Remote & Async Work 10 min

Guide to remote employee wellness programs

Written by Amanda Day
December 28, 2023
Amanda Day


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With the rise of remote work in recent years, employers need to think of new ways to cultivate healthy company cultures and work environments for their globally dispersed teams. 

Creating an employee wellness program is an excellent way to help employees thrive. However, it can be difficult to know how to implement wellness programs when in-person activities are off the table. Remote employee wellness is a hot topic in the virtual work world, as it is shown to bring many benefits to employees and businesses alike. 

In this guide, you’ll learn what employee wellness is, the benefits of employee wellness programs, types of virtual wellness activities, and how to create an employee wellness program to cultivate a supportive remote work environment for your employees.

What is an employee wellness program?

Employee wellness in the workplace can be fostered by employer-provided programs and activities designed to promote and support employees’ physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Employee wellness programs often specifically address common health concerns associated with working, including increased risks of cardiovascular problems, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, as well as mental health issues like stress, burnout, and depression.

Employee wellness programs are designed to help both employees and employers alike. Work-related health problems will negatively impact both parties. Employers implement these programs with the understanding that healthy employees are happy employees, and are more productive and engaged.

Proactive support plans cultivate long-term employee retention, and increase revenue for businesses. Additionally, taking a proactive approach on employee health reduces long-term costs of employer-provided health plans.

Overall, employee wellness may be improved by programs, activities, benefits, and policies that:

  • Improve the physical, mental, and emotional health of employees

  • Reduce the risk of health problems for employees

  • Minimize employee healthcare costs

Wellness programs can include a wide variety of activities such as free health coaching, mental health counseling, workplace health fairs, stress management assistance, fitness programs, educational courses, and more. 

Additionally, employee wellness can be promoted through healthy workplace policies like flexible working hours, mental health days, meeting-free days, and other policies that allow a healthy work-life balance. Even some employer-provided benefits like comprehensive health care plans, free medical screenings, and yearly health stipends classify as employee wellness initiatives. 

As most employee wellness activities traditionally consisted of in-person events like health fairs, campus gyms, and on-site counselors, employers may have a hard time starting virtual employee health initiatives. 

While some employers may choose to forgo these initiatives altogether, the reality is that a healthy remote work culture is just as important as in-person work culture. Thus, it’s essential for employers to implement wellness initiatives remotely.

The impact of employee well-being

Supporting employee well-being through wellness programs has a major impact on employees, businesses, and workplaces:

Improves employee morale

Having supportive employee wellness programs can significantly improve employee morale. Employee morale affects the outlook, satisfaction, and confidence that employees experience in the workplace. 

A company’s wellness program may directly impact morale by improving employees’ health. With improved health, work-life balance, supportive resources, and company culture that come from wellness programs, employees are likely to be happier. 

With happier employees, businesses also reap the benefits of increased productivity and revenue. High employee morale also results in lower burnout rates and higher employee retention, reducing the long-term costs of employment. 

Increases employee engagement

Implementing employee wellness programs also increases employee engagement. Employee engagement improves when stress and burnout levels are low, which can be achieved through employee wellness initiatives. For example, employees can stay motivated by setting goals to improve health and scheduling breaks.

Wellness initiatives can look like stress management counseling, flexible working hours, supportive leadership, and other activities that help employees manage their work lives. Healthier and happier employees cultivate better relationships with others, and vice versa. Having improved relationships with managers and co-workers allows employees to be more engaged in the workplace. 

Positively supports mental health

Employee wellness programs often offer mental health support and resources like free counseling, mental health days, online courses, and other benefits to keep employees’ minds healthy. 

The physical health initiatives in employee wellness programs can equally improve mental health. Research shows that mental health and physical health are correlated, so targeting these areas leads to happier and healthier individuals. 

As a poor work-life balance can be one of the leading factors for declining mental health, it’s essential for employers to prevent this from being the case. Wellness programs help keep employees happier, stay with their companies longer, and complete higher-quality work.

7 employee wellness program ideas for your remote team

It’s clear that employee wellness programs can have a huge impact on employees. However, how do you implement wellness initiatives for your globally dispersed team? Here are some simple yet effective wellness ideas for remote employees that any employer can incorporate into their employee benefits wellness program.

Virtual yoga classes

When you think of fitness classes, you might first think of in-person ones, but virtual fitness classes are now more abundant than ever. For remote teams, providing free, virtual fitness classes can be a great way to promote employee health. 

Yoga classes in particular are a great offering, as they are more accessible to all kinds of fitness levels. Experts also report yoga can greatly improve stress levels, mood, and energy. These remote wellness activities can connect employees through non-work socializing, which is especially beneficial for those who work from virtual offices all day.  

