It used to be that the harder and longer you worked, the more respect you earned from your peers. Those long nights and blurry eyes were the sign of a very dedicated employee.

But thanks to our digital-first world, we’re now on 24/7, whether we like it or not. We tried to maintain that good old approach of “long hours = dedication,” but we all started burning out. With the invention of working on our cell phones and iPads, we end up driving ourselves mad.

The first to really expose us to this reality was Arianna Huffington. Back in 2016, she became vocal on the importance of sleep, a fairly radical departure from priding ourselves on our service to our company by sacrificing our bodies to the grind.

It’s only one year later, and every major corporation I consult with is rolling out some version of a wellness initiative, running the gamut from on-site health coaches to installing sleep rooms. Here are the essentials you need to know in order to have an effective wellness program for your organization, without costing a lot of money or productivity.

1. Begin with purpose-setting.

A Wall Street finance firm probably doesn’t want to play table tennis.

So often, a well-meaning executive will retrofit best practices he or she reads in articles just like this one, but it costs money and increases distractions at work. Or, worse, it has no effect at all. This is simply an ill-thought-out approach that you, dear reader, will not make.

Begin by asking your employees what attracts them to work with you day in and day out and what could make that process better. Design your wellness program from the ground up to boost productivity. Otherwise, a nap room could just get in the way of the work. Your true goal here is to make everyone more, not less, effective.

You will find one or two areas where everyone really struggles, and whether your solution for those problems is work-from-home days; silent work days; limits on night-time emails; healthy food options; or even 15- minute, at-your-desk online fitness coaching, there is an innovation to solve nearly any issue.

This is where a wellness program becomes a productivity program: when it serves your people better and serves your business’ purpose as well.


2. Really commit.

Don’t let wellness become corporate rhetoric. The great business leaders are those who see that we must treat each other as a whole person. Life and work have intersected; we have no choice.

Companies who commit to caring for their people will always outperform those who don’t. My work with Zappos, Rackpace and others designing great corporate cultures proves this fact to be true time and time again. The numbers may not be short-term, but retaining and cultivating your best employees saves huge over the long term.

The more you truly commit to caring for every side of your employees, the sooner you will overcome the disengagement virus corporate America faces today.

3. What if you just can’t get buy-in?

Every business has a wellness program already, whether you like it or not. If hunching over a desk for hours at a time is your status quo, well, that’s your current wellness program.

My point here is that you don’t have to gain widespread buy-in and launch an overt initiative to have wellness at your office. Making small changes over time can have a positive net effect on your employee wellness and engagement. Take after Steve Jobs and start encouraging your employees to take walking meetings outdoors. Set a five-minute calendar invite to remind people to get up and stretch.

Whatever you do, no matter how small, you will help yourself and others extend your happiness. Isn’t that what work and life should do?