Introducing wellness programs is about engaging employees and boosting company morale, not about simply ticking the wellness box. A well designed and executed workplace wellness program will lead to better productivity, less absence and disability, lower benefit costs and happier employees, all of which is better for your company’s bottom line.
But, health and wellness initiatives in the workplace can fall short of expectations for a number of reasons (see the three most common mistakes employers make when introducing a wellness program). Here are a few more errors to avoid if you want your wellness initiatives in the workplace to be a success.
4 reasons your employee wellness benefits aren’t living up to expectations
1. Your wellness program is voluntary.
It isn’t necessary to push people down the hall to the nutrition workshop or force them to do push-ups at their desk, but if your wellness opportunities are presented similar to any of the following situations, your uptake is going to be less than satisfactory.
a. You announce that there’s to be a nutrition workshop next Thursday and tell employees “if they have time, they can go.” Unfortunately, time is rarely something people have, so when something is presented as optional, most people will prioritize work obligations over health and wellness.
b. You offer a gym subsidy and that is all. While this can be one possible offering, it’s the icing on the cake, not the cake! If people really want to go to the gym, they’ll find the money themselves. In general, if someone isn’t paying for it, they probably don’t want it or won’t want to go.
c. You offer a variety of online educational resources and encourage employees to browse on their own time. This is not a unique offering as anyone can look anything up online. And most people won’t bother to make the time to use these resources.
d. You offer an app for monitoring health and wellness, such as calorie intake or step counting. Like online educational resources, this offering doesn’t encourage employees to act or take initiative. Instead, it encourages them to act on their own and many will instead say that they don’t have time for that.
2. Your wellness program doesn’t promote community.
Tackling anything alone is rarely an effective approach (see examples b, c and d above). Think about it — why do people join support groups when trying to lose weight, battle depression or fight cancer? It’s because there’s a community of people around in similar situations that can offer help and encouragement. There are huge benefits to tackling something as a group.
The same theory applies to workplace health and wellbeing programs. Offer something that people can do individually and the uptake likely won’t be great; offer a health-related challenge that employees can communally tackle and you are capitalizing on peer motivation, peer inspiration, social enticement and the sharing of ideas, information and goals. And everyone can have a little fun along the way.
3. Your managers roll their eyes when employees get involved in wellness.
One of the fastest ways to kill participation in any program is when employees feel that their efforts are met with resistance from their superiors. Who would want to join when they think their boss could hold it against them?
You need an overall strategy to increase management buy-in and support so that everyone from the top down is on board. Your managers are your frontrunners, your advocates, your program champions and your communication conduit.
4. Your environment makes it hard to be healthy at work.
If it’s harder for people to be healthy in the office than it is at home, your program will be dead in the water. It takes a lot of willpower for people to always walk by donuts or chocolate without having some and your employees can’t go for a walk, get to the gym, go to a yoga class, spend time with family and friends or cook a healthy dinner if they’re regularly working overtime.
Make the office a place of wellness support — your employees spend too many hours there for it not to be.
Benefits advisor finds wellness program that’s right for your company
This is where the battle is won — by integrating and promoting health and wellness into everyday activities in the workplace. If you’re looking for success then redefine normal; don’t settle for a poor wellness program uptake. Turn your wellness program around by creating stand up sales calls, energy breaks, healthy food potlucks, appreciation and recognition, mental health stigma reduction and flex hours. It shouldn’t be the same for all organizations but there is something for all organizations and a good long talk with a benefits advisor can help educate you on your options. It doesn’t have to be expensive or onerous, but it does need to be thoughtful and strategically nurtured in order to build a strong foundation for success.