Since you asked: 2023 Employee Wellness & Engagement Trends – Uncovering Insights for Success

Date: May 11, 2023

Our “Since you asked” blog series - where we answer all the questions that came in from our recent webinar on employee wellness and engagement, so you can have them all in one place.

Employee wellness in the workplace has been such an important topic in recent years. It’s something that extends beyond how people feel and directly affects company performance, productivity, and retention. According to Gallup, there are five elements of wellbeing: 

  • Career wellbeing: You like what you do every day 💼
  • Social wellbeing: You have meaningful friendships in your life 👯
  • Financial wellbeing: You manage your money well 💰
  • Physical wellbeing: You have energy to get things done 🤸
  • Community wellbeing: You like where you live 🏡

We love this holistic view on wellness, and believe that thriving in all aspects of our lives is important. In fact, Gallup found that employees who are engaged with their work but not thriving in other parts of their lives are much more vulnerable; 61% are more likely to experience burnout and 66% are more likely to experience daily worry. 

We recently did a webinar with our friends from Wellable about employee wellness and engagement. 

Some key takeaways ⬇️

  • Increasingly, when employers are investing in employee wellness programs, they’re focusing on mental health, stress management & resilience, and mindfulness & meditation
  • In recent years, employers have decreased their investments in on-site wellness programs like on-site fitness classes, biometric screenings, health fairs, and free healthy foods
  • Selecting what initiatives to implement can be a tricky thing, since wellness is not a one-size-fits-all solution
  • Use recognition programs that help with employee engagement in these wellness programs! 

You can check out the full webinar here: Insights for Success: Uncovering 2023 Employee Wellness & Engagement Trends

Thanks to Aaron and Geoff, it was such a jam-packed session, we didn’t have the opportunity to answer all the questions that came in. We’re really grateful to each and every one of you for submitting a question, so we decided to sit down and go through them together.

We’re pleased to publish this piece during Mental Health Month - which is just one aspect to holistic wellness 🙂

Check out these awesome Q&A questions: 

How can I engage employees that don't care to be engaged? How do I get my employees to stay engaged in the program? Any thoughts on how to keep people effectively engaged? 

During this session, we discussed four different engagement strategies:

  1. Incentivize the desired behaviour - if you’re finding that some people don’t want to be engaged with the current initiatives, the first step is figuring out how to incentivize them. 
  2. Role modelling participation from the top-down - Leaders can encourage engagement with wellness on a company-wide level by showing their own participation and support of the program. 
  3. Tie initiatives to company core values - To engage people in wellness, it’s really important to show that it’s something intrinsic to the company values. What better way to show this than to relate wellness to an existing core value? 
  4. Celebrate the achievement of personal wellness goals - the key is to encourage conversations about personal goals. This helps people build genuine relationships throughout the organization and improves engagement. 

What are your thoughts on how to get leadership to participate? I’ve seen some companies include this in leadership KPIs, making it part of their responsibility as a leader to participate.

Including “leadership participation” in KPIs is a very strategic way to encourage the idea that leading by example is valued at your organization. There are lots of ways for leaders to get involved, but the most important thing is that their actions show that employee wellness is something that’s extremely valued at your organization. A couple of other ideas for a leader to participate in employee wellness initiatives are:

  • Participating in the programs, campaigns, and initiatives going on at your organization. If leaders aren’t participating due to a lack of time or not believing in its value, what message dos that send to the rest of the team?
  • Being publicly outspoken about employee wellness - this can be during meetings, on social media, or at various events. The important thing is to show your employees that you genuinely care about their wellbeing.
  • Being willing to take part in “fun incentives” that encourage the rest of the team to participate in the wellness initiatives. For example, to encourage your team to participate in the walking challenge, the team prize for completion can be pieing your supervisor. 

Any tips on implementing strategies for a blue collar workforce who are constrained by time (e.g a production line)?

employee wellness

Great question! In companies where employees are working in a production line (or some other in-person occupations), we’ve seen the use of QR codes in the building that link to specific information or an app to be an effective strategy for encouraging engagement. 

