In theory, it seems like a wellness program would go off without a hitch.
A relatable scenario: Give employees fitness wearables. Ask them to wear it daily. Offer rewards to active participants.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
While there’s never a 100% guaranteed perfect strategy, there are ways to set up your employee wellness program for favorable results.
Their success is your success, so developing your program thoughtfully from the start is a must.
Creating an overall healthy workforce interested in making healthy choices inside and outside the workplace offers huge benefits. Not surprisingly, improved employee health and fitness can increase productivity, and decrease healthcare costs.
Even the best of wellness programs won’t have sustainable results if employees can’t experience a healthy lifestyle during work hours. Long-lasting results will only happen if employees can fully invest themselves in a program.
Here’s 5 ways to boost your wellness program engagement through the roof:
1. Define Your Wellness Program Goals
No matter how you go about setting your wellness program goals, ensure that your employees are at the center of how those goals are defined. Is your office looking to do a collective weight loss challenge? Perhaps you want to see lower blood pressure for all of your staffers. Pick a goal and thoroughly define it prior to starting any initiatives. Survey employees at the start.
If you’re doing a challenge, you may want to set a team goal. If you’re doing a longer-term wellness initiative — like logging daily walking — then individual goals might make more sense.
You may want to consider:
- Engagement vs. Participation – Engagement is what moves your wellness program forward. Employees are continuously investing in themselves and time in the program. Participation, however, may mean they sign up but never do anything beyond the workplace. Engagement is what you want to aim for with wellness programs.
- Decide what to measure – If you’ve done biometric screenings, you can start with your aggregate data to set overall team goals.
- Listen to employees – Employees who will engage the most will be your most valuable assets when it comes to getting program feedback. Ask often what’s working and what isn’t.
- Focus on S.M.A.R.T. goals – This is one of the best methods for making sure your goals are on point at any given time. Read more here on setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for your employee wellness program.
2. Share the Big-Picture Reward (And Smaller Ones, Too)
It’s nice to be rewarded for hard work, especially physically hard work like regularly working out. Rewards in the short-term may work well to encourage participation, but won’t necessarily spike engagement. The overall goal is always better health to increase life quality and longevity.
Incentives you may consider for your wellness program:
- Vacation time – Who doesn’t love more vacation days? Days off actually improve productivity and refresh stressed-out employees.
- Immediate rewards – If you offer a gift card for people to sign up for biometric screenings, you may get a great turn out. But one gift card won’t encourage long-term changes.
- Long-term rewards – These might look different for everyone. Have your employees write down their personal big-picture goals. It might be weight loss, lower health care premiums for quitting smoking, etc. Take these into consideration as you refine your program.
- Get personal – Ask employees what motivates them. Use this as a positive reinforcement and way to encourage them along their wellness journey.
3. Encourage Camaraderie
Create a group of cheerleaders within your office who all have the same goals. When you increase the fellowship aspect of wellness initiatives, you’ll likely see engagement increases as well.
How to do it:
- Make programs fun – Most people don’t like to sweat, and if you’re doing a fitness challenge, participation may wane. A fun walk/run that includes healthy restaurant stops might encourage more engagement.
- Increase accountability and support – Have employees check-in with one another at the start of each day or week to see how they’re doing on hitting goals. Accountability partnerships work.
- Host a team breakfast – Instead of donuts, offer a make-your-own-parfait bar. It gives employees a chance to mingle over healthy food choices.
- Add in friendly competition –If your office supplies fitness wearables like an Apple watch or Fitbit, set up a little challenge. Users of those devices can create fitness challenges like upping steps per day or daily cardio goals.
4. Lead by Example
As the saying goes, “practice what you preach” is important when it comes to having the highest engagement for your wellness programs. If your staff sees you coming in with fast food every day for lunch, and you’re pushing a healthy eating program, it doesn’t come off as inspiring.
Ways to lead by example include:
- Workout with employees – Whether it’s the onsite gym or a local gym, show up and sweat with employees.
- Host lunch and learn sessions – Create a time to come together to discuss health in a laidback way. Bonus points for providing a healthy catered lunch!
- Build-in exercise days – Create a bike to work day and participate with employees.
- Relax – Take your vacation days to show employees mental health matters, too.
When others see leadership taking steps to be healthier and more active, they may want to join in, too. As leaders become involved and make big health changes, it becomes noticeable to everyone, but especially employees.
5. Make Being Healthy a Breeze
When employees see smokers blocking building entrances, or donuts every morning in the break room, it’s disheartening, especially if those are their personal downfalls. Consider ways to make the workplace a healthier scene for employees in multiple aspects — from the meeting room to the break room.
- Offer healthy food options – Cut out soda and junk food vending machines. Instead, have a water cooler and a bowl of fresh fruit in the break room.
- Create a peaceful space – This may be a lounge or a special break room that allows employees to recharge during stressful work days.
- Enforce a smoke-free environment – Non-smokers don’t want to walk through clouds of smoke, even if it’s vape smoke. It may encourage smokers to cut back or quit, too.
- Move it – Standing or treadmill desks are great ways to encourage movement throughout the day for those who sit too much. Scheduled lunchtime walks or yoga stretch breaks also help get employees moving.
Build a Wellness Culture Through Your Wellness Program
When you develop a wellness program, you’re investing heavily in your wellness culture. Doing so helps employees by creating lifelong healthy habits for both their professional and personal lives. Initiatives that help alleviate stress, foster healthy relationships, and encourage healthy eating are starting points if you’re just getting into the wellness arena.
A few considerations as you build upon your wellness program:
- Evaluate programs over time
- Make adjustments based on employee feedback
- Behavioral change is hard and takes time
- Improving employee health is a worthwhile investment
As you create a culture of wellness, you’ll see happier employees who feel valued and are more productive and happier. Your program will be a success when you provide the opportunities and rewards, and act genuinely interested in what offerings employees want to see.
If you only focus on participation numbers, you’re missing out on the point of improving your employee wellness program that can change your employees’ lives for the best.
Set goals, take feedback, and help employees practice their new healthy skills inside and outside the workplace for best wellness program engagement results.
What strategies have worked best for improving your wellness program engagement? Share in the comments below!
Image: Created by Makyzz