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7 Tips on How to Start a Workplace Wellness Program

By: Jacob Irwin | Thursday January 18, 2018

Updated : Wednesday July 22, 2020

As an employer, what are you doing to help your employees meet their resolutions?

If you think it’s not your responsibility, you are wrong. According to this report from Sunlife Financial, 6 in 10 Canadians feel their employer has some responsibility in ensuring their good health. If your workplace doesn’t offer a healthy environment, not only will it affect your employee’s (and prospective one’s) overall impression of your company, it will actively make it less productive, creative, and engaged.

Starting a workplace wellness program, or even improving an existing one, can seem daunting. It’s okay to start small – we sure did! Often what starts as a few employees interested in being health and well at work blossoms into a comprehensive program. Today at Benefits by Design (BBD) Inc., health and wellness is not only an integral part of our culture but is also a national program run across our three offices.

While the takeaways may be different for each organization, here are our key lessons learned to build a workplace wellness program that actually works.

Lesson #1: Start with “why” (and always remember it)

Clarifying why you want to incorporate a health and wellness program into your workplace can help your program succeed. Make sure to communicate that “why” widely, so that everyone can see and endorse your vision.

Lesson #2: Audit your current wellness program

What is the current state of your health and wellness program? Find out what is working, what isn’t working and what is missing. At BBD, we use a combination of employee surveys and focus group’s to hear what people want and need.

Lesson #3: Gather like-minded people

You don’t have to do it alone. Engage your colleagues and start a Health and Wellness committee to ensure diversity of ideas and styles. BBD’s Health and Wellness Committee meets monthly meets monthly and employees are encouraged to champion events. Even then, not everything will be a fit for everyone – and that’s okay!

Lesson #4: Get management buy-in

A healthy workplace starts at the top! Make sure management endorses a workplace wellness program and, when possible, participates in the planned activities. At BBD, our Managers and Managing Partners are some of our biggest champions of health and wellness.

Lesson #5: It’s about more than physical health

Health is about more than just physical fitness. There are dimensions like mental, social, even financial health to consider — all pillars of holistic health. In order to encourage diversity and a breadth of offerings in our workplace wellness program, BBD plans events throughout the year that cover an element of each pillars of holistic health.

Lesson #6: Celebrate achievements

Had your first successful run club? Put on your first healthy potluck? Celebrate those wins! While they may seem small in the grand scheme of things, they ultimately put your workplace culture on the path to better health.

Lesson #7: Share the fun

It’s amazing what you can gain from sharing with your community on social media. Feel free to tag @BBDCanada in your workplace wellness posts. Or, create your own hashtag and encourage employees to use it to support the presence health and wellness initiatives at work. It’s a great way to get a historical record of activities and look back on what you’ve done.

While these lessons worked for us, they may not all work for your organization. It’s important to keep in mind that at the root of your workplace wellness program, remains the people – your workforce. If you keep that in mind, your program is sure to be a success.

Looking for more? Our Health and Wellness Calendar is full of ideas to get started!

Download the latest BBD Health and Wellness Calendar!