 Wellness EIU study, the two main impediments to employee involvement in the programs are privacy concerns and time. Of those employees who are eligible but choose not to participate at all, 41% say they don’t have enough time and a similar proportion (47%) of participants who don’t engage actively say the same.

Make sure to address these concerns in your communication efforts and, most importantly, aim to resolve them early on.


Human capital is an essential competitive advantage in today’s economy. Companies can significantly increase employee morale and productivity through a well-thought health and wellness program.

As research shows, a healthy working environment is not only a means to achieving business objectives, it should be a goal in itself, if companies are to thrive.

It’s up to HR professionals and managers to use the tools that today’s technology provides to design such successful programs aimed in that direction.

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