Essential Elements of Employee Well-Being

Published on July 09, 2019

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Essential Elements of Employee Well-Being

Employers can put programs in place to alleviate struggles their employees have in balancing work, personal life, and overall well-being. Nicole D’Uva, director of Adventist HealthCare LifeWork Strategies, offers suggestions on what a successful well-being program should have in place. After all, investing in employee well-being pays dividends over time in productivity, engagement and may reduce healthcare costs. 


The number one thing that’s so important, says D’Uva, is to garner support from executive leadership. “When you have buy-in to create a culture of well-being, the message of well-being flows from the top down. It sends the message that you as a person are important to the organization.”

This type of culture gives employees autonomy to take care of themselves, she explains. “The employee now realizes that their health and well-being are important not only to them and their family but also to their employer. With this approach, we give the employee permission to take care of themselves and create a greater sense of well-being.”


D’Uva advises employers to take a “whole person approach” that focuses on several dimensions of well-being. “Instead of focusing only on the physical aspect of well-being; we can also focus on mental health, nutrition, spiritual and financial well-being,” she explains.

With that approach, employers make the program feel individualized to the employee, D’Uva says. “It’s no longer ‘one-size-fits-all’, but instead a ‘one-size-fits-one’ approach.”


Employee well-being programs typically use either a “carrot or stick mentality,” says D’Uva. “They either incentivize — which is to reward employees for their participation. Or they have a stick mentality — if you don’t participate, there is a negative consequence.”

She advises using positive incentives — with rewards that are meaningful to employees. “Those rewards will depend on the culture of the organization,” she explains. “What is meaningful to one group of employees may be different for another group. Earning additional paid time off would incentivize a large number of employees, as would complementary fitness memberships.”

Benefit premiums are often the focus of these incentive programs, but she advises a new approach. “Why not offer discounted benefit premiums if employees participate, instead of adding a surcharge to increase the cost of benefits if they don’t participate?” says D’Uva. “It’s all about putting a positive spin on the incentive. It’s more effective to provide reward rather than implement punitive measures.”


A tightly focused program will have the highest efficacy, says D’Uva. “When employers decide to create a well-being program, they often make the mistake of creating one that is too broad,” she explains. “They believe this will give them the greatest return on investment. But, it actually confuses the employee.”

While it’s important to address the whole person, you don’t want to overcomplicate the message.

By simplifying the program’s annual focus, the messaging to employees will also be simpler, she points out, which also improves overall results. Remember, in subsequent years you can address additional aspects of well-being. “You should develop a multi-year strategy to address individual aspects of the overall well-being program,” she advises.


Getting buy-in from employees is critical, D’Uva says. To ensure success, identify the ‘champions’ among your employees, she advises. “These are leaders (not necessarily managers) who fellow employees will follow,” she says. “They are passionate about the well-being program and will share their enthusiasm with their peers.”

The ‘power’ of these employees lies in the ability to encourage others to participate, which is extremely important, she adds.


Too often, employers implement a well-being program and expect to see their health plan spending drop immediately, says D’Uva. “That’s just not realistic. Patience is necessary, as this is a process that requires monitoring results over five to 10 years. That is how you will see a return on investment.” Review health plan spending per employee per month and monitor your expenses, she advises.

There’s another aspect to the results — the employee’s perceived value of the well-being program, D’Uva points out. “If the employee feels greater support and understanding from the employer, this will result in higher levels of employee engagement and retention.”

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