How to Implement a Wellness Program at Work


A common myth is that employees will naturally engage with a wellness program if it’s valuable and relevant to them. But we’ve found the reason that many wellness programs fail is because they aren’t rolled out and implemented strategically across the company.

If HR leaders fail to lay the groundwork for the launch, and employees don’t have an inspiring introduction to the program, they’re less likely to engage with a program, no matter how great it is.

With a smooth and intriguing onboarding experience, employees can quickly realize the benefits of your new wellness program, meaning it’s much more likely to achieve positive feedback and widespread company adoption in a shorter time frame.

We’ve helped hundreds of companies implement our own wellness program, Bright Breaks, and the most successful companies that see high, sustained engagement use a proven implementation process.

In this article, we’ll walk you through a tried and tested step-by-step strategy you can use to successfully implement any wellness program across your company.

Step 1: Get Strategic With Your Implementation Process

Before setting a launch date, consider your goals for the wellness program. You can start the goal-setting process by analyzing broader engagement goals you want the program to reach (e.g., improving communication among departments or increasing employee retention), and then work backward to set specific engagement metric goals.

A key mistake we see most companies make is setting goals based on arbitrary numbers that aren’t supported by experience or knowledge. As a result, these goals are often unrealistic for the organization and don’t accurately measure engagement improvement.

For example, your engagement metrics might not measure up to industry benchmarks at the beginning of your journey, but as long as they are moving in the right direction, your strategy is probably working.

We recommend that you look at engagement rates for other wellness initiatives you currently run and base your initial goals on those benchmarks instead. Ideally, select a metric based on the wellness initiative that’s most similar to the new one you plan to implement.

For example, if you’re considering implementing a meditation app and already have data on a step challenge initiative you previously implemented, you can use the data from the step challenge to set engagement goals for your meditation app.

Once you’ve set a realistic goal, the next step is identifying the key members who will promote it throughout the company/individual teams.

These people are usually executives, mid-level managers, Wellness Committees, and/or ERGs, as they have the most influence over employees and can work with them one on one to navigate implementation challenges.

Finally, outline a high-level implementation strategy and determine whether it will be a staged rollout, or implemented across the entire organization immediately.

Step 2: Enable Managers and Executives To Engage Their Teams

If mid-level managers and executives are brought into the program and use it regularly, employees usually follow their manager’s lead and participate in the program.

In contrast, if managers and executives don’t use the program, employees probably won’t take it up either – even if they love it.

If mid-level managers and executives fully understand how a program works, they can answer employee questions and help them navigate any challenges during the implementation process. So the enablement stage is devoted to getting buy-in from managers and executives and showing them how the program works.

First, we recommend emphasizing the program’s benefits and how it can help them achieve their goals.

If you can show managers and executives how the program will help improve metrics they care about, like team communication, collaboration, and productivity, they’re much more likely to take it seriously and encourage their teams to actively participate.

Next, provide step-by-step details (like a written guide) on implementing the program across the team, plus strategies to encourage employee engagement.

Most employee wellness programs provide these guides for you, and they should cover tactical things like how to use the technology, set up an account, and address common FAQs.

It’s also a good idea to empower managers by asking them how they would like to boost engagement and celebrate milestones. When managers and executives have more skin in the game, they’re more likely to put more effort into making it a success.

Once managers and executives have all the information they need, do a test run so they can experience the program first hand. The test run allows you to identify challenges and collect initial feedback before rolling it out to the rest of the team.

Finally, share the engagement goals established during the strategizing stage with executives and managers so that they can aim to achieve those metrics within their team. You can also ask them if they’d like to add any engagement goals of their own to ensure more active participation.

Step 3: Launch The Wellness Program

Now that your managers, executives, and the Wellness Committee know how to use the program and are fully sold on the idea, the next step is to launch it across their teams.

We typically recommend offering a company-wide “lunch and learn” event where you provide a demo of the program and get employees excited about using it.

To improve attendance for this event, consider offering an incentive for attending (like a gift card to Uber Eats), and ask leaders, managers, and the Wellness Committee to help promote the event.

Conducting a live experience tends to make the launch more successful, as employees don’t always take the time to read emails, read guides, or watch videos about wellness initiatives.

We also recommend that you reserve the last 10-15 minutes of the event to allow employees to create their accounts and explore the platform. This gives them time to ask questions and get acquainted with the program while it’s still fresh in their mind.

Following the live experience, provide written instructions on how to use the program so that employees can refer back to a central resource if they forget how to use it or have any follow-up questions.

At Bright Breaks, we also provide launch script templates for managers to pitch the program to their employees. We’ve found that scripts significantly increase initial engagement, as it reduces the risk that managers won’t be able to clearly communicate how the program works, and how it benefits personal wellness.

We also have monthly promotional resources that we give to our customers so that they can continue promoting the program each month.

Even if your vendor doesn’t provide scripts or a custom launch plan, we recommend that every company implements a communication plan to improve launch success. For example:

“How can 7 minutes change your day?

On <date>, we’re going to find out!

<Your company> has partnered with Bright Breaks, a virtual well-being platform that will deliver suggested 7-minute breaks directly to your calendar.

Soon, you’ll be able to choose from over 300 live breaks a week inviting you to move, breathe, stretch, and more. Attend breaks with your coworkers and other folks around the world taking time to reset and refocus!

➡️ Stay tuned for more information and to gain access on <date>.”

Following the initial launch, create a challenge that rewards employees for engaging with the program. This could be a prize for people that reach a certain engagement threshold, or the most engaged employees in the program.

Regardless of the challenge, it’s important to start it immediately following the launch, as it’s much easier to sustain engagement than get people to re-engage several months after the launch.

It takes time to form a daily habit, so set up your challenges to motivate employees to engage regularly. Reward them by engaging with the program multiple times over an extended time period, as opposed to just once.

Stage 4: Optimize And Improve The Strategy

Following the initial launch, determine the pain points employees experience with the program and remove any obstacles that come up.

We recommend collecting feedback directly from managers through surveys or one-on-one conversations, as they can give you deeper insights into specific challenges that employees have mentioned.

Your vendor should also provide engagement metrics. For example, at Bright Breaks, we provide an overview of star ratings, total employee engagement, and the types of breaks taken (e.g., yoga, meditation, etc.).

You can also revisit the goals you set in your first call.

If you aren’t meeting the goals set in the first stage, talk to your managers to understand why employees aren’t using the solution and then make adjustments based on their feedback.

Once you’ve made any necessary adjustments, successfully implementing a wellness program will be based primarily on following up with managers and reminding employees to engage.

Start Planning Your Wellness Program Launch Today

Most HR managers believe their employees will automatically engage with their wellness program as long as it’s a good program.

Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely true, as plenty of other factors can get in the way of engagement. For example, employees might not understand how to use an app, or feel awkward participating if none of their peers or managers are actively engaging as well.

A program like Bright Breaks can make life easier and more fun for everyone. We provide short seven-minute breaks where a friendly educator guides employees in practicing wellness during the workday. You can pick from over 300 live Bright Breaks every week to help your team stay active, breathe better, stretch, learn something new, or simply unwind.

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What you should do now

  1. Promote best practices for remote worker health with free copy/paste, pre-written scripts you can post every week in your internal communications channels.

  2. Learn from top HR & People Leaders about the latest strategies to keep your remote workforce happy, healthy, and connected on The Virtual Vibe Podcast.

  3. Contact our sales team to discover the benefits of our built-for-the-workplace wellness solution, compared to B2C offerings like Calm or Headspace.
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