How wellness programs lower employee stress

Written by: Chase Charaba
Published on June 14, 2022.

Workplace stress is taking its toll on workers and organizations alike, placing a burden on employers to do more to care for their employees.

According to a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts1, one-third of workers report high stress levels in the workplace. With workplace stress costing organizations more than $300 billion due to healthcare, absenteeism, reduced productivity, and employee turnover, employers have a strong incentive to reduce job-related stressors.

One of the best ways to lower employee stress is to establish workplace wellness programs.

This article will explain how an employee wellness program can help lower employee stress while saving time and money.

Workers with access to wellness programs are less stressed

When employees have access to wellness programs and perks, they feel less stress in the workplace.

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Wellbeing Survey2, 87% of employees believe their employers can help their mental health and reduce stress. Of the respondents, 37% said providing mental health resources would help improve their work environment.

Additionally, many employees cited other benefits such as flexible hours, paid time off, and breaks during the workday as ways their employers could improve mental health and reduce stress.

The survey also asked employees what extra perk they’d like if their employer could only offer one. While 33% said they wanted a higher salary, 14% wanted more flexibility, 13% more time off and wellness days, and 12% wanted additional employee benefits.

Employees want wellness programs and perks, but do they help employees feel less stressed?

Research from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans3 found that 53% of organizations that offered wellness programs saw improved employee engagement and satisfaction, a clear indicator of reduced stress.

A MediKeeper survey4 analyzed data from more than three million workers. According to their report, employees who had access to wellness programs at work saw lower stress levels than those who didn’t.

Sources of employee stress

One of the best ways to reduce workplace stress and improve employee wellbeing is to identify the major stressors in your organization.

Potential causes of workplace stress include:

  • Pressure to meet rising standards or expectations
  • Lack of control over how employees do their work
  • Fear of being laid off or fired
  • Taking on too much work
  • Low salaries
  • Working long hours
  • Lack of growth or career advancement
  • Lack of PTO
  • Commuting
  • Workplace conditions

Furthermore, outside stressors can impact employees’ performance at work. These stressors include employees’ financial status, health status, and family.

Once you’ve identified potential stress causes for your employees, you can design an effective employee wellness program that addresses each employee’s individual needs.

How wellness programs benefit employees

Establishing a wellness program reduces employee stress and healthcare costs, and it can also improve employee retention and promote a better work environment.

According to MetLife’s 2022 Employee Benefits Trends Study5, 51% of holistically healthy employees were more likely to stay at their organization for at least 12 more months.

The Centre for Economic Performance6 also looked at 339 independent research studies from Gallup and found a strong correlation between employees’ satisfaction resulting from higher wellbeing and employee retention.

Employees who are less stressed and more satisfied with their benefits are more productive and less likely to be absent. This is because they can focus on the task at hand instead of worrying about their stressors.

How to start a wellness program

There are many different types of workplace wellness programs. They can be as simple or complex as you’d like, but they need to address your employees’ needs.

Some of the most common elements of worksite wellness programs are:

  • Smoking cessation programs]
  • Employee health screenings
  • Nutrition education
  • Health risk assessments
  • Health insurance or health plans
  • Biometric screenings
  • Weight loss programs
  • Stress management programs
  • Gym membership
  • Wellness stipends

To make the most out of your program, you’ll want to incorporate many different facets of wellness, including physical health, mental health, social wellbeing, and financial wellness.

Health and wellness benefits

When constructing your wellness program, don't forget to offer your employees health and wellness benefits. These are great additions to your in-office or remote activities that can help boost employee morale, productivity, and the overall wellness of your workers.

When choosing benefits to offer your employees, personalized benefits are the way to go. Personalized benefits allow your employees to choose how they use their benefits.

Personalized health benefits

Supporting your employees’ physical and mental health is one of the most important aspects of any wellness program. Thankfully, there are many types of health plans available.

While traditional group health insurance is a popular option, many organizations choose more cost-effective alternatives that give their employees more control over their benefits.

Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) are an excellent option for businesses that want to offer an individualized experience while still providing a tax-advantaged benefit like health insurance. An HRA allows you to reimburse employees for their qualifying medical expenses.

Three of the most popular types of HRAs are:

You can also offer your employees a taxable health stipend. This allows you to reimburse employees much like an HRA, except there are fewer restrictions on what expenses are eligible. They’re also an excellent option for organizations with employees who receive advance premium tax credits (APTC) for their individual insurance plans.

Offering health benefits like HRAs and health stipends are great ways to give your employees money back for their physical and mental health costs.

Wellness stipend


A taxable wellness stipend is another great perk to offer your employees in addition to your wellness program. A wellness employee stipend enables you to reimburse your employees for their wellness expenses. Simply set up a monthly allowance for reimbursement.

Wellness stipends help bridge the gap between in-office wellness initiatives and wellness at home. This is because a stipend can reimburse employees for their gym memberships, fitness classes, exercise equipment, wellness mobile apps, and more.

By offering a wellness stipend, you’ll give your employees the opportunity to de-stress and improve their wellbeing outside of the workplace, in addition to their participation in wellness programs.


Your employees balance many responsibilities at work and at home, which inevitably leads to tension and stress. Employers can do their part to ease employees’ stress and improve mental health by implementing wellness policies that make your workplace an environment where employees want to be.

Creating a wellness plan that addresses physical health, mental health, social wellness, and finances will ensure that your employees are healthy in all areas of their life.

If you’re ready to add health and wellness benefits to your new wellness program, PeopleKeep can help! Our HRA and employee stipend administration software solutions make it easy to set up and manage your benefits in minutes.

Schedule a call with a personalized benefits advisor today to see how health and wellness benefits can support your wellness plan

This blog article was originally published on February 21, 2017. It was last updated on June 14, 2022.







Originally published on June 14, 2022. Last updated June 14, 2022.


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