Patricia Chaney

How to Bring New Life to Your Wellness Program

The further you get into the year, the more you’ll see people’s commitment to their resolutions crumble — so don’t be too surprised when you find that participation in the employee wellness program you’ve implemented is following a similar trajectory. If your wellness program is stagnating, then it’s time to revisit what you’ve been doing. All it takes is a little out-of-the-box thinking.

Spice Up Your Program

One relatively simple way to kickstart your program is to create a regular wellness day to bring an activity or exercise at work to your employees.
By offering a variety of entertaining activities, you can draw in employees who might normally be resistant to participating.

Provide healthy foods during the day, and offer some challenges with prizes to spark interest. Some ideas for your wellness days include:

  • Yoga. Bringing yoga practice to work can give employees access to an exercise they may not otherwise try. Plus, it’s great for counteracting long periods of sitting or standing.
  • Guided meditation. Learning basic meditation practices introduces your employees to a stress-management technique they can apply any time.
  • Healthy cooking classes. Hosting a demonstration gives inexperienced cooks and fast-food enthusiasts healthy ideas to try at home. Focus on nutrient-rich dinners, packed lunches and meal prep.
  • Financial wellness workshops. Financial struggles lead to stress that affects employees’ health and productivity. Workshops covering budgeting, health care costs or retirement savings offer employees tools to keep (or get) their finances on the right path.
  • Exercise at work. Try activities that require minimal equipment like circuit training, kickboxing or childhood games like jump-rope and hula hoops. Make it fun with a little friendly competition.

These activities won’t necessarily break the bank. Partner with local businesses like smoothie bars, gyms or personal trainers to take advantage of any discounts that come with supporting other small businesses. Or tap into the expertise of your workforce — the black belt at the back of the office might be willing to show off some moves.

Reevaluate Your Health Initiatives

The above options are great for refreshing your wellness offerings, but it’s possible your program needs more than a new coat of paint. Sometimes you have to go deeper.

An employee survey will give you insight into what’s been working, what hasn’t and what other potential offerings your staff might like. Take their feedback seriously, and cast a wide net — successful wellness programs aren’t a one-size-fits-all offering. Your employees probably know that wellness programs can include exercise, but are they aware that they could also find help with mindfulness, stress management and financial wellness? Having a variety of activities encouraged by the office, provided by the program or counted toward incentives will draw in more participants.

Next, take a good look at your program design. What steps do your employees have to take to receive an incentive? Is it too much additional work? When you survey your employees, ask them how easy the program is to use. A Health Advocate survey found that almost half of large employers said their programs were disjointed or confusing for employees.

How should you simplify your program? On the one hand, health care apps that pull data from a wearable device or fitness app can make participation easier. But if taking part in your wellness program means keeping track of four apps and several other online platforms, these tools become a burden instead of a resource. This is where streamlining becomes the name of the game. Cut down on the number of portals and apps employees have to use to take full advantage of the program, and establish a single point of contact for the wellness program so that everyone has one place to go for questions or reporting.

Show Support at All Levels

Sometimes it’s not the program itself that hurts participation but the office culture. If your wellness program encourages people to reduce stress, lose weight, eat healthy and be more active, then the workplace needs to reflect and support those goals — and so do you.

Beyond encouraging healthy habits, make sure your policies and habits embody the behaviors you hope your employees will adopt. Give employees an opportunity to exercise at work with an extended lunch break or flexible hours — and then make sure they see you on the treadmill. Set reasonable expectations with manageable workloads to help employees keep their stress levels in check. Let your staff know you mean it by outlining a course of action if their workload is becoming overwhelming. And be sure to give employees recognition for the achievements they make through the program, whether it’s cutting down on soda or quitting smoking.

Even the best workplace health programs need to be updated every once in a while. To keep participation up, give your program the chance to evolve — you’ll find it can match stride with your employees’ changing needs, step for step.

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