Benefits are rapidly changing and getting better since the days of COVID. Health and wellness programs are becoming the standard expectation for today’s employees. So if you don’t already have one, this is the time to start one. It’s okay if you don’t know how to start a wellness program for employees. WellSteps is here to guide you.

how to start a wellness program for employees

What is a Health and Wellness Program?

Before we dive into how to start a wellness program for employees, it’s vital to understand the aspects and benefits of such a program. Once you understand that, undergoing the process becomes much easier throughout.

A health and wellness program as part of employee benefits is designed to support your employees in maintaining or improving their physical, mental, and emotional health. Not just dealing with reactive health care, but more heavily support preventative healthcare. These programs can include a lot of things like:

  • Screenings and assessments to evaluate health risks
  • Nutrition and weight management resources
  • Fitness and exercise programs, sometimes on-site fitness facilities, classes, or gym memberships
  • Stress management programs providing tools to help employees manage stress and conflict
  • Smoking cessation programs to help employees quit smoking
  • Mental health programs for employees that deal with conditions such as depression or anxiety

Overall, a health and wellness program can benefit everyone by reducing absenteeism, improving employee morale and productivity, and potentially lowering healthcare costs. That’s the bottom line for why having a wellness program is beneficial not only for the individuals themselves, but for your company as a whole.

RELATED: How to Use Wellness Programs to Boost Team Morale

Why Employees Want Wellness Programs at Work

Physical Health – A wellness program can encourage employees to adopt or improve more healthy behaviors like regular exercise, better eating habits, and other preventive care. These behaviors can lead to improved physical health and reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Mental Health – Mental health is equally important as physical health, if not more. A wellness program can provide employees with resources and support to manage stress, anxiety, and depression. With around 26% of American adults dealing with a mental health issue every year, this cannot be overlooked anymore.

Better Productivity – Studies show that healthy employees are more productive. When employees have access to a wellness program, they are more likely to take care of themselves. This can lead to fewer sick days and improved job performance.

why start a wellness program at work

Improved Job Satisfaction – Employees who feel supported by their employer in their health and wellness are more likely to feel valued and satisfied with their job. This can lead to improved employee retention and recruitment because instead of being considered an expense meant to churn out results for the company, employees are treated like an asset when their well-being is considered.

Reduced Healthcare Costs – When employees are healthier, it results in lower healthcare costs for both employees and employers. A wellness program can also help to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses due to the work environment, further reducing costs related to worker’s compensation and disability.

Here are some more studies and sources about the benefits and reasons why having a wellness program is both desired by employees and a great solution for many issues in the workplace.

Improved Physical Health Companies with wellness programs report an average of 28% reduction in sick days, and 26% reduction in healthcare costs. International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Enhanced Mental Health Employees who participate in wellness programs report a 28% reduction in stress levels, a 27% reduction in symptoms of depression, and a 21% reduction in anxiety levels. Rand Corporation
Increased Productivity Companies with wellness programs report an average of 25% reduction in absenteeism, and a 32% reduction in workers’ compensation and disability claims. Harvard Business Review
Improved Job Satisfaction Employees who have access to wellness programs report higher levels of job satisfaction and are more likely to stay with their current employer. Forbes
Reduced Healthcare Costs Companies that offer wellness programs report an average of $176 savings per employee per year in healthcare costs. Society for Human Resource Management

RELATED: The Costs and Advantages of an Employee Wellness Program

Pros and Cons of Having a Health and Wellness Program

While all may sound great on the up and up with starting a wellness program, there are some things to consider that may not be the right fit for your company. We’ve talked a lot about many positive aspects. But here are pros and also potential cons of having a health and wellness program for employees:


  • improved health outcomes
  • increased job satisfaction
  • increased productivity
  • reduced healthcare costs
  • competitive edge with employee retention


  • High Costs: Implementing a wellness program can be expensive, and the return on investment may not always be immediately apparent.
  • Lack of Participation: Employees may not participate in the wellness program, despite it being offered, due to a variety of reasons. This can lead to low engagement levels and an inability to realize the benefits of the program.
  • Difficulty in Measuring Success: Measuring the success of a wellness program can be difficult because the impact on employee health outcomes takes some time to see.
  • Privacy Concerns: Health-related information is sensitive, and employees may be hesitant to share their personal health information with their employer, depending on the program, and this creates privacy concerns.

Because of these reasons, careful consideration must be given to the design and implementation of the program to ensure that it is effective and well-received by employees.

