4 Ways to Motivate Employee Wellness

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Wellness programs have the best of intentions: to improve employee health, cut health care costs, and enhance productivity. Motivating employees to engage and participate in wellness programs and make lasting lifestyle changes, however, can be challenging for employers. Here are four (4) ways organizations have been successful in motivating employee wellness.

1. Make it easy.

Simplicity is key. Health management tools that are offered to your employees should be easy to use and integrated into their daily lives. For example, web-based tools and applications for smart-phones are available which help employees track fitness, diet, and other activities to help manage health and wellness. Some of these applications also have health alerts and reminders to help employees keep wellness at the forefront of their priorities, as well as the ability to link pedometers, scales, and monitoring equipment to their health profiles. These applications are intended to provide simple wellness solutions that are integrated into employees’ daily lives.

Additionally, educational messages (such as wellness tips, articles, etc.) should be short, direct, and easy to view. Wellness education often gets lost in lengthy company newsletters or placed on an HR bulletin board that employees rarely view. Great information can also be buried within your carrier’s website, or your organization may just be providing too much information. Consider creating or subscribing to a short wellness communication that provides tips and education on various wellness issues, or provide links to resources on a particular topic. “Quick reads” are usually ideal.   

Finally, offer wellness activities which are relatively easy and that all (or most) employees feel comfortable doing. Excessively rigorous fitness routines and diet programs, while beneficial, may not appeal to your entire workforce. Once you’ve engaged participants, continually introduce more difficult programs to stretch employees to new levels.

2. Bring it on-site.

Organizations are increasingly bringing health specialists on-site for their employees to access. These specialists include wellness coaches, nutritionists, physical fitness experts, trainers, therapists, and more. They may offer convenient and accessible services such as coaching and education, and also provide customized and personalized attention for individual employee needs.

On-site clinics or shared clinics, which provide a range of primary care and wellness services, are also becoming more common in the workplace. Depending on the type of health practitioners employed and resources available at the on-site clinic, they can provide physicals, screenings, immunizations, biometric screening, treatment for work-related injuries, on-going care for chronic conditions, assistance with acute symptoms/diseases (i.e. colds, infections, strep, etc.), access to prescriptions, among others. Employers typical employ or contract a nurse, others also offer a physician, and some may even offer access to other specialists. These individuals may be available on a limited basis or everyday depending on the organization’s needs, and employers typically eliminate co-payments or at least reduce them for on-site services.  By taking control of on-site health management, employers have found that they can better manage health-care costs and reduce absenteeism. Aon Hewitt finds that employers typically receive a return of $2-$4 for every $1 they invest in clinics.

On-site fitness programs, classes, centers, and facilities are also a core part of bringing wellness to the workplace. Employees are more likely to participate in fitness programs that they can access at lunch, during the workday, and directly after or before work. Bringing healthy food on-site is another way employers are making healthy habits convenient. Offering free healthy snacks, incenting healthy food choices with lower costs in cafeterias, coordinating an on-site farmers’ market, using lunch delivery programs, and replacing vending machine selections with healthier choices, are all common ways employers are providing healthy options on-site.

3. Keep it fun.

Most employees do not consider health management enjoyable, which can be a major barrier to participation in wellness programs. Some employers, however, have been able to engage their staff in becoming more active by creating fun opportunities – such as a “recess” in the middle of the work day, pick-up sports or games, special interest groups (i.e. biking, walking, etc.), and friendly challenges or contests between employees to lose weight and make other important lifestyle changes. Some employers in our region have even coordinated walks or bike rides to exotic and exciting locations…including Hawaii and Cedar Point. By making wellness social, employers find that their staff is more open to being active and has fun doing it. Additionally, these organizations receive an added benefit of improving coworker relationships and teamwork. Some employers even offer fun rewards and prizes for progress towards health goals, such as gift cards, trips, and entertainment.

4. Integrate it with work/life.

Organizations are recognizing that work/life issues are integral and related to a successful wellness program. Not only can work/life issues impair physical well-being, but they can also prevent employees from taking advantage of wellness programs. For example, “not having the time” is one of the most frequent reasons that employees do not participate in wellness activities. Lack of time is often related to work/life constraints, workload, and other stressors that work/life programs can reduce.

Several employers realize that well-being is not limited to just physical health, and take a comprehensive approach to improving employee well-being, extending services to social, financial, mental, and emotional health. To help employees manage all aspects of their well-being, more employers are offering services beyond the traditional employee assistance program such as counseling services, child care/elder care, on-site massage therapy, yoga, stress management training, financial planning, retirement assistance, flexible scheduling, alternative treatments, and on-site convenience services.

