Employee happiness is subjective. Which is why building a happy company culture can be so difficult at times. No matter how much effort you put into redecorating, providing snacks, or increasing in-office games; there’s always going to be somebody that isn’t adjusting.

Nonetheless, building company culture doesn’t just have to be limited to the office. Vacation days, family leave, and other programs that focus on the personal well-being of employees can all contribute to a company’s culture.

In our rather sedentary office life, one major way to make an impact with our employees is to incorporate an employee wellness program.

Since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, businesses that provide wellness programs to their employees receive reduced group premiums from their insurance provider. These wellness programs can vary from yearly health screenings, gym memberships, on campus exercise equipment, to incentive programs. However, businesses shouldn’t consider the financial break as the only benefit these programs bring.

Employee wellness programs work, and they can create and foster a healthy lifestyle for all employees without restricting them to the office. When looking at the different options available, and their success rate, culture experts can’t help but wonder why more businesses aren’t providing this option for employees. When employee health and happiness is put foremost in the company model, everything else benefits in response.

How wellness programs work

A common theme behind company culture trends is often rooted in our country’s epidemic with disengaged employees. According to research collected by Villanova University, only 30% of the American workforce is “engaged” at work, while 52% are not engaged nor inspired, and 18% are actively disengaged while at work. This lack of engagement leads to lost profits from lack of productivity and employee turnover.

Creating a strong and appealing company culture can help combat this engagement crisis within a business. It’s the whole reason why culture is at the forefront of many HR and business leaders’ minds.

When it comes to wellness programs, company culture is not the only aspect that will benefit from a sudden emphasis on health. Employees will undoubtedly find solace in creating and maintaining healthy habits, all while increasing their mood and pride in the company that supports their transformation.

In addition, exercise provides a healthy outlet for employees that are constantly exposed to severe stress. Over time, mental stress can create serious physical health issues, and exercise is an easy way to provide an efficient outlet. This, in turn, will improve employee happiness.

When employees are happy, so are businesses. Some of the happiest employees come from businesses like Google, Intuit, and Salesforce; all of which place increased emphasis on employee well-being and a fluid work-life balance.

These businesses are also some of the fastest growing, and often see skyrocketing success in their industry. Whether that is through condensed work days or increased family leave; these businesses place their employee’s needs first and everyone wins because of it.

Creating employee health programs not only help workers feel better about their health, but it also shows them that their business cares about their health and that the company’s culture is focused on their comfort and happiness. Employees, in turn, will want to stay longer and will care more about the company’s success.

Building a program

Employee health and wellness programs have very vague guidelines, so as to allow businesses the flexibility they need to choose the right option for their staff.

According to the guidelines set by the Affordable Care Act and HIPAA: “There are two types of health-contingent wellness programs: activity-only and outcome-based. Activity-only programs require an individual to perform or complete an activity related to a health factor in order to obtain a reward.

Examples are a walking, diet or exercise program. Outcome-based programs require an individual to attain or maintain a specific health outcome (such as not smoking or attaining certain results on biometric screenings) in order to obtain a reward.”

Some of the best options are those that allow employees to determine their own health path. Providing a variety of options for employees is also a great way to build a more inclusive culture, as it makes everyone feel more comfortable and happy and less limited by any potential health obstacles. Whether that is through gym memberships or by providing fitness trackers or applications, such as the Fitbit, it can help employees find the right method to meet their needs.

Fitness trackers have a powerful and long-lasting impact on users. As Arizona State University explains, fitness trackers are easy to use and often provide access to additional information. They not only collect health information but also provide educational opportunities.

They have also begun to make their way into telemedicine; providing doctors with quick access to their patient’s current condition. For employers, fitness trackers allow them an easy opportunity to hold employees accountable, without interfering on their health privacy.

The Wall Street Journal also recommends some alternative options: everything from an improved selection of snacks to offering free health assessments. Although these programs may often seem expensive, even small businesses with limited budgets can help their employees achieve a better and healthier lifestyle through minor adjustments. The options don’t have to be big to make a tremendous difference on the company and its employees.

Fostering health and wellness

Businesses that place employee wellness and happiness first are sure to see overall turnover decrease and employee engagement increase. Inclusive wellness programs help foster a happier culture, and can help reduce sick days that may result from intense overexposure to stress or lack of exercise. This cycle results in better work and increased dedication to the company, something every business needs in our current age.

It’s a cyclical system — promoting health, cultivating employee wellness, and increasing profits — that can help many businesses succeed. The only catch is to invest in employee health. Through time, the evidence of how well these programs work will eventually prove itself.

Katie McBeth

Katie McBeth is a freelance writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. She spends her free time being the mother of three cats and a dog named Toby. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter @ktmcbeth