The idea of using awards specific to their work is a great way as well (eg. safety awards, course completion achievement awards). 

Best communication pieces for non-adopters?

employee wellness

As event planners, we’ve all been there! No matter how many times we promote something to the team, there always seems to be non-adopters - this can be extremely frustrating. Here are a few communication strategies, let us know if it helps:

  • Align initiatives with key points in the year when the team is already excited about certain aspects of health (eg. Movember, Bell Let’s Talk, Earth Day) 
  • Break down what is required from people in order to participate so that it sounds doable and not overwhelming. Be super clear about the positive impact that this initiative will have. It can also be powerful to include a few stats or visuals to communicate the message. 
  • There’s always a lot going on - it’s totally plausible that in some cases, people forget to participate or are totally unaware of the initiatives. Try promoting more frequently and through additional channels to make sure as many people are seeing the communications as possible

How could a wellness benefit be offered in a web-based platform like Bucketlist?

Wellness benefits can absolutely be offered in Bucketlist to help people engage in the company’s wellness programs and offerings. We’ve seen clients create a specific wellness category on their marketplace to offer items that are either fulfilled internally or externally, but are all geared towards wellness. Some examples: 

  • A lunch at the office (they have an on-site personal chef) 
  • Acupuncture session
  • Personal training session
  • Yoga session

We’ve also seen different wellness awards that are offered; this can either be a standalone award, or it can compliment a wellness initiative. Some examples:


How do you know if you're heading in the right direction/choosing the right wellness program? What data is best to collect, and how frequently?

This is a great question. It’s always important to reflect on whether the initiatives we’re offering is having a positive impact. Some great data points to collect are:

  • Tracking the number of people who are participating and engagement (this metric will look different depending on the program you’re running)
  • Qualitative feedback from your team 

How can we keep employees motivated during wellness challenges?

Here are some ideas on how to keep employees motivated: 

  • Offer some rewards and awards to add that element of fun and incentive.
  • Leaderboards and a friendly sense of competition works for some teams. 
  • Showcasing how other people are participating and benefiting from the program is a great way to help people stay engaged. 

What are some suggestions for frugal incentives that work toward engagement? Also interested in outside-the-box incentives/giveaways!

employee engagement

We actually get this question a lot, so we’ve created this “Low Cost / No Cost” resource for ideas on frugal incentives!

And if you’re looking for something outside the usual “cash” or “gift cards”, perhaps you’d like to explore the idea of giving away experiences. They don’t have to be expensive; the key is to give people what matters most to them. For example, a golf trip may not be everyone’s cup of tea! 

We’ve seen some interesting employee rewards/gifts over the years, some of which are: 

  • Classes on how to write fiction 
  • Cheese crawl / food tours
  • Family passes to local attractions (eg. Zoo, aquarium) 
  • Movie passes
  • Flight lessons
  • If you’re interested in experiential rewards, check out our playbook

What are some tips to engage hybrid, remote and onsite employees? 

We believe the key to location-based engagement is making sure that no matter where people are working from, a lot of thought has gone into making it easy for them to participate. This can mean giving lots of options to accommodate the different hubs and timezones. Communicating the various options in a clear way is also important!  

What are your top 3 most successful strategies to get employees participate to change behaviour for health improvement, especially where work is priority and not health?

There are lots of different strategies, but if we could only pick three…

  1. It needs to be built into the culture - programs, policies, language, core values, benefits
  2. It starts with leaders role modelling the idea that health is a priority 
  3. It needs to be easy for employees to participate in, with relevant content, communications, and incentives to lower the barrier to participate

What is your approach to the topic of finding and following a higher purpose - from an individualistic and organizational standpoint?

Helping people find and follow a higher purpose that resonates with them is integral to employees feeling engaged with their work. Research by Harvard Business Review found that 90% of workers would trade a percentage of their earnings for work that felt more meaningful.

