By Priya Vijay | 07 Sep 2021

How to develop a workplace wellbeing strategy

Workplace wellbeing has become an increasing focus in the past two years. What can your business do to develop an effective workplace wellbeing strategy?


While the best employers have long focused on workplace wellbeing, what such initiatives look like and how they're delivered has undoubtedly changed since COVID-19 changed our world.

Many employers have taken steps to change benefits packages to reflect the “new normal” of fully remote or hybrid working. Yet, focusing on employee wellbeing goes further than swapping out a gym membership for a Peloton subscription or giving your team a $500 bonus to set up a home office.

Why develop a workplace wellbeing strategy in the first place?

Various reports and statistics highlight the benefits of workplace wellbeing strategies and programs.

Here are some of our favourites:

That last point is particularly startling; only around a quarter of businesses say improved growth was the primary motivator for implementing a workplace wellbeing strategy. In addition to the statistics listed, we also know that job seekers are increasingly looking for what benefits and wellbeing support prospective new employers offer and that job adverts highlighting these attract more candidates of a higher calibre.

All things considered, it’s clear that developing a workplace wellbeing strategy is a win-win.

Yet, implementing one is challenging. Unfortunately, many businesses implement generic initiatives that are "one size fits all" or introduce wellbeing programs that don't address the specific needs of their employees.

Here are five steps to help your business get it right.

1.    Planning what to do

Before you consider what to put in your workplace wellbeing strategy, it pays to develop a robust framework that underpins what you're about to do. Simply saying "we need an employee wellbeing strategy" and mindlessly creating it won't end well.

Instead, consider the following:

  • The reasons why you’re looking to implement a workplace wellbeing strategy.
  • What your employees want and need from such a strategy. This means asking them!
  • Who within your business is responsible for different elements of the strategy.
  • What gaps and opportunities for improvement exist if you already have a workplace wellbeing strategy or use some wellbeing support tools.
  • What other businesses in your industry are offering. Companies that team members have joined after leaving you or that you're competing with for the same talent are great places to look.

2.    Using data to sell the idea across the business

Unless you're the CEO pushing for the development of a workplace wellbeing strategy, you'll likely need to do a lot of managing upwards and selling of the idea before you get the go-ahead. You'll need to ensure you get the necessary support, budget, and resources to deliver an effective programme, too.

The best way to do this is by using your internal data. This approach is far more desirable than using industry benchmarks; you’re trying to create a bespoke strategy tailored to your team and business, after all!

If you use HR software in your business, it will be easy to gather the data you need. Valuable datasets to gather when developing your workplace wellbeing strategy include:

  • Sickness and absence records, including sickness rates, patterns, and reasons for absence. If you already have an occupational health programme, you can quickly identify if anything about your work environment directly leads to increased absence rates.
  • Employee demographics are always helpful to consider. For example, the workplace wellbeing needs of a parent of two young children in their early 40s will differ from those of a recent graduate.
  • Evidence from any existing or previous initiatives, like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) or other services you have previously offered or considered introducing.
  • Outcomes of employee engagement surveys, if you conduct them.
  • Exit surveys from people who have left the business, if you conduct them.

These sources should give you a significant body of evidence and insight from which you can start to develop your workplace wellbeing strategy.

3.    Developing the strategy itself

When you have presented your case for a workplace wellbeing strategy – and hopefully got the go-ahead to do it – you can start to develop the strategy itself.

You will need to think about the below.

The objectives of your workplace wellbeing strategy

Are you looking to address a specific element of employee wellbeing, or do you want to provide a generalised offer to your team? You may have one umbrella objective or several smaller objectives that consider different strands of what you want your strategy to be.

Logistics, including budgets, resource requirements, and accountability

How much funding can you commit to developing your strategy, and what internal and external resources are required to deliver it? You should also clarify who is responsible for delivering your workplace wellbeing program and ensure everyone in your team knows what's expected.

What success looks like

How will you measure the success of your workplace wellbeing strategy, and what would success itself look like? Think about the datasets you will use to sell the idea of introducing a workplace wellbeing strategy. For example, reducing absence or employee turnover by a certain percentage is a measurable potential goal of your strategy.

Knowing the metrics you'll measure will help you:

  • Justify your spending
  • Give you a tangible return on investment figure
  • Help you identify and change things that aren't working so well or seeing high engagement

What initiatives you will include in your workplace wellbeing strategy

The fun part! What are you actually going to offer? The best approach is often to start small and then add other features later. For example, if your research overwhelmingly pointed to two or three things your employees are looking for, focus on these first. Once your employees are engaging with your program, you can add other features in a few months. Such an approach also means your offer keeps evolving and always has something new for your teams to take advantage of.

Whether you will deliver initiatives in-house or with partners

Depending on what you're going to offer, you might need to partner with a health insurer, wellbeing partner, or another third party. Look at how you can engage with local providers to deliver your wellbeing program. Equally, don't be scared to look globally if that's what's needed to help you achieve your objectives.

4.    Launching your workplace wellbeing strategy

When you’re ready to launch your workplace wellbeing strategy, you need to make a big deal about it! Don't just send an email around saying, "By the way, this is now part of your employment package."

Things you can do include:

  • Hosting a launch event where you invite external providers to highlight what they’re offering and how it can benefit your teams.
  • Identifying workplace "champions" who take the lead in promoting the wellbeing program in-house. For example, if you're a larger business with multiple departments, each department could have its own launch event to complement the larger one.
  • Using case studies to highlight examples of positive change within companies or reported by individuals from using the services offered within your workplace wellbeing program.
  • Sending regular internal communications highlighting the services on offer.
  • Sharing success stories resulting from using your workplace wellbeing program, if the individuals concerned are happy to do so.

5.    Remember, workplace wellbeing isn’t a “one and done” deal!

The biggest mistake you can make is implementing a workplace wellbeing strategy and thinking "job done."

What will truly make your program a success is continually evaluating what's working, what isn't, and evolving your strategy according to your employees' needs. Avoid becoming complacent even if your internal surveys show increasing levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction. You can still do even more and add or tweak new initiatives to your wellbeing strategy. Don't stand still, or you'll quickly be left behind!

Tie in your workplace wellbeing strategy with other initiatives

While adopting a workplace wellbeing strategy is undoubtedly worthwhile, it can also be hard work and put an additional burden on team members already working extremely hard. One option might be to choose an "off the shelf" solution, such as an EAP administered by a third party. Alternatively, you may look at ways to combine your workplace wellbeing initiatives with other benefits, like international health insurance if you work cross-border or have a significant expat workforce.

What will your workplace wellbeing strategy look like? If you already have one, how could it evolve to become even better?

By Priya Vijay

Priya since her joining has been driving the people and culture agenda to make NHI a great place to work by creating a high performing organization by investing in talent to meet the ever changing demands of the business.

See Priya Vijay's profile