Organizational Wellness

The Secret Ingredient to Success: Employee Health

Nov 11, 2022
Last Updated Sep 1, 2023

We’ve all been hearing about people quitting their jobs left and right. It’s often been referred to as The Great Resignation or The Big Quit. And unfortunately, it’s no myth or joke. People are really resigning from their jobs in droves, and a big reason for this is health. 1 in 4 employees leave their jobs over mental health in particular, and burnout has been found to be a number one reason people are finding new jobs. On top of this, 76% of the US workforce would consider leaving a company that doesn’t focus on employee wellbeing, according to Wellhub’ latest State of Work-Life Wellness report .

Losing employees for health reasons is costing employers in more ways than one. In dollars and cents, it can cost you $1,252 to train a new employee who quits, so losing employees to burnout and mental health struggles costs your company big time. Plus, the effort of finding and hiring a new employee to replace them can rack up costs in time and effort. 

Even if your employees don’t always quit because of their health, poor employee health is still costing your company. In fact, poor employee health costs companies $530 billion dollars or 60 cents for every dollar you’ve spent on your benefit. Simply put, if your employees aren’t healthy, your company isn’t healthy. Your employees are the heart of your company, and if they’re quitting, not coming to work, calling out, or anything similar, your company suffers.

Since employee health is such a critical factor in your workforce, how do you turn your situation from poor to well, bad to good? How do you actually improve and maintain employee health? We’ll walk you through the ins and outs of employee health and wellness and its importance. Then we’ll help you determine how you can improve employee health at your company so you have happier and healthier employees and a stronger company overall. 

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What Is Employee Health? 

When we say “employee health,” what does that actually refer to? Employee health is a singular term referring to physical and mental status of each employee. Like peanut butter and jelly, they go together. 

Mental health is a commonly ignored piece of employee health but is becoming more widely considered by employers–and for good reason. Forgetting to consider mental health in your employees’ holistic health can be costly. Mental health has a direct effect on physical health so poor mental health can manifest in physical symptoms that affect your employees. The reverse is also true. Poor physical health can lead to poor mental health. Physical and mental health matter for each employee. That’s why it’s key to nurture both parts of employee health as you move forward with improving it. 

Why Is Employee Health Important? 

When you think about your own life, you’ve probably seen that how you feel affects what you’re able to do. You know your health matters when it comes to accomplishing your goals and succeeding in life. The same is true for employee health. The way your employees are feeling on the whole will affect what they’re able to do and what your company can accomplish. As your company tries to maximize overall mental and physical health with the right benefits, you can expect to see some of these key benefits:

Increased Work Satisfaction

Over 80% of employees who have employers actively engaged in their health find their work satisfying. Basically, an employee will be more likely to love their job and find satisfaction in doing their work if their employer cares about their health. By simply caring and taking health improvement steps, you can boost your employee work satisfaction. 

Increased Productivity 

In general, healthier employees are more productive . This productivity can manifest in a few ways: employees are less likely to call in sick, less likely to miss work to care for family members, and better able to focus during the time they do spend on the job. At the root of it all, health can keep employees from the workplace or from focusing on their work, and that reduces your productivity. But better employee health increases productivity. Higher productivity correlates with improved customer relations, lower employee turnover, and profitability. In addition, poor productivity from employee health costs employers $1,685 per employee per year. So employee health can boost productivity and reduce costs lost from productivity. 

Reduced Absenteeism

For certain industries and workplaces, employees need to be present at the workplace to get things done. Studies show that 78% of workplaces believe that employee absences have a negative impact on productivity and, ultimately, the revenue for the company. Employees who are present are able to help combat this cost—and employee programs focusing on health can help accomplish that. Presenteeism is no better than absenteeism, but the solution is the same: improving employee health. More specifically, health programs can reduce absenteeism by 14–19% . That’s huge! 

Improved Work Culture

Caring about employee health can improve your company’s work culture. According to the Harvard Business Review , caring for one another and supporting one another is key to a good workplace culture—and health can be right at the heart of that. Supporting and caring for employee health is a way to directly improve your culture. 

Reduced Employee Stress

Stress is costing companies—and the economy. About $550 billion dollars are siphoned from the US economy each year from workplace stress with 550 million work days lost too. Plus 80% of doctor’s visits are estimated to be stress-related. Workplace stress can also cause health problems like cardiovascular disease. Luckily, workplace health emphases and focuses can actually reduce workplace stress and its related consequences. So keep your workplace chill with an emphasis on employee health. 

Reduced Turnover

Turnover hurts your company. You want your talent to stay with your company and keep you rising to the top. But as we discussed earlier, forgetting about employee health causes employees to quit and look for work elsewhere. Luckily, companies can reduce turnover —and save thousands of dollars—by implementing a work health program. 

HR’s Role in Employee Health

Before we consider HR’s role in employee health, let’s think about what the point of an HR department is at all. HR—at its core—is all about the people at your company. Your company’s HR department is there to make sure employees are at their best and that they’re being taken care of. HR is there to support and care for employees. All in all, this is a worthy goal. 