Employees are highly receptive to work/life programs, viewing them as supportive to their needs. Thereby, integrating them with wellness initiatives can be advantageous in motivating participation, reducing stress, and helping employees manage their health in a more holistic sense. 

Making wellness work is all about decreasing barriers to its success, one of which is usually motivation and participation by employees. If your organization is attempting to drive participation in its wellness initiatives, try making wellness easy, accessible, on-site, enjoyable, and integrated with work/life programs.

Additional Resources

Preferred Partners (Members only)
ERC has many Preferred Partners and vendors that facilitate different aspects of wellness programs, such as executive physicals, employee assistance programs, health and safety training, and health screening. To view a list of Preferred Partners and the services and cost-savings they offer to ERC members, click here.

ERC Health
For more information about ERC’s health insurance program for small and mid-sized businesses, please click here.

HR Guide to Summer in the Workplace

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It’s that time of year again. Memorial Day signals the return of warm weather, summer activities, and plenty of HR and workplace issues from enforcing dress code and attendance policies to planning a company outing or event. This is your guide to managing summer in the workplace.

Spell out specifics in your dress code policy.

Dress code tends to become more open to interpretation during the summer (sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, capris, skirts, etc.), so be sure to specify exactly what you mean by “business casual” attire instead of leaving it to the employee’s discretion.  Spell out acceptable and unacceptable types of clothing and shoes (and examples), colors and styles (depending on your industry or type of organization), and specific days or situations that require different attire (such as formal or casual) that the usual. Also, be sure that you apply the dress code policy uniformly and consistently.

Provide flexible scheduling.

Now is an ideal time to remind employees of your attendance policy as issues of consistently coming into work early or late or “calling off” tend to become more of a problem during the summer months. Another way to address this issue is by introducing flexible scheduling options to allow employees to better self-manage their work/life throughout the summer. In the summer, employees are typically faced with greater work/life constraints such as more activities, family obligations, and children home from school. Seasonal perks like flex-time, shorter hours on Fridays, compressed work weeks, and revised work schedules are all offered by some employers during the summer to help employees achieve better balance.

Hire an intern or new graduate.

Another useful way organizations provide relief to their employees during the summer months is by hiring an intern or new graduate. Interns offer a variety of workforce support and assistance with special projects at an affordable cost. They also bring fresh ideas and perspectives, technical knowledge, and a desire to learn. New graduates offer similar capabilities. If you’re not sure where to start in terms of hiring and compensating an intern or new graduate, check out our Intern & Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey for detailed information about recruiting, hiring, training, engaging, and paying interns and new graduates.

Offer time off from work.

Time off is a common request during the summer with three major holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day). Be sure to communicate the paid time off your organization intends to provide for these holidays. Consult our Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey for information about which paid holidays employers plan to offer this year.
Additionally, scheduling and coordinating summer vacations requires an efficient and fair process to ensure that employees are able to take time off when desired, but also that the business is able to meet its demands. Here are some common ways organizations effectively coordinate vacations and paid time off:

  • Use a vacation planner or vacation planning system.
  • Create a method for employees to request or “bid” on preferred dates of vacation – such as a vacation request form. Build in supervisory approval.
  • Require employees to schedule time off in advance, but be reasonable about how far in advance they need to schedule.
  • Have employees coordinate vacation time with their coworkers and/or self-manage vacation time.  This helps ensure that “back-ups” exist.
  • Develop policies that specify what criteria will be used to approve vacations (first come, first served, seniority, rotation, etc.).
  • Specify the limits of taking vacation (i.e. people with the same skill set can’t be out at the same time, maximum number of days, etc.).
  • Monitor and take into account other leaves (FMLA, maternity/paternity, sick, disability, etc.).
  • Remind employees that the business’ needs need to come first when scheduling vacations. As an employer, you do have the right to require an employee to postpone a vacation or require advanced notice. If you do promise vacation, however, you may be legally bound to it, according to Ohio law.

Start (or re-energize) your wellness program.

There’s no better time to start or re-energize a wellness program than at the beginning of summer. Summer is an ideal time for employees to get into shape and improve their well-being and the workplace can help them do that. Employees also tend to be more interested in wellness at this time of the year given the nice weather, outdoor activities, and greater availability of fresh and healthy foods. This can boost participation rates which help you keep your workforce healthier and manage the sting of rising health insurance costs. Here are some ideas for your summer wellness program:

  • Introduce a walking program
  • Hold company-wide wellness/fitness competitions, challenges, or team-building functions
  • Coordinate informal pick-up sports at lunch-time or after work
  • Provide fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Hold seminars on nutrition-related topics
  • Encourage employees to go outside during their lunch break, or even hold meetings outside

Plan a company outing or event.

