How to Create a Health and Wellness Program to Reduce Stress Your team's productivity and sense of worth could depend on it.

By Nadine Greiner, Ph.D.

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Almost every company has some type of wellness program, but their effectiveness varies widely. In many cases, the programs are viewed as a box to be checked off, but you want more for your employees. You want to support them in a way that boosts productivity, increases engagement and decreases stress. When employees do not have access to the resources they need to manage their stress, it creates a feeling of helplessness. If this feeling continues over a long period of time, it can impair teamwork and lower levels of creativity and innovation. Helplessness erodes employees's self-confidence, optimism and sense of belonging and causes serotonin levels to drop.

Fortunately, when you design an effective health and wellness program, you can transform your organization. Sound appealing? Here are four steps that you can follow.

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1. Design a comprehensive EAP program.

Do you have an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP? How effective is it? If there's room for improvement, it's best to go back to the drawing board. What different services can be incorporated into your EAP program? You shouldn't try to come up with the solutions alone. Ask your employees what mental and physical challenges they are facing. Try to address as many different needs as possible and prioritize the most common ones. Consider services like career planning and financial and legal advice. Think about support for weight loss, smoking cessation, mental health and addiction. Did you know that stress is the number one reason employees access EAPs? As a leader, when you provide useful resources to combat stress, it has a ripple effect, contributing to stress decreases, productivity increases and retention increases.

2. Design a comprehensive wellness program.

Like peanut butter and jam, EAPs are complemented by EAP wellness programs. Do you have a wellness program? What does it look like? If you're less than satisfied with it, think about what an ideal wellness program looks like. You can use surveys and interviews to better understand your employees's needs. Consider fitness reimbursements, on-site gyms, health screenings, vaccination clinics, transportation reimbursements and mindfulness training. As a leader, when you develop an effective and comprehensive wellness program, it's not only a powerful recruiting tactic, but it also enables you to proactively and reactively manage stress.

3. Establish strong communication channels.

EAPs and wellness programs can become hidden secrets. You've probably experienced this yourself. You don't want to let your hard work in designing a health and wellness plan go to waste. It's important to build constant communication channels to inform employees of the details of each program and any changes that are made. Try to use a lot of channels -- including town halls, corporate FAQs, external consultants and events -- to communicate the benefits of each program and how they will make them more effective. Transparency is key. When communication is strong, engagement increases and your stress-management efforts are more effective.

Related: Employee Wellness Programs Need to Get Personal to Succeed

4. Monitor engagement and usage.

Your health and wellness program should be fluid and transforming. Employees's needs and wants can change in a heartbeat, so you need to constantly evaluate whether or not you have created effective programs. You can do this by setting up feedback channels, including interviews and surveys, for employees to voice concerns and opinions. Try to identify where challenges exist. Are programs difficult to understand? Is awareness an issue? Are certain features not valuable? Do employees want certain features? Only when you understand how effective your EAP and wellness programs are and why can you confidently evaluate whether you're helping your employees succeed.

Most importantly, take good care of yourself.

Nadine Greiner, Ph.D.

Human Resources Executive

Dr. Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. is a Human Resources executive. Her book, 'Stress-Less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and Life,' was published by Entrepreneur Press. She believes that the world needs great leaders and has dedicated her career to helping them.

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