Chronic Condition Management, Health Systems, Workforce Health | By | 08/21/18 | 3 Minute Read

5 Ways to Improve the Effectiveness of Your Wellness Programs

Workplace wellness programs, including everything from activity challenges, health screenings, on-site gyms, fitness club memberships, and behavior workshops are on the rise in corporate America. According to a recent survey from Mercer, more than 80 percent of large employers invest in health and well-being programs for employees, and a growing number provide optional well-being services through their health plan or a specialty vendor.

So most likely, you have one—or even many—different wellness programs at your organization. But are they doing their job of motivating employees’ hearts (literally) and minds toward a healthier lifestyle? If your program needs a refreshing reboot, here are five tips that may help.

Publicly recognize employees for healthy actions. The importance of leadership support for wellness initiatives is key, as employees feel more comfortable taking advantage of offerings when they are supported and recognized. In a HERO scorecard report of companies with comprehensive wellness initiatives, top-scoring organizations whose leadership publicly recognized their employees for healthy actions and outcomes were more likely to report employee health improvements (91 percent) and medical cost improvements (87 percent).

Be a wellness role model. Everybody needs a health superhero for inspiration. When employees note that your wellness team–and frankly all company leadership–are prioritizing health and work-life balance, they will follow your lead. This may be something as simple as the leadership team not sending emails while on vacation, taking activity breaks during the work day, and participating in the activity challenges. Results from the same scorecard mentioned earlier show that organizations whose leaders were role models for prioritizing health and work-life balance were again more likely to report employee health improvements.

Support front-line managers in their efforts to improve their team’s health. You are not alone in the mission for better workforce health. Department and middle managers need company support to be able to improve the health and well-being of their teams. Offer help in the way of wellness program training for front-line managers and adequate budget for their specific ideas. And provide resources that create a health-conscious workgroup environment, such as adding healthy snacks or a hydration station to their break room.

Get regular employee feedback. Your wellness program is something you want your employees to embrace because (as your mom used to say) it’s for their own good. Find out their challenges to improved health through a quick survey or poll. For some employees, their work-life balance might be improved by having a flextime schedule or by the addition of bike lockers at your office. For others, their biggest challenge might be managing their diabetes or lowering daily stress.

Offer variety, FTW. A wellness program that one employee loves may simply not interest another. Some may crave a cold brrrn, others prefer to sweat out stress with high-intensity Soulcycle choreography, and some may want to reduce pain with laughter yoga.  Ensure that you have fresh, diverse programs that can flex with the interests of your employees. Regularly mix up your activity challenges by tracking different variables: steps, active minutes, and sleep. Consider lunchtime stress management workshops that address topics from nutrition to work-life balance to cholesterol management to financial health. Add programs to help employees try to quit smoking, offer cooking classes taught by local chefs, and facilitate healthy recipe exchanges and weight loss competitions. All of these can add up to a healthier workforce.  

This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.

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