6 Steps to Building A Culture of Health in the Workplace

The right workplace wellness program can boost productivity and change your company’s culture for the better

happy employees

Here’s how employers and health plans can work together to achieve a culture of health at work

Healthy employees, in every respect, make for a more productive workplace with a happier workforce. They require fewer sick days, recover more quickly from ailments, and they are less at risk for long-term illnesses. But a healthy workforce doesn’t just appear; it’s cultivated by companies that value a healthy culture, and that collaborate with their health plans to create programs that play an active role in an employee’s health and well-being.

Healthy employees incur 41% fewer costs1

More businesses are making it a priority to encourage and support their employees in adopting healthy behaviors. This means businesses are providing preventive support, convenient treatment options, and the tools employees need to take control of all aspects of their health.

Here are 6 ways top-performing companies are supporting employees and fostering wellness on the job

1. Develop a holistic approach to health

Wellness is more than managing acute or chronic medical conditions—it extends to all elements of an employee’s life and your business. For example, it can and should go hand-in-hand with safety training programs, tie ergonomics training with exercise programs, and connect to worker compensation loss prevention training.

75% of employers have made it a priority to develop strategies to build the health and well-being of the workplace, and to foster a culture that encourages healthy behaviors2

Work with your health plan to evaluate your employees’ needs. Consider all of these factors:

  • Physical (sedentary or active)
  • Emotional (stress, depression)
  • Social (work-life balance)
  • Financial (student loans, retirement planning)
  • Cultural (dietary and lifestyle)
  • ​Family (single-parent, dual-income households)

2. Make your wellness programs visible

Over 55% of individuals surveyed recently weren’t aware of telemedicine offerings, which can be more convenient and cost-effective than in-office visits3

Visibility is key for implementing a workplace wellness program that works.

  • Develop a communication plan that outlines services—highlighting areas that appeal to your employees, including topics like weight loss and healthy eating, smoking cessation, physical activity, stress reduction, and work-life balance—and create a suite of communication materials.
  • Consider your channels: Go beyond posters in the breakroom or hallways. Use every channel your employees use to communicate—Facebook groups, LinkedIn, email, even text reminders and printed flyers can be used to motivate, inspire, and support your workforce.
  • Have leadership executives host a kick-off event so employees can be informed and inspired in person.

3. Learn from others’ success

Implement best practices and policies that have worked for high-performing companies to create an environment that values health and well-being. Your health plan can provide examples of successful programs they’ve worked on with other clients.

About 60% of large employers say it’s important to achieve a culture of health at work, but only 20% are accomplishing it4

Strategies that top-tier companies use to incentivize better health care:

  • 76% of top performers offer weight management programs.
  • 73% of top performers provide flexible working hours.
  • 51% of top performers institute a ban on use of tobacco on-site.
  • 44% of top performers use data for targeted outreach on health and well-being programs or gaps in care.
  • 20% of top performers offer/reward use of stress or resilience management.5

Offering flexible working hours and instituting a ban on the use of tobacco on-site are two examples of small steps employers can take toward creating a culture of wellness, with the potential for significant results. Meanwhile, consider the benefits of more convenient online tools, which have been shown to improve employee health and productivity:

  • Stress or resilience management
  • Weight management programs

4. Reward your employees

58% of employers are using wellness incentives, up from under 50% in 20156

Incentives can drive behavior—as long as the effort to qualify for an incentive matches the perceived value of the prize. Here are a range of incentives you may want to consider:

Monetary Bonuses

  • Cash
  • Reduction in insurance premiums
  • Points towards insurance premiums or airline tickets
  • Discounts at certain retailers

Prestige Bonuses

  • Special mentions in a company newsletter
  • Lunch with the CEO
  • Award in recognition of a commitment to health

Offer a range of rewards and offer scalable incentives, with gradual increases, to keep employees motivated to stick with the healthy changes they’ve made.

5. Identify what your employees need and want to achieve their health goals

Surveying employees is the easiest way to identify their needs when it comes to achieving their health goals. Your health plan should have the tools to help you ask the right questions and compile the results.

You might be surprised by what you learn. Millennials facing student debt, employees caring for young families or aging parents, or employees who are nearing retirement are all going to need different tools, services, and support.

Creating a culture of health also means continuously keeping the pulse of the company and refining wellness offerings or creating new ones that prove your commitment to employee health and well-being.

6. Provide the right tools and services

Personalized support for your employee population is a major component in creating a culture of health in the workplace. Companies need to offer a variety of ways to access support, from a traditional online directory of links, to meetings with one-on-one integrated health care representatives, or the development of a mobile app.

Tools to keep your employees healthy:

  • Free, online health assessments, with confidential, personalized results.
  • Webinars or on-site workshops on a holistic range of topics to motivate and educate.
  • A commitment to and ongoing support of a healthy foods policy, with nutritious meal and snack options on-site to help employees make smart food choices.
  • On-site flu shots and health clinics.

Going the extra mile:

  • In-house dry-cleaning or banking services remove the stress of daytime errands.
  • Offering time off for fitness.
  • On-site emergency daycare.
  • Gym memberships or reimbursements.
  • On-site financial counseling.

Cultivating a culture of health requires ongoing dedication and creativity

It means going beyond traditional wellness programs and incentives. To create a real culture of health in your workplace, employers need to consider offering services that address your employees’ stressors, be they financial, environmental, social, or health-related. From survey to implementation to evaluation, your health plan can help you design a program that works for your employee population. And your health plan can and should help you make changes to it along the way, ensuring you’re maximizing your investment and your outcomes.

Learn more about Tufts Health Plan's approach to employee health and wellness, and worksite wellness.

  1. Purcell, J. (2016) Meet the Wellness Programs That Save Companies Money. Harvard Business Review.
  2. Willis Towers Watson. (2017). High-Performance Insights—Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey.
  3. CEB. (2015). Total Rewards Health Care Survey
  4. Optum 7th Annual Wellness in the Workplace Study, 2016
  5. Willis Towers Watson. (2017). High-Performance Insights—Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey.
  6. Willis Towers Watson. (2017). High-Performance Insights—Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey.