Organizational Wellness

The Ultimate Guide to Launch and Run a Successful Employee Wellbeing Program (A Step-by-Step)

Jun 4, 2024
Last Updated Jun 6, 2024

Imagine walking into your office and feeling a surge of energy radiating from every corner. Your employees are focused, motivated, and at the top of their game — thanks to a thriving corporate wellness program. 

This is more than a fantasy: A staggering 95% of companies measuring the ROI of their wellness initiatives report positive returns. From reduced healthcare costs and absenteeism to boosted productivity and engagement, the benefits are undeniable. 

But how do you unlock these game-changing perks for your organization?

This guide is your blueprint for corporate wellness success. We'll take you step-by-step through selecting the right program, getting leadership buy-in, igniting employee excitement, and proving ROI.

Excited to get started on this wellness journey? Let’s dive right in!


Phase 1: Set Up Your Program for Success

Step 1: Get Leadership Buy-In

Executive support is foundational to lasting support and strong adoption of your program. To secure their commitment, you can outline the bottom-line advantages of employee wellbeing, such as lower healthcare costs and reduced turnover. You can use a clear ROI formula to demonstrate the financial viability of the program, such as:

ROI = Productivity Increases + Talent Management Savings + Healthcare Savings − Wellness Program Cost

Step 2: Identify the Program Owner

Assign a dedicated leader to oversee the program so somebody is accountable for its success. Whether it's a full-time role or integrated into an existing position, ensure this person has the capacity and skills to drive the initiative effectively. 

Step 3: Set Clear Objectives

Launching into an employee wellbeing program without a clear vision for success is like setting sail without a compass. It’s considered best practice to align the goals of your wellbeing program with the company’s goals so you can demonstrate how this advances the organization’s overarching objectives. Consider using SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to ensure clarity and accountability.

Step 4: Select the Right Wellbeing Platform

Armed with a clear set of goals, it's now time to select the perfect wellbeing platform for your employees. It's essential to choose a solution that not only aligns with your company's specific objectives but also embraces the diversity of your workforce's needs and preferences.

If you don’t get this step right, your engagement will suffer. Choose a platform that is inclusive, customizable, accessible, and user-friendly. It should cater to diverse needs and preferences to ensure broad engagement.

Step 5: Assemble Your Wellness Champions

Building a thriving employee wellbeing program is a collective endeavor, not a solo mission. While the Program Owner plays a pivotal role, they can’t build a company culture solo. Assembling a squad of Wellness Champions gives them a team that can infuse your program with energy and enthusiasm from the start. These ambassadors are the heartbeat of your initiative, spreading vitality and motivation across the organization. Remember to enthusiastic employees from various departments to promote the program — their passion and influence can inspire peers to participate across the organization. 

Step 6: Craft an Ongoing Communication Plan

A one-time announcement won’t be enough to send employees flocking to your program. Crafting a nuanced, ongoing communication plan is essential — this not only keeps the program top of mind, it provides an opportunity for  HR leaders to clearly communicate the positive impact wellness can have on their lives. Start by identifying which communication channels (intranet, chats, email, etc.) get the highest engagement at your organization, then create engaging content that you can distribute over time in these channels.

Phase 2: Launch Your Wellness Program

Step 7: Plan a Launch Party

Kicking off your wellness program with a celebration — instead of just an email — is far more engaging for employees. It starts your initiative off on a celebratory note, and makes it clear that the company is thoroughly committed to the program. 

The run-up to your party is a great time to plan a wellness challenge you announce at the launch event. This helps you convert the attention at the event into engagement in the wellness program you’re launching right off the bat!

Step 8: Host the Launch Event

It’s a great idea to involve C-suite members and wellness champions in the event to showcase the company’s support of the program and its benefits, and to announce your first wellness challenge.

Phase 3: Drive Initial Adoption

Step 9: Provide Incentives and Rewards

In Wellhub’s Return on Wellbeing 2024 — an international survey of more than 2,000 HR leaders —  People professionals said incentives and rewards as the most effective tactic to increase employee engagement in a program. To take advantage of the power of positive reinforcement, consider implementing a points-based system and recognition programs to motivate employees. Rewards could include extra vacation days, gift cards, or wellness products.

Step 10: Showcase C-Suite Engagement

There is a crystal clear relationship between how widely executives engage in a wellbeing program and the company’s overall participation rates. You can harness this power by making the participation of your C-suite apparent to all employees! Tactics include encouraging executives to participate in wellness activities and sharing their personal wellness journeys at all hands meetings.