Finding a sense of “higher purpose” will look different for everyone. People care about different things. 

From an individual’s standpoint, it starts with knowing what matters to you, and seeing if that can be reflected in your work or if it’s something that your company also cares about. Often, we see that a company tends to have a specific mission and focus. In the recruitment process, that can be a huge draw for potential employees. 

For example, Patagonia is an outdoor apparel brand that really cares about getting people outside and exploring nature. They back this up by giving their employees flexible schedules to surf/exercise during work hours. If spending time in the great outdoors is something that matters to you as an individual, you may find that the culture at Pantagonia really calls to you and will help you achieve a sense of higher purpose. 

At an organizational level, a great way to help people find higher purpose is to think about the messaging that goes out around things that provide structure for a company’s culture, such as the company’s core values, benefits, and policies. 

How do you address intrinsic motivation with incentives? We have quarterly challenges with rewards.  

It’s great to hear that you’re doing quarterly challenges and offering rewards as an incentive! To encourage engagement with the incentive program, here are a few ideas:

  • Ensure that people are truly motivated by the incentives you’re offering, it’s important to consider what people care about, and whether the reward is “enough” of a payoff to be considered motivating. 
  • Understand which behaviours you want to incentivize, and then find rewards that would be most meaningful to your team. It doesn’t always have to be gift cards or company swag. It also doesn’t always have to be something big and expensive.  
  • Customization can play a huge role in making the system more engaging. Fun and catchy naming conventions is important. For example, one of our clients named a sales award “Cookies are for closers” - that’s definitely much more engaging than “Top Sales Award”. 
  • Aside from offering rewards, having a leadership board that encourages friendly competition can be a motivator for some teams. 

What is the role of digitalization? What type of digital technologies are being used?

Digitization certainly plays a huge role when it comes to employee engagement. A huge theme is making it easier and more accessible for employees to participate:

  • Web-based app platforms help with engagement - people aren’t limited to usage on a computer and can participate on the go 
  • Integrations with other productivity tools - people can incorporate new apps and processes with older ones 
  • Automated workflows VS manual ones - with digital technologies, many workflows can be automated. Notifications, event reminders, service and birthday awards…it can make life a lot easier and ensure that no one is forgotten! 

Not seeing your Q&A questions here? Because there was so much interest in this topic, it was hard to include everything in one post. Check out part 2 on Wellable’s blog.

The questions covered in Part 2: 

  • How would you assess wellness's contribution to company culture?
  • What's something an organization with little to no wellness budget can do to engage staff in an effective way? How can we get started with a zero budget?
  • Can you offer any tips on encouraging remote employees to engage in wellness initiatives? How do we connect with all those that decide to stay virtual? How do we get them engaged?
  • What are current trends for encouraging physical wellbeing? Are companies doing wellness changes such as “The Biggest Loser”? If so, are there any incentives for participants?
  • What’s the best way to invest wellness dollars?
  • Can you recommend any specific platform to use to track employee wellness, fitness challenges, suggestions etc?
  • Are you seeing any correlation between poor wellness program participation / adoption and financial health, specifically from delayed or deferred care?
  • Can you review your policy for having spouses enter into system to get wellness points? 
  • How can you establish a wellness program and engage employees? How to get agency participation?
  • What kinds of training programs are organizations offering their employees to increase the resilience and improve their mental health?
  • What programs or tactics do you have for law enforcement as well as the Graveyard shift employees?
  • Do you incorporate "ambassadors" to train the trainers as part of your jam?

To discover more top insights on employee wellness and engagement, click the button above!

We hope this helps to continue the awesome conversation that we all shared. Please let us know if:

  • This didn’t answer your question
  • You have a follow-up question that you’d like to hear our thoughts on
  • You have a thought that would supplement these answers 

We’re happy to make updates to this article - we want this to be a useful community resource!

Drop Rebecca, our Content & Community Manager, a line at [email protected] 🙂

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