8 Tips from World-Class Wellness Programs

There’s nothing like a generous, corporate wellness program to get bright, talented techies flocking to your company’s door. Perks might range from a discounted gym membership, onsite health center to volunteering incentives and family-centered policies. But the general idea is that such schemes attract and retain talent, and act as a competitive differentiator. According to the NCSF, these programs return $6 for every $1 spent. Healthy, happy employees are cheaper to run, after all.

Here are 8 tips to help get you started on your own wellness program inspired by the companies doing it best.

1. Think differently about HR

Innovation doesn’t have to solely reside in conventionally creative departments; it can extend to HR, too. In fact, Google refers to this as its People Operations, within which is a People & Innovation Lab (PiLab), at the intersection of HR and science. The company applies R&D to HR, whether it’s developing effective managers or getting their ‘Googlers’ to make healthy food choices. The latter can’t be so hard, especially when there are campus cafes and micro kitchens doing the nutritious thinking for them.

2. Make your employees lives easier

Speaking of free food, Zappos has tons of it. Why go grocery shopping when there’s an on-campus restaurant serving up the likes of free soup, salad and grilled cheese sandwiches 12 hours a day, seven days a week? Team building can stay on site with an outdoor basketball court and miniature golf course. You don’t even have to pop off to fulfill boring errands; you can get your dry cleaning done and oil changed too. Since there are sleep pods too, why would employees ever need to leave?

3. Make health a priority

Encouraging your employees to be healthy could come in many forms – weight watchers classes, smoking cessation classes, Zumba classes. Indiana-based Draper Inc. has all of these. But better yet, it has a Wellness Park, where employees can run round a track, work out and play volleyball. Thanks to its program, the company has picked up accolades such as the Healthiest Workplace in the US 2014.

4. Ramp up the co-worker bonding

To develop community spirit and create a positive corporate culture, having a good time and bonding is key. Financial services company Motley Fool will take any opportunity to get its ‘Fools’ together – whether its Thirsty Thursday Happy Hours, dragging the kayaks out for summer outings or even a once a month Mani-Pedi day. What better to bond than over some nail polish?

5. Incorporate good citizenship

Volunteering can ramp up a sense of meaning and engagement, which translates into good business sense. Microsoft encourages giving by generously matching employee’s donations dollar for dollar – and their time, at $25 an hour – to their chosen charity. Along with traditional volunteering opportunities, the tech giant encourages its employees to offer its talents through Hack For Good, or professional skill sharing like technology training, website design or digital strategy coaching.

6. Remember mental health

Mental health issues cost UK employers a whopping £30 billion a year through lost production, replacing staff and absenteeism, according to ACAS. US airline JetBlue offers its crew members and their families LifeSolutions, a free, confidential program helping them to deal with life issues, whether it’s beating the blues or helping to find childcare. The employee assistance program is available all day, every day, and employees can access six sessions of counselling support a year as well as a wealth of resources on the website.

7. Invest in growth

Instead of letting employees look to their next job hop for career growth, why not actively encourage and invest in it? Data analytics firm SAS has recognized the link between talent and innovation so it forks out for tuition programs, emerging leader programs and technical training to help freshen up employees’ skillsets. And the proof is in the pudding, as the company only has a staff turnover of about 4%, compared to an industry average of 15%.

8. Give your employees all the time they need

“Unlimited” is the new black when it comes to vacation allowance. For example, streaming giant Netflix’s vacation policy is “take vacation” and the firm encourages leaders to act by example for their teams and take time off themselves. The result? Fresh ideas.

Sometimes the weather is just too good, there’s an impromptu adventure on offer or you simply are not feeling up to going to work on a certain day. Well, at software company Centro, employees have ten ‘Ferris Bueller days’ on top of their vacation for just that.