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