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As Americans have become more health conscious, wellness programs have become a must-have benefit for any company looking to attract and retain quality talent. In fact, 87 percent of job seekers say health and wellness packages play into their employment decisions. For a little more than a third of millennials and Gen. Z-ers, wellness programs are a top priority in the job search.

In response to this demand, 20 percent of companies increased their wellness offerings between 2018 and 2019, according to SHRM. As wellness programs become commonplace — 58 percent of employers offer general wellness programs, according to that same SHRM report — quality of program becomes the key differentiator.

It’s no longer enough to offer a wellness program. Yours needs to be a step above the rest if it is to stand out in a competitive talent market. Simply subsidizing a gym membership isn’t going to cut it. Today’s job seekers expect more.

Here are five ways to give your wellness benefits a boost:

1. Focus on the Whole Person

There’s more to wellness than physical exercise, and your wellness program needs to account for that. Does your program support employees’ mental health as well as their physical health?

Eighteen percent of US workers report having a mental health condition in any given month, and those are just the ones we know about. Consider, too, the many others who may suffer from anxiety and stress brought on by work but might not consider these to be “mental health” conditions.

Given this reality, offering a wellness program that includes yoga, meditation, and other stress-reduction techniques can be a huge benefit to your employees and your employer brand. Not only do mental wellness benefits help lower your workers’ risk of developing stress-related illnesses, but they also demonstrate that your company values its employees as people, not just productive cogs in a machine.

2. Make Wellness a Team Sport

Sometimes, people need a little encouragement or friendly competition to stay on track with their wellness goals or make lifestyle changes stick. By providing or at least encouraging group wellness activities, organizations can both motivate employees to leverage their programs and promote more team cohesion. Easy options include starting an office softball league, running a 30-day push up challenge, or offering group yoga as a mid-morning activity.

Employees who play together also work better together. These team wellness activities can foster camaraderie and collaboration, and they can give employees a chance to brainstorm and have important conversations outside of high-pressure office environments.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Train HR Staff to Offer Stress Check-Ins

One of the biggest issues when it comes to mental wellness is that employees are often afraid to talk about their challenges, whether they be diagnosed conditions or simply work-related stress. Creating an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their struggles can help employees realize they’re not alone and see the company truly does care about their well-being.

Offering stress check-ins is a great way to raise awareness of work-related mental health issues and even help solve them. Train your HR staff on how to recognize stress and support employees struggling with it, and then set up a system whereby employees can make appointments with HR staff when they want to talk. In some cases, the solution may be an easy fix, like a temporary staffing reassignment to help alleviate someone’s workload. Even if an employee’s challenges are beyond the scope of the HR department, simply having the option to talk about their problems can make a huge difference in employee morale.

4. Make It Flexible

Many companies offer free or subsidized gym memberships, but often these benefits are limited to one or two local gyms. Unfortunately, that can preclude remote workers, employees who travel for work, or even employees with long commutes from taking advantage of this valuable benefit.

At the very least, consider offering reimbursement for gym memberships of an employee’s choice. You could also look into programs that offer access to a network of gyms, rather than picking a few gyms in isolation. Either way, this flexibility allows your employees to work toward their wellness goals on terms that work for them.

5. Offer Rewards

Positive reinforcement is a strong motivator, and plenty of evidence shows that rewards and incentives can boost employee participation in wellness programs. By offering tangible incentives like cash bonuses, concert tickets, and other perks, companies have seen wellness program participation rates jump by an average of 20 percentage points. These incentives also have the added bonus of showing prospective employees your company is truly committed to supporting employee wellness.

It’s a job seeker’s market, so it’s no surprise companies are ratcheting up their benefits packages in order to attract and retain top talent. With wellness programs becoming one of the key factors in candidates’ employment decisions, companies must be sure to deliver programs that truly meet the high expectations of prospective employees.

Paul O’Reilly-Hyland is CEO and founder of Zeamo.

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