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November 16, 2023

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Workplace Health and Wellness: 5 Tips for Leaders

Five research-backed strategies to implement.

Key takeaways
  • Regular check-ins improve employee engagement while shedding light on job satisfaction, stress levels and more.
  • Work-life balance and wellness initiatives are essential building blocks for employee well-being with proven health benefits.
  • Ergonomic equipment and other safety enhancements help prevent chronic health issues and injuries.

Workplace health and wellness are paramount in today's corporate landscape. It's not just about ensuring employees stay healthy; it's also about bolstering the organization's bottom line. Higher rates of health and wellness can support recruitment and retention efforts, promote employee job satisfaction and performance and reduce health coverage costs.

Whether or not you are a Human Resources executive, leaders set the tone for company culture. This means leaders play a crucial role in promoting a healthy workplace, from implementing regulations and support services to encouraging and monitoring the participation and effort of all departments and roles. In this article, we'll explore five quick and valuable tips to help achieve better health and wellness.

TIP #1 - Schedule engagement activities

The goal behind improving employee health and wellness is ultimately a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. But to achieve that, employees must be engaged in their work environment. 

Unfortunately, U.S. employee engagement rates dropped from 36% in 2020 to 32% in 2022, attributed to factors such as unclear expectations, fewer learning opportunities and feeling less cared about at work.1 Frequent check-ins for long-term and fresh hires are vital for addressing many of these engagement issues. Unlike annual or quarterly performance reviews, regular check-ins allow employees to voice questions and receive more feedback, something which 65% desire more of.2 Feedback and empathy make employees feel cared for and valued within their organization, thereby increasing engagement and motivation. A sudden increase in the frequency of meetings on your direct reports’ calendars may induce unnecessary anxiety. So, be sure to tee up the added touch bases by letting your team know that you want to open up lines of communication and have more informal conversations to hear and address their points. 

Check-ins, company culture surveys, and 1:1s are also valuable tools for leaders collecting KPI data as they shed light on job satisfaction rates, employee stress levels and other health and wellness factors. These check-ins are also an opportunity for goal setting, which helps identify areas employees are interested in learning and building their careers within your organization.

Beyond wellness KPIs, engagement directly impacts key cost areas like performance and retention. For example, research from Gallup shows that highly engaged employees are 14% more productive than those with lower engagement levels and that unengaged employees cost their companies 18% of their annual salary.3 According to another Gallup report, businesses with highly engaged employees experience 18% (high turnover industries) to 43% (low turnover industries) lower annual turnover rates.4

TIP #2 - Implement useful benefits

The key word here is "useful." Introducing a health and wellness program that is not adopted is a waste of money and not beneficial for employees. A functional health and wellness plan that employees capitalize on helps reduce absenteeism, healthcare costs and turnover rates. According to a 2023 survey report by Gympass, which covered wellness programs across 2,000 HR leaders, 90% of those tracking ROI had positive wellness returns, and 78% have seen a reduction in healthcare costs.5

Every wellness plan will look different based on the company type and size and the employee's needs, and leaders must take the time to determine what works. Implementing the right wellness program can involve various elements, though some of the most common aspects are physical fitness, nutrition, preventative care and mental health resources. From membership subsidies and telehealth support to workshops and at-home health testing, flexible options exist for creating the right program. 

Powered by imaware offers a white-label at-home health testing service that partners can customize to provide their users, like customers, patients, employees, clients, and participants, with critical health insights that support their health and wellness journey.

To encourage success, designate a program leader to oversee not only the development of the workplace wellness plan but also the management and re-assessment of it over time. 

TIP #3 - Protect work-life balance

By introducing work-life balance initiatives to your company, you can help safeguard employee health and productivity. 

To test that theory, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Penn State University recently studied the effect of work-life balance on employee heart health. Researchers confirmed that mitigating work-life conflicts reduced the cardiometabolic risk scores (CRS) among more vulnerable employees over 12 months without any negative impact on their productivity.6

However, advocating for personal needs or maintaining boundaries between work and home life can be difficult for employees. To provide support, leaders must make work-life balance part of company culture.  One way to institute this is to offer flexible work arrangements, like hybrid work models or adjustable schedules, that help employees be present for work and other life demands.7

Another method is establishing rules around the utilization of vacation days. Workers are not taking enough time off to recharge; in 2018, U.S. employees accumulated an astounding 768 million days of unused paid time off (PTO).8 Whether due to staffing concerns, the warrior mentality, or simply not unplugging during breaks, this lack of time off leads to employees becoming increasingly burnt out. An enforced minimum amount of vacation days ensures employees take the necessary time to support their well-being and refresh their productivity. 