Online book clubs

Another affordable virtual activity is creating online book clubs. Book clubs are an excellent way for employees to socialize, build community, and have fun. With book clubs, employees are able to connect in meaningful ways that aren’t related to work, which in turn helps them work well together during work hours. 

Additionally, book clubs can be educational. Employees can potentially learn about physical health, healthy habits, reducing burnout, and setting goals that are applicable to their work lives.

Happy hours

While in-person happy hours used to be more common, virtual happy hours have become more popular for remote teams. With various employee health concerns in mind, happy hours don’t have to involve drinking alcohol. Rather, employers might pay for employee take-out meals to be enjoyed virtually over a group video call. 

Virtual activities that allow employees to have fun and enjoy each other’s company are a great way to cultivate healthy relationships and remote team wellness.

Flexible hours for work

One of the most impactful employee wellness initiatives is providing flexible working hours. Luckily, implementing flexible working hours is easier with remote work. Allowing your employees room to take breaks for family time, fun activities, and for personal issues can go a long way in supporting their well-being. 

Having a better work-life balance also increases one’s overall quality of life, creating a positive cycle of happier employees, greater productivity, and improved retention. 

Free therapy sessions

Providing free therapy as a part of your employee wellness program is a powerful way to improve employees’ mental health. Therapy sessions can be expensive, so this can be a huge benefit. Therapy is an excellent tool to better manage stress, improve relationships, increase confidence, and overall boost one’s mental health. 

With therapy sessions, employees can block time to focus on themselves. Connecting with therapists who specialize in LGBTQ+ issues, neurodivergence, and other categories can be great for diverse employees.

Stipends for healthy eating

Another wellness idea for remote workers is to provide stipends for healthy eating. Unfortunately, high-quality foods can be expensive and not accessible to everyone. Providing a stipend for nourishing foods can solve this problem. Healthy foods can help employees feel more energized, mitigate health risks, and improve mental health.

Mental health days

An increasingly common employee wellness provision is paid mental health days. These days of absence allow employees to rest and focus on themselves when they need it. 

Employers can offer relaxation and stress management techniques along with counseling resources so employees can maximize this time. To make this policy effective, mental health days should be allowed and encouraged with no questions asked.

How virtual wellness activities can benefit your team

These virtual activities are just a few examples of employee wellness initiatives that can benefit your employees. Virtual wellness activities can also benefit your entire team as a whole. Employees can improve teamwork because they have better morale, work-life balance, health, and confidence that come from wellness programs. 

This is because healthy minds and bodies allow us to cultivate better relationships, be more productive, and be more engaged in our work and with others. Supporting healthy teams creates a positive cycle of employee bonding, increased productivity, and improved confidence from reaching team goals. 

In order to emphasize team wellness, employers can implement team-based wellness programs. This might include team challenges, social activities, incentivized team goals, and group meals to build wellness together. 

Supporting inter-team relationships in turn benefits employers by cultivating a better company culture, increasing productivity, growing revenue, encouraging creativity, and retaining employees for longer. 

How to implement a virtual employee wellness program

There are numerous ways for employers to implement virtual employee wellness programs for their remote employees. However, in order to receive the benefits of wellness activities, employers should create adequate strategies for creating, promoting, and supporting these initiatives. 

Here are some steps all employers should consider when crafting their remote wellness programs:

  1. Assess employee needs – Take inventory of employee needs and desires to gauge what initiatives might be best. Consider collecting feedback directly from employees via surveys and one-on-one meetings.

  2. Set goals – Create goals for the outcomes of employee wellness activities, such as improved job satisfaction, increased productivity, and decreased burnout. 

  3. Select virtual activities – Choose from the wide variety of virtual wellness activities based on your employee needs and goals, as well as ones that fit your budget.

  4. Encourage participation – Encourage employees to participate through incentives, words of support, and on-the-clock blocks.

  5. Promote inclusivity – Make sure your wellness initiatives are inclusive of diverse employees such as those with physical disabilities, mental health struggles, and from marginalized groups.

  6. Prioritize company culture – To improve employee wellness, you need a supportive company culture. Rather than using wellness initiatives as a bandaid to cover a toxic work environment, employers need to prioritize building a supportive culture to realize true employee wellness.

Following these steps can put you on the path to having a healthier and happier workforce, which leads to a stronger company.

Do what you can to support your remote workers

Creating a wellness program for your remote employees is just one of many ways to cultivate a healthy virtual work environment. To learn more about promoting wellness in the workplace, check out our guide to supporting your team’s work-life balance. With this informative guide created in collaboration with Greenhouse, you will become an expert on:

  • Tactics to help you improve your employees’ work-life balance

  • Monitor the work-life balance of your virtual employees

  • Detecting the early signs of burnout or work-life imbalance

  • Making space for employees to speak up and ask for assistance

  • Strategies to avoid overwork and burnout altogether

Download our guide today to start creating a thriving, supportive company culture in your virtual workplace.

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