Prioritising Employee Wellness: 4 Actionable Tips for Introducing Wellbeing Programmes 

By: Naomi Hirabayashi & Simon Miller, Headspace 

When thinking about how insurers can effectively implement and engage their corporate clients and their employees  in well-being benefits, Naomi Hirabayashi and Simon Miller of Headspace share some top tips from their experience working directly with employers and via their health plans partners.

In recent years, we’ve made progress with employers worldwide investing in mental health.  When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, organizations and employees were forced to adapt, and quickly. Many switched to a remote setting, and HR leaders went to work finding ways to support employees’ mental health for a new type of workplace – either directly or via their health insurers. 

While recognition of the need for wellbeing programmes has increased, many companies struggle with how to best introduce and roll out the new offerings in a way that creates engagement. 

Below we’ve outlined some best practices to help your clients fully leverage the valuable mental health benefits that form part of your cover.  


#1 Lean on Organizational + Industry Research

Making a case to invest in new programmes can be a challenge, especially during times of economic uncertainty. Even committing to a programme embedded in a health plan is a major internal investment to truly integrate and build into a wider well-being strategy.  To make a compelling case, employers and insurers together should leverage research during initial conversations with leadership.  

 How can you educate leadership on the importance of mental health for your organization?   

  • Understand and address the unique mental health challenges at your organization. Listening is key. Consider gathering knowledge from employee representative groups, focus groups and line manager and HR feedback. You can conduct anonymous employee surveys that incorporate wellness data points to better understand the top areas where people are struggling, what type of support they might prefer, and to better tailor your programme to address those key areas.
  • Analyze existing sickness absence, health risk assessment, health claims and well-being engagement data, ideally with segmentation. Who’s interacting with what, for what and how? And importantly, who’s not interacting? Look to benchmark that too and learn from best practices from your health insurer, your benefits provider, and your employee benefits consultants.  
  • Emphasize the connection between mental health and business outcomes, highlighting the impact on productivity, absenteeism, and employee engagement. For example, the World Health Organization reports that for every $1 invested in mental health treatment, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. In the UK alone, the Healthcare and Safety Executive reported that in 2021 and 2022, of the 36.8 million estimated working days lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries, 17 million were related to stress, anxiety and depression.  


#2 Remember the Rule of 7 

Apply the marketing principle of the “Rule of 7” to your communication strategy – remembering to use multiple channels to share your message multiple times. A one-off launch announcement in a crowded company newsletter is not enough, particularly in remote working environments. Recognize that employees are bombarded with numerous messages daily, so proactive, clear, and continuous communication is key.  

How can you thoughtfully communicate with employees about wellbeing programmes? 

  • If applicable, leverage launch materials and support from your vendor or partner, such as hosted webinars that provide in-depth information and answer questions live. Ensure you do this in partnership with a collaborative, shared message, rather than it feeling like a third party. 
  • Express gratitude to employees who provided feedback and shaped the programme’s development. Use this information to develop champions and advocates around the business; many wellbeing suppliers support this with training, programmes and perks.  
  • Consider organizing lunch and learn sessions, either virtually or in-person, where leadership discusses key themes related to wellbeing, fostering openness from the top. 


#3 Encourage Leadership to be Advocates 

For wellbeing programmes to be successful, it’s key for CEOs, executives and managers to lead by example. In fact, from our recent Workforce Attitudes Towards Mental Health report, we know that 76% of employees say they appreciate it when leaders discuss emotional and mental health.  

How can leaders model what matters when it comes to workplace mental health? 

  • Be honest and authentic when discussing mental health. As they feel comfortable, leaders can share challenges they’ve faced and steps they’ve taken to care for their mental health. By doing this, they create space for open and vulnerable conversations, so employees feel comfortable talking about mental health and making time for mental wellness.
  • Help build a culture of positive wellbeing by strengthening resilience and stress management skills. You can do this by using proactive wellbeing tools like mindfulness and positive habit-building resources, rather than focusing solely on reactive solutions for mental health challenges.  
  • Demonstrate to teams how they can make mental wellness a daily practice. Consider starting team meetings with meditations, or blocking time on the calendar for therapy or a mindful movement break.  


#4 Define What Success Looks Like from the Start 

To build a sustainable wellbeing programme, make sure there’s clarity from the beginning on how to measure success. Oftentimes there’s so much attention on building and launching that the ongoing measurement, effectiveness and reassessing of the experience gets overlooked.  

From the 2023 Workforce Attitudes Report, we know the most important success metrics for organizations when measuring the effectiveness of emotional and mental health benefits are (1) employee satisfaction and engagement, (2) improved mental health outcomes for employees, (3) employee retention, (4) improved productivity, and (5) an increased feeling of belonging in the workplace and reducing absenteeism.  

With companies motivated to support employee wellbeing, it’s crucial you have the support you need to successfully plan, launch and iterate. By making a data-driven case, over-communicating, encouraging advocacy in leadership and measuring outcomes — you can better support your employee’s wellbeing, and in turn create healthier workplaces for the future.  

To learn more about the mental health needs of employees and leaders, download Headspace’s Fifth Annual Workforce Attitudes Towards Mental Health.

To find out more about how Headspace can support you and  your clients in improving mental wellbeing engagement, access and outcomes, please contact Jeff Greene for North America based discussions and Simon Miller for the Rest of World.