The summer is a great time to plan a company outing or event and many businesses take advantage of the nice weather to spend time informally socializing with their employees.  Outings and events are great opportunities to get to know your staff, show appreciation, and do some team-building. Here are some tips for planning a summer event, provided by ERC’s own event experts:

  • Form a committee. Don’t plan your event alone. Get other employees involved in planning the outing and event and delegate responsibilities.
  • Define the event or outing’s purpose. Is the outing intended to be a social or networking event? Or is it an event that celebrates or recognizes something?
  • Determine the location. Outdoor locations are ideal for summer events, but make sure that the venue fits your audience and the type of event you are creating. A formal event will need a formal setting.
  • Set a date. Identify a couple potential dates and confirm the availability of the location as well as those that need to attend the event. Provide confirmations.
  • Create an agenda or timeline for the event. Lay out the entire event in terms of breaks, activities, meals, etc. and the times that they should take place. Assign roles to people on your committee and have them “own” certain tasks.
  • Communicate details. Be sure that your guests have all the information they need about the event or outing (i.e. location, directions, timing, attire, meals provided, response directions, and contact information).
  • Select food and activities. Make sure these are relevant to the type of event and the people attending, and also consider any dietary restrictions ahead of time. For example, if children will be attending the event, activities and food selections should be fitting.
  • Test-drive the event. Test equipment, walk through the venue, and get familiar with the things you’ll need during the outing. Pretend like you’re the guest.
  • Make it unique. Traditions are great, but try to build an element of surprise into your outing or event to make each year exciting. This could be a new location or venue, different entertainment, or a new giveaway.

Continue to train and guide performance.

Engagement can often become stale in the summer months. That’s why performance management, training, and development should not wane during the summer months. It’s important to keep investing in these practices so employees stay engaged and productive. For example, the summer signals mid-year, which is an ideal time for employees to meet with supervisors to discuss their performance and progress towards goals and objectives set at the beginning of the year. This discussion can help refocus employees on their goals, help establish new projects and objectives, and identify what additional support is needed. Additionally, while many employers refrain from scheduling training during the summer due to vacations, this actually can be an ideal time for training and development – especially if business is slower than normal during this season. 

Have a contingency plan for severe weather.

More severe weather is being predicted for this summer. Be sure that your organization has contingency and disaster recovery plans in place to deal with unexpected power outages, damages, and other issues that severe weather (such as thunderstorms, tornados, flooding, etc.) could cause for your business and its employees.

Prepare for budgeting. 

The summer passes quickly and budgeting will be just around the corner. With most employers planning to provide salary increases this year, it may be worthwhile for your organization to benchmark your employees’ compensation so that you are prepared to make good decisions about market adjustments and compensation increases when budgeting time approaches. Keep a compensation project on your agenda this summer and use our recently published 2011 compensation surveys as resources. Similar to compensation, use the slower summer months to catch up on major HR projects that have been on your to-do list.

The key to managing summer in the workplace is to acknowledge employees’ work/life needs, balance work with fun, and continue to engage.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching. Click here

Emerging Leaders
This two-part series covers professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, communication skills, and the traits of a strong leader. It is an ideal course for younger professionals, such as new graduates. Participants will learn tools to present themselves more effectively and enhance their contribution to the organization. Click here.

Compensation Surveys
Get a jump-start on budgeting this summer by benchmarking compensation with our Salary Surveys which provide pay information on nearly 300 jobs that are relevant to all organizations and industries. Click here

Over a Third of Local Employers Allow Social Media Use at Work

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According to the results of the 2011-2012 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, more than a third of local employers allow at least some groups of employees to access social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn during regular work hours.

These results may suggest that many employers still don’t have their arms around the impact of social media in the workplace. With the potential risks of liability and the negative impact these sites can have on workplace productivity, it may surprise some to see that so many employers allow employees to access these sites during the workday.

However, the question did not refer specifically to employees accessing the sites on an employer’s network, meaning that employees may be able to access the sites via their own personal mobile phones and devices as well, which could explain why the percentages could appear higher than some might expect.

Additional Resources

Visit our ERC Survey Page to access more information on our conducted surveys.