6 Employee Wellness Ideas for Startups

There’s been a lot of talk about employee wellness programs in recent years, and most of it has gone right over the startup world’s collective head.

I mean, you get it. You see its value. It’s really cool in theory. But it’s something you’ll implement… later. After your official launch. When the next round of funding is in. When you hit 1M.


Here’s the truth: People are as important to your success as your big idea is. If you want to attract and retain the best possible talent, the ones who will propel your startup to success, you need to do two things: Give them what they want, and help them stay healthy and centered.

This is especially important in times of low unemployment — i.e., now — when finding and keeping fantastic people becomes more difficult. Here are some additional reasons why you should offer some kind of employee wellness benefits:

The good news is, you don’t have to contract with some fancy wellness program administrator to offer these perks. Here are six employee wellness ideas you can implement at your startup.

1. Hold a Fitness Challenge

According to a University of Cambridge study, lack of exercise is responsible for twice as many deaths as obesity. Get your employees moving with a fitness challenge.

At my company, we had an active minutes challenge, in which the top brass challenged us to collectively log 100,000 minutes doing some sort kind of physical activity over a six-month time period. An email pinged us once a week and reminded us to log our time, and on Fridays there was some sort of company-wide fitness event (stair climbing, walks) that counted for double minutes. We hit our goal by deadline, I’m happy to report, and we were treated to happy hour, courtesy of the C-suite. You can do something similar.

2. Offer Healthy Snacks

Offering healthy snacks is, of course, better for everyone’s health. But it also sends the right message to employees; it says you care about them and what they put in their bodies, which in turn helps them feel valued and appreciated. Try a service like SnackNation to stay stocked up, or designate someone to run to the local grocery store once a week. Costco has plenty of healthy options, too.

3. Provide Standing Desks

You already know that standing desks are better for your health. But a Texas A&M study reported in The Washington Post found that standing desks boost employee productivity, too. Get some for your office.

4. Offer Yoga

The benefits of yoga include increased energy and vitality, better cardio and circulatory health, increased mental clarity and calmness, and less stress. Why not pay a yoga instructor to come in every other Friday afternoon and lead a class? It’s a great way to demonstrate your commitment to employee well-being.

5. Go Remote One Day a Week

Chances are excellent that not everyone needs to be in the office five days a week to get their job done. Let them work from home for one of those days; they’ll save time and money on their commute, and they just might get more done without office distractions.

Such flexibility pays off. According to Zenefits’s 2018 State of Flexible Work Arrangements report, three-quarters of employees said flexible work arrangements increased their job satisfaction.

6. Finally, Encourage Gratitude

Grateful people enjoy better sleep, greater physical and emotional health and increased self-esteem, Psychology Today reports. Encourage your employees to practice gratitude. You could hand out gratitude journals, dedicate a wall to posting handwritten notes of gratitude among coworkers — you could even have a gratitude Slack channel.

Don’t forget to express your own gratitude to such a fantastic team. Because without them, your dream would be just that — a dream. When you commit to your employees’ health and cultivate a culture of wellness, you are demonstrating that you know you can’t do this alone.

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