School Employee Wellness
Planning & Resources

Employee wellness programs and healthy work environments can decrease employee absenteeism and the cost of substitutes, reduce employee turnover, lower health care and insurance premiums, improve employee morale, increase productivity. 

Key Principles for School Employee Wellness Programs

A coordinated school health program is a model for creating health-promoting school environments for students and their families as well as employees of school systems.  

The traditional approach to developing school employee wellness programs has been “cafeteria-style” (i.e., offering choices from an array of activities).These activities-centered programs boost morale, develop awareness, and expose employees to opportunities to engage in activities. They tend to attract the “worried well” or those who are likely to practice healthy behaviors even if they have no program to engage them. Some districts are turning to a results-oriented or “population health management” approach to school employee wellness. This approach uses annual individual health risk appraisals to provide data as a basis for designing targeted health-promotion interventions. Each school will have to develop its own method of assessing your staff’s health risk. By focusing on identified health risks, it aims to attract people who are most at risk and less likely to participate in health-promotion activities. 

Examples of Employee Wellness Activities:  

  • Blood Pressure Screening 
  • Breast Cancer & Colorectal Screenings 
  • Diabetes Prevention Program 
  • Height and Weight or Body Mass Index Measurements/Tracking
  • Oral Health Screenings 
  • Serum Cholesterol 
  • Skin Cancer 
  • Crisis Intervention for Personal Problems 
  • Nutrition Education 
  • Physical Activity and Fitness Counseling 
  • Stress Management Education 
  • Tobacco Cessation 
  • Weight Management Support Programs 


Existing school employee wellness programs vary in scope and size. Some districts conduct health risk assessments and offer health risk reduction interventions that target identified personal health risks. Other worksite wellness programs organize activities such as walking programs, health fairs, access to fitness centers, nutrition management, and stress management. The decision to offer these activities is generally based on a survey of potential participants’ interests and motivation, the availability of facilities or resources, and the interests and skills of the coordinator and other support staff. Some school employee wellness programs are staffed by volunteers; others have wellness leaders. Some school employee wellness programs (that offered good services) may charge fees for participation; and still others are cost-free, using school facilities and offering classes and activities organized by volunteers. Starting small can provide the foundation for evolution to a more ambitious, comprehensive, results-oriented program. School wellness programs should start with the element or elements that can be most easily introduced and later build on that foundation.  
Allies already exist within school systems who realize the importance of promoting the health of school employees. These allies can be conceptualized as obvious allies and less obvious allies.  The school employees who implement the other seven components of coordinated school health programs are obvious allies who can make valuable contributions to the eighth component, school employee wellness. These allies include health educators; physical educators; licensed health professionals within the school such as school nurses, licensed or vocational nurses, medical doctors, nurse practitioners and certified personal trainers; mental health professionals within the school such as psychologists, social workers, and counselors; and nutrition services staff.  Less obvious allies often can be more powerful in the effort to establish a school employee wellness program. Whereas members of “school health teams” are highly qualified to address physical, mental, and social health needs, they are unlikely to be part of the organizational structure of school boards, where policies are crafted and decisions, especially those with fiscal implications, are made. Less obvious allies are more likely to have direct access to the superintendent, be part of the superintendent’s staff, and communicate freely with the governing board (school boards and Tribal Council members).

Planning Tools

Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child: Employee Wellness Overview

Research overwhelmingly shows employee wellness programs and healthy work environments can 1) decrease employee absenteeism and the cost of substitutes, 2) reduce employee turnover, 3) lower health care and insurance premiums, 4) improve employee morale, and 5) increase productivity. Students, in turn, have positive role models, learn better and are healthier. 

School Employee Wellness: Toolkit of Resources
(Michigan State University)

This comprehensive list of resources was created by the Michigan State University Extension Program and the Directors for Health Promotion and Education. Resources are broken out into nine focus areas ranging from how to identify leaders to implementing a plan and sustaining the program. 

School Wellness Works!: A Guide for Developing Effective School Wellness Policies and Practices (Minnesota Dept. of Health/Dept. of Education)

The School Wellness Works! toolkit provides guidance and resources to help schools move from policy to action to ensure student health continues to be a top priority for schools. Many resources and tips are noted to help develop, refine, implement and monitor the wellness policy and related activities. The toolkit is designed to assist those with responsibilities for policy implementation

Thriving Schools: Kaiser Permanente

This site breaks out school employee well-being into the topics below. Each section includes ideas for improvement, links to research, and webinars on successful real world implementation of school wellness policies.  

  • Healthy Eating
  • Physical Activity
  • Social & Emotional Well-Being
  • Staff Break room Makeovers
  • Labor Management Collaboration
  • Webinar Learning Series

Healthy Meetings Toolkit

This toolkit from National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity contains ideas for putting on a healthy meeting or workshop. Consider creating a “Healthy Meeting” atmosphere by following the ideas in this toolkit.