Designing an Impactful Employee Wellness Program

“The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” –Plato

“Wellness is the complete integration of body, mind and spirit – the realization that everything we do, think, feel and believe has an effect on our state of well-being.” –Greg Anderson

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Employee wellness is increasingly becoming a focus area for corporates to support business performance strategy and not just as an employee benefit or employer’s responsibility.

Key insights from Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends Survey were as follows : “In this year’s Global Human Capital Trends survey, only 23 percent of respondents told us that their well-being program was designed to reduce insurance costs. In contrast, 43 percent believed that well-being reinforces their organization’s mission and vision, 60 percent reported that it improves employee retention, and 61 percent said that it improves employee productivity and bottom-line business results.” (source)

LagomWorks Consulting facilitated a Design Sprint with the Year 2 students at Xavier School of Human Resource Management, Bhubaneswar to apply the design thinking tools and mindset to generate ideas and possible solutions on “How might an organization enhance physical, mental and emotional wellness for its employees?”

We define Employee Wellness as the intersection of Physical, Mental (Emotional) and Spiritual (Social) Wellness.

Physical wellness involves aspects of life that are necessary to keep yourself in top condition. It is developed through physical activity/exercise and healthy eating habits.

Mental wellness pertains to understanding own feelings and being able to manage stress effectively.

Social wellness focuses on nurturing values that help one find meaning and purpose. It can be achieved through various means, travelling to different places, meeting new people, contributing to social causes etc.

Our Approach

The Design Sprint was conducted over nine hours spread across three days. We had 6 teams participating in the Sprint. Over the Sprint, the teams learnt the essentials of Design Thinking as well as the various methods and tools that can be applied. More importantly, they understood the strength of a team in bringing in diverse perspectives and context to the challenge at hand.

The Design Thinking Methods leveraged by the participants included Empathy Map, Persona, Journey Line, How Might We problem framing, Braindumping, Brainstorming, Affinity Mapping, Post-it Voting, Storyboarding, Low Fidelity Prototyping, Business Model Canvas amongst others.

Each wellness element (physical, mental and spiritual) was owned by two teams each as a focused, sharp and actionable problem statement. 


Empathise and Define

Each team was asked to create a detailed user persona with relevant motivations and challenges. This formed the basis of empathetic led research. They interviewed fellow students with prior company experience to understand the context and environment of an employee in an organization. They also invested time in mapping a day-in-the-life of an employee to map the journey line for the persona. In the process, they identified the highs and lows during a work day and identified potential employee touchpoints focusing on wellness.

For each persona, the teams then articulated a Point of View or problem statement which captured the user needs including insights that employees spend  not only long hours at work but also in commute to and from work which impacts their experience. They have limited personal time. While the employees work with many colleagues, they find it difficult to find a friend at work with whom they can trust and share thoughts with openly. They are under a constant pressure to perform and also need to manage people dynamics and politics at work which can be quite stressful.

These user needs and insights were then references to frame the How-Might-We statements.

For physical wellness: How Might We create a culture and space for each employee to pursue fitness?

For mental wellness: In what ways Might We create avenues for employees to have someone at work to talk openly to?

For social/ spiritual wellness: How Might We encourage social interactions at work?


Ideate and Prototype

With the How-Might-We statements articulated, the teams started generating and building ideas using tools like braindumping, brainstorming, storyboarding. They went in for quantity. Subsequently, they used affinity maps to identify themes. Finally, they prioritised solutions using methods like Post It Voting and the Prioritization Matrix. The top ideas was then taken ahead for prototyping.

The teams prototyped their top ideas by creating storyboards, Lego models et al. They were asked to evaluate elements like ecosystem, interactions as well as static and interactive objects while designing the prototype. A number of interesting solutions emerged from this Design Sprint, a few of which have been listed below.

For physical wellness: How Might We create a culture and space for each employee to pursue fitness?

Creating a spirit of competitiveness and camaraderie through gamification - real time leader-boards to encourage physical exercise as a daily habit. There is research available to prove that being a part of a community augments motivation and discipline in pursuing an activity.


For mental wellness: In what ways Might We create avenues for employees to have someone at work to talk openly to?

Earmark an open and informal space within an office facility for employees to use during breaks -  the space can include games, hobby tools, comfortable couches to hang out with friends, listen to music, or read books…

Design or subscribe to an Employee Assistance Programme, with professionals who are trained to be a sounding board and can counsel employees in managing stress at work.

Identify stress real time using non-invasive technology, e.g how an employee uses a pressure sensitive keyboard in terms of pressure applied on keyboard and contact with the surface of the mouse. (A study undertaken demonstrated that in stressful conditions, the large majority of the participants showed significantly increased typing pressure (>79% of the participants) and more contact with the surface of the mouse (75% of the participants). A ‘mood-o-meter’ application on detecting stress can trigger relief aids such as playing calming music et al.

For social/ spiritual wellness: How Might We encourage social interactions at work?

Create an intelligent portal which fosters communities at work by creating groups of employees with similar interests (based on the information they have chosen to share on their hobbies, interests, skills et al). The portal facilitates one on one as well as group conversations, provides an option to set-up in person events and meet ups, updates the community with relevant resources available to them (budgets for events, approvers for setting up events etc)


Test and Refine

While being focused on the employee need, the teams were also asked to think through the viability and operational feasibility of their prototypes. They were asked to detail out a Business Model Canvas for their prototype by identifying the capabilities and resources required, key partners, cost structures ,returns on investment, amongst other aspects.

While a number of organizations have started adopting Employee Wellness programs, there is still a lot of ground to cover in enabling Employee Wellness as a strategic agenda with direct tangible impact on employee productivity. In the days and years to come, technology will play a key role in creating personalized and non-invasive wellness interventions. The time is ripe for organizations to start investing time and effort in identifying employee touchpoints that will create maximum impact on wellness and productivity. Design Thinking will be critical as a research based and creative approach  for identifying desirable, feasible and viable wellness measures.

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