Step 11: Launch Fresh Competitions

Wellness competitions are a great way to gamify wellbeing. They help ignite the spirit of healthy competition, making them a dynamic way to maintain enthusiasm and participation in your wellness program. A few ways to keep the competitive edge sharp and engaging include hosting diverse wellness challenges to appeal to different interests and abilities, and utilizing technology to track progress that fosters a competitive spirit.

Step 12: Organize Group Workouts

Group workouts can be a powerful contributor to building a strong wellness culture at work. While this may seem easier for in-person teams, there are plenty of online workouts remote teams can do together. And moving together is about more than exercise — it's about bringing people together, making teams stronger, and getting everyone moving. By adding group workouts to your wellness program, you turn exercise into a fun, shared experience that excites everyone. You can schedule regular group workouts, both in-person and virtual, to foster a sense of community and make exercise a fun, shared experience.

Step 13: Collect and Share Testimonials

These first-hand stories are powerful drivers of engagement. They can inspire, motivate, and lend credibility to your wellness program. Encourage employees to share their wellness journeys and achievements. You can also highlight these stories across various platforms to inspire and motivate others.

Phase 4: Maximize Employee Engagement

Step 14: Embed Wellness into Onboarding

Integrating your wellness program into the onboarding process is a strategic move that sets the tone for new hires, emphasizing from day one that health and wellbeing are central to your company's culture. Introducing employee wellness as a core company value and importance and encouraging their immediate participation in upcoming events can go a long way here.

Step 15: Incorporate Wellness into Leadership Training

By integrating wellness principles into leadership training, you cultivate leaders who are not only advocates for health and wellbeing but also embody these values in their management styles and decision-making processes. This leadership commitment is crucial for creating a sustainable culture of wellness that permeates every level of the organization. Consider training leaders to prioritize wellness and recognize signs of burnout or stress. Other steps you can take include regular wellness check-ins and rewarding leaders who integrate wellness into their management practices.

Step 16: Include Wellness Highlights in All Hands Meetings

Incorporating wellness highlights into all hands meetings is a strategic move to keep wellness front and center in the collective consciousness of your organization. By dedicating time at least quarterly to discuss wellness achievements, initiatives, and goals, you reinforce the importance of health and wellbeing as organizational priorities. This consistent spotlight celebrates progress, keeps the momentum of your wellness program strong, and reinforces your culture of wellbeing.

Step 17: Host Monthly Wellbeing Activities

By offering a regular cadence of events, workshops, and challenges, you create continuous opportunities for employees to connect with the program and each other, fostering a vibrant culture of health and wellbeing. To maximize interest, it can help to a variety of activities each month to cater to different aspects of wellness. You might also align your activities with relevant themes or awareness months to keep them engaging and educational, such as focusing on heart health around Valentine’s Day.

Phase 5: Keep Your Wellness Program Fresh

Step 18: Analyze Success Metrics

Regular analysis of success metrics is crucial to understanding the impact of your wellness program and ensuring it aligns with your strategic objectives. By referring back to the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and SMART goals established at the outset, you can evaluate the program's effectiveness and make data-driven decisions for continuous improvement. 

Step 19: Gather Employee Feedback

Actively gathering feedback from employees is a vital step in nurturing a responsive and effective wellness program. This feedback loop allows you to understand firsthand how employees are interacting with the program, what benefits they're experiencing, and more importantly, what elements they believe could be enhanced. Try to conduct regular surveys and focus groups to capture employee insights. 

Step 20: Continue Iterating

The key to sustaining a successful wellness program lies in its ability to evolve. Continuous iteration, guided by engagement rates, emerging trends, and shifting employee preferences, ensures that the program remains relevant, engaging, and effective. As you monitor program participation rates, keep an eye on wellness trends and workplace changes, and adapt accordingly. For example, pickleball is trending and many people don’t see their colleagues often given the rise of remote work. Why not start a pickleball league that lets people connect with their coworkers face-to-face?

Phase 6: Solidify Your Culture of Wellbeing

Step 21: Implement Company Policies that Support Employee Wellbeing

Transforming your wellness program from a mere initiative to an ingrained part of your company's culture hinges on the implementation of policies that unequivocally support employee wellbeing. Flexible working arrangements and mental health days are two common wellness policies. As with your wellness programs, ensure these policies are well-communicated and accessible to all employees.

Full Steam Ahead

You’ve already taken the first step toward building an organization that does more than look great on a spreadsheet (though it does do that too). You’re building a company that is a thriving community and operates with wellbeing as a cultural cornerstone!

This shift is an incredible contribution toward everyone’s success. The next steps (all 21) are clear. It’s time to build your legacy — and we can help! Reach out to Wellhub Wellbeing Specialist today for help launching and running a flexible and inclusive wellness program at your organization. 

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!


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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