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Here’s What Startups Need to Know About Establishing an Employee Wellness Program

The workplace has experienced many changes over the last few years. These changes have impacted Fortune 500 companies, small to medium-sized businesses and startups. From “quiet quitting,” to the Great Resignation, to the “big stay,” many employers are struggling with employee wellbeing, engagement and loyalty.

If you’re running a startup, you face an even greater challenge, since you might already be limited in the number of employees you’ve hired, and every existing resource you have is critical to the cross-functional operations of your business. If that’s the case, prioritizing employee wellbeing is not only recommended, but necessary.

Here are five tips for startups on establishing an employee wellness program.

1. Conduct a survey to understand current employee needs

It’s important to understand how engaged your employees are, how connected they feel to the company, work-life balance and burnout. According to Gallup, 76% of employees experience burnout in the workplace some of the time. And the last few years have made the likelihood of burnout even greater for most people.

What usually accompanies burnout is stress and anxiety, which is important to be aware of as an employer because these issues could lead to more serious physical and mental health issues down the road.

Giving employees the opportunity through a survey, to anonymously share their honest thoughts, feelings and needs, can be a great first step in developing the most impactful employee wellness programs. It will show employees you care and value their feedback and needs. Surveys should also continue to be administered on an ongoing basis, so you can continuously account for employees’ needs over time.

2. Determine if you’ll need in-person, virtual or a hybrid model of offerings

Depending on what your startup workplace culture is like, a wellness program can complement it by having a similar set-up. For example, if most of your employees are in the office, work remotely or you offer them a hybrid approach, your wellness program can be offered in a similar manner, whether that be in the office, virtual or hybrid.

Making wellness programs accessible to employees in ways that work for them is important. You can offer in-person and virtual workshops, classes, coaching, challenges and more. There are many ways to connect with employees and connect them as a team, both online and offline.

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3. Develop a content calendar of the key wellness topics you want to cover

Being able to provide wellness programs that center around content that’s important to employees can make the program rich, fulfilling and effective in improving or enhancing their lives, and helping them perform at their best. As part of the survey process mentioned earlier, ask employees for feedback on the wellness topics that are most important to them. Then develop a content calendar that will allow you to offer resources on those very topics throughout the year.

Some examples could include physical health, mental health, financial health, sleep, stress management, nutrition, fitness, work-life balance and more. The key is to provide not only education on these topics, but actionable steps, accountability and ongoing support.

4. Set a flexible budget for the year

If you’re running a startup, it can be challenging to have the budget for a wellness program, especially during a looming recession. However, it’s important to prioritize it if you can because employees are in need of wellness resources now more than ever. It might make sense to look at your finances and expenses and see where you might be able to cut costs in other areas and shift your spending in favor of a wellness program.

In order to make sure your spending has the potential for a positive return on investment (ROI), make sure you have reporting capabilities in place, so you can track participation, engagement, if you’re seeing fewer sick days, if your healthcare costs are going down, etc.

The more you can track this type of data, the more knowledge you’ll have to make adjustments where needed. You’ll then be able to evolve your wellness program over time, so you can consistently meet the ever-changing needs of your employees.

5. Leverage internal and external resources where appropriate

Once you’ve had your employees complete a survey, determine the best set-up for your wellness program, develop a content calendar and set a budget, you can determine which resources to leverage internally and whether or not you’ll need to leverage external resources as well.

Focus internally in areas where your startup already has expertise, and research corporate wellness vendors that can help fill in the gaps. Or if you don’t have any expertise in these areas, you can always outsource the development of the entire wellness program at an affordable cost. There are many great vendors out there that provide comprehensive corporate wellness programs. Use your resources and budget wisely and determine how you can create the most efficient and effective programs possible.

While startups have many competing priorities and tight budgets, especially during these challenging times, it’s extremely important to offer wellness programs for employees that are beneficial for their health, happiness and productivity. It not only makes good business sense, it demonstrates kindness and consideration for your greatest assets, which are your employees!

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