A good work-life balance culture supports employee health and wellness, acts as a recruitment tool and fosters higher productivity. Start by empowering managers to facilitate their teams’ basic needs and boundaries with established core hours, optional flexibility, and mandatory time-off usage.

TIP #4 - Foster a supportive environment

Around 76% of employees have struggled with their mental health, according to a poll conducted by Harris Poll,9 yet most do not seek support as they would for other health concerns. This affects their health and wellness and costs your company as well — 62% of missed workdays are linked to mental health.10 For every dollar invested in mental health, there can be a $2 to $4 return in saved treatment costs.11

Employee mental health can also impact physical health. According to certain studies, employees with untreated mental health conditions have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular issues like heart disease or stroke.121314 In the U.S., heart disease is one of the most costly and common chronic conditions for employers.

In an ideal world, all companies would offer Employee Assistance Programs, health plans with mental health coverage, resiliency training, generous leave policies, wellness stipends, mental health days and third-party tools like Headspace or Calm for Business to combat burnout and absenteeism. In lieu of those benefits, leaders need to be willing to seek out and instill other mental health strategies to support employees.15

In a 2021 Mental Health at Work Report by Mind Share Partners, over 50% of respondents claimed to have left a job for mental health reasons, and their most desired resource in the workplace was an open culture about mental health.16 Leaders should consider creating a stigma-free zone where employees can share mental health concerns, discuss topics like emotional wellness and access established channels for seeking help.

TIP #5 - Refresh safety measures

A healthy workplace must be a safe one. Reinforce and refresh safety protocols regularly, including the less obvious but no less helpful safety measures within physical workspaces. The value of proper ergonomic equipment is often overlooked.

Ergonomics involves studying people within their work environments and designing tools that help them be more efficient or prevent certain injuries.17 Creating ergonomic workspaces for in-person and remote workers is a big way to support better health and wellness. Naturally, different jobs require different tools, so leaders should consider their employees' specific needs and tasks. Certain employees, for example, may benefit from ergonomic desk equipment like chairs with proper lumbar support, keyboards and mice that support wrists and hands, or moveable monitors with glare guards. 

Ignoring the basics of ergonomics in the workplace can cause serious Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other chronic injuries among your workforce,18 leading to severe and costly long-term effects — in 2018, around 30% of missed work days were attributed to MSD cases.19

Providing resources and information for workers to create the safest workspace for them not only protects employees but impacts overall wellness, performance and costs. 


Workplace health and wellness are not just buzzwords; they are integral to the success of any organization. Strengthened employee well-being can help improve the organization's productivity and overall performance. And company-wide, leaders must lead by example. Demonstrate commitment to workplace health and wellness by actively participating in engagement activities, following safety measures, utilizing wellness programs, maintaining work-life balance and fostering an open environment about mental health. 

Leaders are pivotal in ensuring a healthy, happy and productive workforce. By following these five tips, leaders can prioritize employee wellness, create healthier work environments and ultimately contribute to the success of organizations.


  1. Gallup. U.S. Employee Engagement Needs a Rebound in 2023. Accessed October 16, 2023. 
  2. Forbes. 65% of Employees Want More Feedback (So Why Don’t They Get It?). Accessed October 16, 2023.  
  3. Gallup. Increase Productivity at the Lowest Possible Cost. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  4. Gallup. Employee Engagement vs. Employee Satisfaction and Organizational Culture. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  5. Gympass. The Return on Wellbeing Study. Accessed October 16, 2023. 
  6. The Harvard Gazette. Benefits of work-life balance extend to heart health, study suggests. Accessed November 13, 2023.
  7. Gartner. Digital Workers Say Flexibility Is Key to Their Productivity. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  8. Deloitte Insights. The disconnect disconnect. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  9. American Heart Association CEO Roundtable. Mental Health: Highlighted Findings. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  10. Unum. Strong Mind at Work: The 2019 Unum Mental Health Report. Accessed October 16, 2023. 
  11. American Heart Association CEO Roundtable. Mental Health: Key Insights. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  12. Kaiser Permanente. Mental health in the workplace — and the cost of staying silent. Accessed October 16, 2023. 
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease and Mental Health Disorders. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  14. MedicalNewsToday. Mental illness linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  15. American Heart and Stroke Association. Cardiovascular Diseases Affect Employers. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  16. Mind Share Partners. Mind Share Partners 2021 Mental Health at Work Report. Accessed October 16, 2023.  
  17. The University of North Carolina. Ergonomics. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  19. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities. Accessed October 16, 2023.

Mairi Sutherland

Mairi is a content strategist with a passion for imaware’s partner and patient outcomes, translating digital health trends for your business.

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