RELATED: How to Design Wellness Programs That Are Successful in 2023

how to design successful wellness programs

Steps For How to Start a Wellness Program For Employees

Developing, starting, and managing a health and wellness program for employees can be a complex process. But don’t be overwhelmed, we’re here to help! Here is a step-by-step process to help you get started:

  1. Conduct a Needs Assessment: Before starting a health and wellness program, conduct a needs assessment to understand the health and wellness needs of your employees. This will help you design a program that meets the specific needs of your workforce, even with a simple survey.
  2. Have Goals and Priorities: Once you have identified the needs of your employees, set clear and measurable goals for your program. This will help you stay on track for what you need to develop, incorporate, and measure on the back end.
  3. Develop a Plan: Based on your goals, develop a detailed plan for your health and wellness program. This should include program components such as health screenings, education and training, activities and incentives to encourage participation.
  4. Get Leader Support: Make sure your senior management and leaders support the program. This may include spotlighted participation with leadership, securing funding from the company decision makers, and engaging employees themselves in the whole process.
  5. Implement the Program: Now it’s time to pull the trigger! Roll out the program to your employees and ensure that all necessary resources and support are in place. But don’t worry about it being perfect from the get-go.
  6. Evaluate the Program: Regularly circle back to determine how effective the program is and figure out where you can improve it. This may include collecting feedback from employees, tracking participation rates and health outcomes, and analyzing program costs.
  7. Adjust the Program: Based on your evaluations, make adjustments to your program as needed to ensure that it is meeting the needs of your employees and achieving your goals.
  8. Share the Benefits: Make sure to communicate the benefits of your program to your employees. You can share outcomes from participants, promote upcoming challenges or participation options, etc.
  9. Maintain the Program: Once your program is up and running, it is important to maintain it to ensure its long-term success. You wellness committee may need to attend trainings for better management of the program, or consulting with wellness contractors like WellSteps to find even better options.

This can be a challenging process, but it can also have significant benefits for both employers and employees. By following these steps, you can create a program that meets the needs of your workforce and promotes a culture of health and well-being in your workplace above and beyond what you’ve ever experienced in your organization before.

RELATED: Wellness Plan Examples For HR Reps Starting From Scratch

Difficulties in Starting a Health and Wellness Program For The First Time

Starting a health and wellness program for the first time can present several challenges, especially when you’re starting with nothing. Here are some difficulties you may encounter and should be aware of with how to start a wellness program for employees:

difficulties with how to start a wellness program

Limited Resources – Starting a wellness program can be costly when done wrong. You may not have the resources to fund a comprehensive program with all the necessary components. This can make it challenging to design and implement a program that meets the needs of your employees.

Lack of Support – Employees or leadership may not initially see the value of a wellness program, or they may be resistant to change. This can make it challenging to get good participation and engagement in the program.

Little Expertise – Designing and implementing a wellness program may require specialized expertise in areas such as nutrition, fitness, and mental health. If you don’t have the necessary expertise in-house or from a consultant, you may not end up with a program that makes a difference to anyone.

Limited Participation – Even if you have designed an effective program, it can be challenging to get employees to participate, especially when they’re unaware of the program or its benefits. Lack of time, interest, or perceived value can all be problems.

Measuring Success – Measuring the success of a wellness program can seem impossible, particularly in the short term when you may not see results. It can be difficult to demonstrate the return on investment or the positive impact if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Starting a wellness program for the first time can be a complex and challenging process. However, with careful planning, support from leadership, and effective communication with employees, you can overcome these challenges and create a program that promotes a culture of health and well-being in your workplace. WellSteps can help you do all of that!

RELATED: Start a Wellness Program in 2023 By Asking These 10 Questions

Reasons For Using a Wellness Consultant Alongside Your Benefits Committee

Hopefully, you can see that when you learn how to start a wellness program for employees, especially for the first time, you’ll need some assistance to make sure it’s effective. There are several reasons why you’ll want a consultant working alongside your benefits committee.

  • An expert wellness program consultant can help your benefits committee design and implement a program that is evidence-based and effective.
  • They can help your benefits committee optimize resources, reduce costs, and improve the ROI of the program based on their years of experience.
  • A wellness consultant can provide an objective perspective and help your benefits committee identify and address blind spots or biases they can’t see.
  • Someone needs to hold your benefits committee accountable for meeting the goals and objectives of the wellness program. This can help ensure that the program stays on track.
  • Guidance on how to engage employees in the wellness program and promote a culture of health and well-being in the workplace is the trigger point.
pros and cons of health programs at work

Altogether, using a wellness consultant alongside your benefits committee can provide valuable expertise, resource optimization, objectivity, accountability, and employee engagement when starting a health and wellness program for your employees.

RELATED: 5 Ways a Corporate Wellness Consultant Helps Programs in 2023

Next Steps on How to Start a Wellness Program For Employees

With development and implementation of any new project or program, yes, it can be overwhelming. But don’t give up altogether! Here at WellSteps, with decades of experience, we’re here to help ensure a great experience with helping you start, manage, and improve any new or existing health and wellness program in your organization.

You don’t have to figure out how to start a wellness program for employees on your own. We invite you to book a free demo with one of our experienced guides right here. You’ll discover how easy it is to get started, have your hand held along the way, and enjoy a great experience with this process of starting a health and wellness program for your company. Supporting you all the way!


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