All companies venture into the wellness realm with the best of intentions, hoping their shiny new programs will lead to a healthier workforce and lower health-care costs. But often these hopes are dashed, when employees don’t flock to sign up or drop out after a few months. The HR department is left to wonder: What went wrong?
Usually what goes wrong is that companies fail to define their wellness goals and to map out a thoughtful strategy to achieve them.
So let’s talk goals. What’s a successful wellness program? We think it’s one that boosts productivity while lowering obesity and absenteeism rates and, ultimately, health-care costs.
Every company will have a different formula for success based on its culture and size. Nonetheless, here are five must-dos that will set up your company’s wellness program to thrive.
- Show top-down support. Employees will be skeptical if they’re asked to join a program while the top brass steers clear. So get your executives out there promoting and participating — power walking with folks at lunch, joining in campus-wide stretch breaks, or ordering grilled salmon instead of a burger from the revamped cafeteria menu.
- Shoot for sustained change, not quick fixes. Prize-centric competitions that apply the “Biggest Loser” concepts sound like fun but don’t foster behavior changes that keep weight off. Instead, choose programs that combine exercise, nutrition, and stress management and offer employees multiple one-on-one coaching sessions. Participants will feel supported as they work to replace their apple fritter with apple slices. Only when healthy behaviors become habit will your workforce — and your bottom line — see results.
- Create wellness teams. Include employees from different levels and sectors and from varying health backgrounds; a bike racer and a smoker who wants to quit can be equally effective at generating momentum and boosting morale. Charge your team with driving the company’s wellness efforts, from surveying employees to identifying goals and sustaining enthusiasm.
- Promote employee interaction. Weight management is a lifelong effort and usually requires social support, both at the office and among family and friends. Research shows newcomers to exercise are far more likely to stay active if they commit to working out with others. So organize lunchtime walking groups, and enlist regular exercisers to mentor novices, even if they just check in weekly via email.
- Measure progress, but don’t over-test. Some wellness programs emphasize onsite medical testing — of blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and the like — to the point where employees feel offended or intruded upon. Testing has its place, but programs based solely on metrics tend to fail for the same reason excessive school testing requirements fail: They don’t inspire authentic change or consider the whole person. Improvements in health metrics need to mirror cultural change going on within a company. Real change takes time and must be nurtured.
At Alere Wellbeing, we can help you plot a wellness strategy that will transform the health of your workforce in ways that you can quantify — and ways that you can’t. To get started in this quest, check out our library of free resources.