The Missing Link in Employee Wellness Programs

The right programs don’t need to provide expensive gift cards or 30 kinds of trail mix. Find out how to support employees exactly where they are.

Woman at work smiling, showing the happiness that comes from a good employee wellness program.

Companies are battling it out to get top talent.

With the great resignation looming, and thousands of employees looking to fill open positions, companies are looking for creative ways to attract top talent. We’ve seen companies offer everything from free meals to fitness reimbursements, from extra vacation to company health challenges.

It’s become very clear: Great health insurance and PTO is simply not enough to attract and retain great employees.

According to a survey done by Indeed, employee wellness programs are amongst the most attractive perks that companies can offer. These programs serve to improve morale, increase productivity, reduce stress and absenteeism, and reduce health care costs. 

An employee wellness program also makes people want to work for you. People want to work in places where they feel supported. In fact, a survey by Optum showed that employees are twice as likely to stay in a position where there is health and wellness support, and three times as likely to recommend that company to a friend or family member.

If the fact that you are more likely to attract key talent and keep those employees working for you with a wellness program isn’t enough to convince you to invest in employee wellness, we have a third reason: The ROI on employee wellness programs is often 5:1.

To put it simply: Employee wellness programs don’t cost a lot to implement but pay huge dividends in employee health, happiness, and retention.

What Wellness Perks are Best?

We’ve heard of companies offering a huge variety of wellness perks.

One company hosts monthly wellness challenges where employees can work toward a fitness goal to win gift cards.

Another company brings in catered lunch every Friday—giving employees a chance to try new, healthy foods and to avoid the brown bag for a day.

Salad bar shows nutrition and benefits of a good employee wellness program.

Yet another company had 30 kinds of trail mix in little glass jars, allowing employees to get a little dish full of nuts, fruit, and chocolate anytime they got hungry.

We’ve heard of perks ranging from mental health days, company-wide yoga classes, stocked fridges with healthy teas, fruits, and salads, and much more.

Obviously, you can’t invest in everything, so what are the right wellness perks to invest in?

After researching employee wellness programs, we at Papa have one big takeaway:

Employees don’t need catered lunches, expensive gift cards, or 30 kinds of trail mix. Employees need to be supported in the lives they live with the people they care for.

Picture of couple in front of lockers showing support from employee wellness program.

Report after report, survey after survey, conversation after conversation all point to the same thing: If you want to promote employee wellness, you have to provide perks that support your employees where they are. These perks include things like:

  • Back-up for working parents. Just imagine trying to help a sixth grader learn algebra while on a conference call. Or fixing a snack for a hungry toddler while finishing up a last minute report.
  • Support for caregivers and families. It’s pretty hard to focus on a quarterly planning meeting at the same time that you have to drive your mom to a doctor’s appointment.
  • Flexible time. Your employees are busy—and when they have more time for Fido and Johnny and Sally, they have more energy for their work.
  • Support for mental and physical health concerns. When your employees have the time and space to focus on what matters, they are able to– you guessed it–focus on what matters.
  • Access to healthy food and support with meal prep and planning.
  • Help with recovery. There is no amount of trail mix–even the mocha cappuccino kind–that will help an employee to recover from an injury or illness.

All of these perks provide support for employees exactly where they are so that they can support you.

Unhappy, unhealthy, stressed employees are not only less productive, but they are also more likely to quit. And turnover costs you time and money and productivity so the best way to keep your company healthy is to keep your employees healthy.

Trail mix is nice. (We really like the new PB&J stuff.) 

But support is much nicer.

Why Caregiver Benefits?

It’s no secret that your employees have lives at home that go far beyond the scope of work. In fact, according to our research at Papa, more than 73% of people in the workforce pull a second (or even third!) shift working as a caregiver for children or older adults.

That’s 3 out of every 4 employees!

These “extra shifts” are exhausting and stressful– in fact, one of our Papa surveys reported that 57% of caregivers report clinically significant levels of stress, anxiety or depression. Additionally, 33% of these employees reported that they were absent more than they would have been otherwise due to caregiving and 32% reported that they left a job due to caregiving responsibilities.

Those numbers make our hearts beat a little faster than they should be beating.

It’s stressful as an employer to hear that your valued workforce is struggling with an almost universal problem.

But there is some good news: There is something you can do about it!

Caregiver benefits–benefits that support caregivers as they support others–are amongst the most requested and most valued benefits by employees. By adding these benefits to your employee wellness program, you can make a huge impact on the health and happiness of your employees.