No industry has emerged unscathed from the pandemic, though frontline foodservice and retail organizations were acutely affected by this unprecedented disruption. Even now, as industries start to navigate the “new normal,” The Great Resignation is making it impossible for organizations to stay staffed and productive. 

To mitigate turnover, organizations need to invest in the programs and initiatives that workers desperately want and need. And, with frontline employee burnout and well-being an increasing concern, wellness programs are fast becoming a go-to for forward-thinking frontline organizations looking to retain and engage their staff. 

Let’s learn more about employee wellness programs, and how frontline organizations can prioritize employee health and well-being.

What is an employee wellness program? 

Wellness programs typically refer to initiatives that prioritize employee health and well-being. According to KFF’s annual Employer Health Benefits Survey, 81% of large companies offer at least one kind of initiative to help workers identify and address unhealthy behaviors, and 44% of those companies offer workers an incentive to participate.

The goal of these benefits is to help employees feel healthy, engaged, and supported at work. These programs can include everything from mental health initiatives and healthy eating plans to employee assistance programs and fitness credits. 

The need for frontline employee wellness programs has never been more necessary. Frontline organizations are still reeling from COVID-19 and have had to find ways to better support their staff. Due to increased workloads, operating on skeleton crews, and an uptick in volatile work situations, employees feel immense stress, increased mental health issues and risk burnout. 

Why should frontline organizations invest in employee health and well-being?

According to The Deskless Report, 49% of deskless and frontline workers feel that employee benefits/programs (including a wellness program) make them feel engaged and motivated at work. By focusing on employee health and well-being and integrating it with other rewards and recognition programs, you can drive some serious business outcomes. 

Here are 5 reasons why frontline organizations should invest in employee wellness programs:

1. Less absenteeism

The cost of productivity losses associated with absenteeism in the U.S. per employee is $1,685, or $225.8 billion annually, according to the CDC. Wellness programs can help curtail the health issues that are costing frontline organizations billions of dollars in payroll costs, talent and HR expenses and lost productivity. 

2. Increased employee engagement and morale

Employee well-being and engagement are intertwined. Employees who prioritize their well-being are almost twice as likely to be engaged and find fulfillment in their work.

Why? There are countless mental pressures in and out of the workplace that weigh heavily on each employee. These pressures can profoundly impact the ability of frontline workers to maintain focus and positive engagement with their relationships and tasks at work. Considering how disengagement is already a serious issue for most organizations (one study found that only 35% of U.S. employees feel engaged in their jobs), finding ways to boost morale is always a safe investment. 

3. Improved worker productivity 

Employees with improved well-being at work tend to show more enthusiasm on the job, execute their roles more effectively, and are more productive. These factors, when harnessed strategically, boost an organization’s bottom line. Improved wellness contributes to happier, engaged employees, impacting a company’s customer service.  

4. Reduced turnover

Nearly 36% of deskless workers want to quit. And considering turnover costs businesses nearly one-fifth of a worker’s salary, these are stats no frontline organization can afford to ignore. Luckly, one of the simplest ways to reduce turnover, disconnectivity, disengagement, and frustration is by increasing job satisfaction, and wellness programs are critical drivers of this. 

Case in point: according to this 2017 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plan, employers that create strong wellness and health cultures see 11% lower turnover than organizations who did not invest in their employee well-being. 

5. A better employer brand

Companies investing in their employees’ well-being can see great returns flow through all parts of their company, including in their employer branding. This, in turn, results in higher quality candidates, reduced turnover, and higher retention rates – all of which are critical to success during The Great Resignation. 

How to create a frontline employee wellness program 

Frontline employee wellness programs can help drive performance and increase feelings of inclusion. But they cannot just be one-size fits all. The wellness needs of a frontline worker versus a deskbound one will differ greatly. To appeal to frontline workers, employers need to fine-tune their program to meet the unique needs of their workforce. 

Here’s our 8-step plan to start building a wellness program at your frontline organization:  

1. Understand what your employees want and need

A common mistake organizations make when developing an employee wellness program is setting up initiatives without reviewing what it is their workforce actually wants. This can be done by tapping into your HR team, reviewing employee surveys, and setting up a wellness committee for ongoing consultation with frontline workers. And take the current work environment into consideration, as well. For example, during the pandemic, Walgreens began a series of mental health initiatives to help mitigate the burnout and mental health issues its employees were experiencing. The initiatives included mental health talks, meditation, even a virtual outdoor wellness walk. 

2. Identify your program goals

Like with any initiative, setting a clear goal for your wellness program is vital. Focusing on addressing one metric at a time, such as productivity, absenteeism, or turnover, can help to fine-tune your approach. Each goal should have one or more objectives, and the objectives should be clear and time-bound.

3. Choose inclusive channels for running your employee wellness program

Choosing the right communication tool or platform to run your program is an important part of the process. You want to ensure your program is easy to access for all team members. This ensures team members feel empowered – and not afraid to – engage in self-care and well-being practices at work. Embed wellness conversations throughout the organization. From weekly reminders to the promotion of events, you can encourage people to take the time they need to invest in themselves in and out of the workplace.

4. Pick your success metrics

Outline any key success metrics you’re looking to track. This will help you ensure alignment across every location. Seek out metrics that relate closely to the goals you set earlier in the process. But, don’t stop there. Collect multiple data points to get as granular as possible about the outcomes of your program. This will help you iterate and learn over time.

5. Get buy-in from your floor managers

Your frontline managers are vital to determining your team’s health, well-being, and engagement on any given day. In fact, according to Gallup, managers can account for 70% of employee engagement levels. So it’s important to engage your managers to activate enthusiastic employee participation. 

For example, when KFC began offering health and wellness programs to its franchisees, they started educating franchisees and managers on the importance of wellness programs, and encouraged these lessons to flow through to frontline workers. 

Companies can go the distance by empowering managers to develop rituals and systems that embed employee health and well-being into their teams’ day-to-day. This could be as easy as starting team huddles with a moment of mindfulness, or encouraging team members to take a short walk on breaks.

6. Gamify the process

Incentives or rewards are an essential way to encourage behavior change and boost participation in the wellness programs you run. Gamifying your wellness program can effectively drive organizational behavioral change and increase both workplace motivation and engagement. Try gamifying your frontline wellness initiatives through leaderboards, badges, or points. Then, share successes and give appropriate recognition, incentives, and rewards based on achievements and involvement. 

Did you know that Nudge has a points system baked right into our platform? Encourage friendly competition with our company-wide leaderboard!

7. Provide opportunities for community-building 

​​Employee community is a critical part of high-performing frontline teams. An environment that empowers every individual to collaborate, share information, and support each other builds strong relationships and deeper connections between all team members. Employee community can also help to strengthen your wellness program by encouraging team members to share wellness ideas, challenges, and triumphs. By fostering a community around your wellness program – and in your organization as a whole, you can increase chances of success.

8. Review program results regularly

Now that you have a program up and running, don’t forget to continue to check in, update and optimize. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage upward feedback regularly. Check in on the success metrics you outlined for your program, but also review overall participation and engagement with the program itself. Look for gaps or exclusions you missed. Ask your workers for feedback on how the program is going, and what could be improved. Keep the process flowing.

There’s never been a more opportune time to invest in a frontline employee wellness program. Even after COVID-19 passes, the needs of employees will remain the same. A wellness program can increase retention, boost engagement, and drive productivity, and help your organization reach the business outcomes it’s striving for.