Chronic Condition Management, Health Systems, Workforce Health | By | 11/15/18 | 3 Minute Read

Creating Modern Wellness Programs for GenX and Millennial Employees

The number of workplace wellness programs continues to rise in corporate America, as more than 80 percent of large employers invest in health and well-being programs. Employee participation–and enthusiasm–is vital to the success of any wellness program. However, workplace wellness programs shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-every-employee. Your 60-year-old vice president is likely to have different goals and be motivated by different activities than your 24-year-old sales assistant. Yet, you need each of them to be on board to help create a culture of health at your workplace.

When you’re looking at your wellness program menu, keep in mind this vital shift: millennials (people ages 21 to 36) are now the largest generation of workers, representing 35 percent of the US labor force. For comparison, the GenX group represents 33 percent, while baby boomers have dropped to 25 percent.

So, your mission when launching new wellness initiatives is to find areas that appeal to your baby boomers as well as your newest—and possibly largest—workforce subsets, your millennial and GenX employees. Here are a few ideas that may help:

Organize volunteer opportunities that include physical activity. In recent studies, millennials are cited as top participants in corporate volunteering activities, ones that provide meaningful tasks and connections and contribute to work/life balance. Volunteering activities can run the gamut in activity levels, so consider organizing ones that keep employees active, such as highway beautification projects, tree planting, community park events, or beach clean-ups, that will get them moving and boost their Fitbit tracker step count. For example, this volunteer event at Pt. Reyes National Seashore in California is a hike-in activity that includes dune restoration followed by yoga.

Focus on healthy nutrition. The average American eats out four to five times per week. That number goes up slightly for the younger crowd, as one survey shows that the average millennial dines at a restaurant or buys take-out food five times a week.

If eating out means grabbing fast food frequently, your employees may be raising their risk of diabetes. Scientists from the New York School of Medicine found that type 2 diabetes was more prevalent in areas of New York City with more fast food restaurants. In addition, fast food is known for its large portions, high palatability, and high sugar content. Evidence from other studies shows that frequent fast-food consumption can contribute to overeating and weight gain.

To encourage healthy eating for all age groups, add programs that include lunchtime cooking classes taught by local chefs, or bring in a food truck that focuses on making healthy, sustainable gourmet meals. Make cooking fun by facilitating recipe exchanges, and if your program incorporates Fitbit devices, educate employees on how to track food in the Fitbit app. These 15 5 o’clock freak-out recipes that are still healthy could be a great starting point for a team virtual cooking event.

Turn the commute into a wellness opportunity. Unlike baby boomers who opted for the suburbs, millennials tend to be happier living and working in larger, more urban environments, and GenXers tend to prefer large metro areas. Depending on your company location, that may mean employees who live in urban areas can walk or bike to work or maybe rent a dockless scooter to go the last mile to the office.

Try a commute challenge, encouraging employees or teams to use healthier no-car transportation options for a week or maybe a month. Offer awards for those that already have a self-propelled commute and maintain it daily, for reducers that make a positive change in their transportation, and for those employees who use a device with heart rate, reward the person or team that burns the most calories in their commute. (Bonus tip. For prizes any millennial or GenXer would love, let them choose something snazzy from the Fitbit designer collections).

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It's not just age that should be factored into your wellness program... Fitness personas should be considered too. Take our quiz to find out which fitness persona dominates your workforce.

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