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Wellbeing Blog



June 26, 2019

Wellbeing on a Budget: 5 strategies to improve the employee experience with limited resources

It’s a common misconception that stellar wellbeing and engagement strategies require large investments. We work with many small groups (and larger groups with very small budgets) that have made impressive changes to their employees’ self-reported wellbeing and workplace satisfaction with little or no additional budget. Many of the things employees are looking for from their employer with regard to supporting their wellbeing and improving the workplace experience don’t cost a dime –  a sense of comradery with teammates, recognition for their contributions, opportunities to give back and be involved in the community, and the like. Even wants such as improved access to resources to support individual wellbeing can be addressed in some capacity with a limited budget.

Here are some of our favorite avenues for ramping up wellbeing on a budget:

Ensure Leadership Support

According to Gallup research, managers are responsible for up to 70% of employee wellbeing, making them the largest and most critical piece of the wellbeing puzzle. Leaders and managers at all levels should be held accountable for being supportive of their direct reports’ needs. Encouraging regular breaks, supporting them in the event of an emergency, taking interest in their personal and professional growth, and keeping things like gossip and politics within their department to a minimum will go a VERY long way for the overall wellbeing of your employees.

Establish an Enthusiastic Network of Leaders for Wellbeing

If you sit in HR or have been tasked by leadership to run a wellbeing program by yourself, you know it can be challenging to keep it afloat on your own. Building out a network of employees to help will ensure that initiatives are disseminated across the entire organization, give more people a voice in what is implemented and keep things fresh without putting all the responsibility on just one person for ideas. The keys to a great committee are diversity and self-selection. A diverse committtee with employees from all levels, departments and locations, as well as, who bring a variety of experiences and opinions is key. Self-selection is pretty straightforward; you want people who actually want to be there running your strategy. Putting out a call for interested parties or allowing nominations may yield better results than simply delegating who these employees are.

Once your members are selected, it’s important to unite everyone with a shared purpose (e.g., our job is to implement initiatives that enhance the employee experience) and clarify specific roles and responsibilities for each member. For example, at your first committee meeting each employee might decide how they want to contribute to the group. Perhaps someone will take meeting minutes each time you reconvene, while another will be responsible for sending out communications to the rest of the organization or setting up events. It’s also important to designate a chairperson for the committee who can act as the messenger to senior leadership, helping keep leaders current on upcoming initiatives and getting approval for special events or funding.

Take Inventory of Your Resources

You will likely be surprised at the amount of resources that are available for your employees at no cost. A great place to start is your medical carrier. Many carriers have now created wellbeing toolkits with turnkey communications you can utilize to promote programs through their portal. Things like health coaching, gym discounts, disease management programs, or educational content or corporate challenges might already be available to you.

Next, check in with your Employee Assistance Program and 401K provider. Many of these vendors offer free on-site seminars, virtual webcasts, online programs and templates to help with communication pieces.

Community resources are also plentiful. Places like local health departments, American Heart Association chapters or local universities may offer free educational resources, on-site services or community events that you can promote to employees.

Lastly, the amount of free online resources is mind-boggling, so never underestimate the potential of a good old-fashioned Google search.

Tap into No-Incentive-Needed Activities

Many employers will pour truckloads of cash into incentives to motivate their employees to participate in various activities. And while it’s true that we all love free stuff, incentives don’t necessarily lead to better outcomes, and in many cases they are not necessary for impactful initiatives. For example, hosting a healthy potluck lunch, an employee spirit week or a March Madness contest are all activities that can show you care about building morale and bringing a sense of fun into the workplace without spending a dime.

Perhaps the most impactful initiative with inherent reward that you can set into motion is employee recognition programs. Setting up a peer-to-peer recognition system can be as simple as a “props” bulletin board where people can share kind notes about their coworkers. You could also do a monthly “shout outs” e-newsletter. While recognition programs can be sweetened with rewards, recognition in itself meets our basic human need to feel useful and appreciated.  

Be a Launch Pad for Employees to Self-Organize

Sometimes, the best thing to do is keep it simple. In general, most people want to pursue their hobbies and interests. They also want to feel connected to their team and their employer. Providing a way for employees to self-organize various meet-up groups, book clubs, sports teams, etc. takes virtually all administrative work off your plate and enables people to do what they want. Whether it’s a bowling league, hiking club, wine tasting group or cat lovers who eat sushi together once a month, all you’ve got to do is give them a way to find each other.

For further detail and additional tips on launching a low-budget wellbeing strategy, click here to view our recent webinar, Wellbeing for Small and Mid-Size Businesses on a Budget, presented by Amy Howell and Anna Panzarella.


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