Now let’s consider what HR’s role in employee health is. HR personnel should be the department most actively focused on employee health and finding ways to support that when it comes to health insurance and wellness benefits. After all, employees can’t be at their best without having their health and well-being supported—and that’s where HR is crucial. 

What can HR do though to support employee health? In general, HR departments can support employee health by providing access to health insurance for medical care and by creating wellness programs that are carefully crafted to boost employee health and wellbeing. HR has the opportunity to be the heart of employee health. 

Ways to Improve Employee Health

Since employee health matters so much, how do we improve it? After all, it’s only so helpful to know about a problem without knowing how to solve it. There’s no silver bullet to solve all your employee health problems, but a conglomerate of several of these solutions can help your company find what works best for you. So without further ado, here are five ways to improve employee health at your company. 

  1. Physical Wellness Programs

Wellness programs are the beating heart and the central soul to improving employee health. We’re all pretty aware that wellness programs matter—and they really matter when it comes to employee health. Like we discussed earlier, wellness programs can really help with stress, turnover, and absenteeism. One of the biggest challenges with a wellness program can be funding, but that shouldn’t hold you back. 

So what can a physical wellness program look like? Here are some wellness program ideas to get you started: 

  • Vaccination clinics. The flu can lead to more missed work than other illnesses, so curbing the flu is a great way to get started with improving employee health. Vaccination clinics can be a simple way to reduce illness and improve your employees’ health. 
  • Nutrition education. Your diet can put you at risk for certain illnesses and health complications. What your employees eat matters for employee health, and a wellness program can help with that. Nutrition education programs and classes can help teach your employees about the importance of a healthy diet and help them get started with improving their own. 
  • Exercise activities and programs. Exercise reduces the risk of certain diseases, so an exercise focus can help boost employee health. Exercise programs encourage employees to get more activity in their lives. Whether that’s through an incentivized exercise routine, such as an office weight loss challenge, or through greater access to gyms through a service like Wellhub, encouraging your employees to exercise is key. Consider including exercise in the workplace—yoga after lunch, early morning hikes, walks to the park after the day. 
  • Smoking cessation programs. Employees who smoke are more susceptible to health problems, so programs to help them quit can really boost your employee health. 

  1. Encourage Vacation Time

Vacation time is a great way for employees to disconnect from work and relax for a period of time. About 40% of American employees didn’t use all of their vacation time, so while it’s beneficial, employees aren’t reaping the benefits. How can you help your employees actually use vacation time? Here are a few ways to get started: 

  • Set the example. Management on top needs to set an example for the rest of the company by using their own vacation time. Employees are more likely to use their own vacation days if they see their managers taking time off. So start at the top and watch the vacation initiative trickle down. 
  • Create company holidays. Celebrate the company anniversary by encouraging employees to take the day off and relax—or include fun activities at the workplace to help it feel like a day off. Creating your own holidays and encouraging employees to take them off can give them the opportunity to use vacation time. 
  • Set a company goal. Have it be a company goal to have everyone use every one of their vacation days. Announce it at the beginning of the year and check in periodically to remind employees of the goal. 
  • Remind employees. One of the easiest ways to encourage employees to use vacation time is to send reminders to employees when they have vacation time they haven’t used. Every Q4, send employees a reminder to use that time. Encourage them to spend time with their families in the summer. Remind them to take the time off around the holidays. 

  1. Pre-Employment Physical

Before employees even start, you can show new employees that health is a priority at your company. Performing a pre-employment physical is a great way to show your priorities. Your employees will know that their health matters to you right from the start, and you’ll be better prepared to accommodate and support employees since you’ll have a good understanding of their unique health needs. 

  1. Employee Insurance

Providing employees with insurance may cost you up front; that can hinder companies from wanting to move forward—but it shouldn’t. Remember all the costs of poor health? It costs companies in America $530 billion dollars. So those initial costs? They’ll basically pay for themselves when you have happy and healthy employees at your company. Employee insurance is one way HR departments can be helping improve employee health. 

  1. Mental Health Focus

Mental health at work can be overlooked. When you create wellness programs, don’t forget to include a mental health focus. What could that look like? Here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • Mental health classes to help employees understand the importance of taking care of themselves mentally
  • Insurance that covers therapy costs 
  • Allowing mental health days to be sick days
  • Meditation and other mental health practices being integrated into the workplace (meditation after lunch, anyone?) 
  • Creating a culture of openness and no mental health shame or stigma

Final Thoughts

Overall, your employees are at the heart of what you do, and you want them to be at their best. Not to mention that a health focus can keep them at your company, boost productivity, and create a more stress-free culture. All in all, employee health—mental and physical—matters. Workplace wellness programs, management support, insurance, and more are great ways to help your employees take control of their health and feel better. In return, you’ll get better work done. 

To really improve employee health, you’ll need a variety of solutions and programs working together to help your employees. Here at Wellhub, we want to help your company have the tools it needs to boost health and wellness. Talk to a wellbeing specialist to get started. 

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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