A recent RAND Corporation study found that more than 85% of U.S. companies employing 1,000 people or more offer some sort of workplace wellness program. The intention of most wellness programs is to encourage behavior change and lower employee’s health risks while seeing a healthier bottom line at the same time.
Offering a wellness program is great but does not guarantee that there will be improvement in someone’s health. Employees must be aware and encouraged to take part in the program when it is offered—and this is the biggest barrier to any successful wellness program. Of the 85% of companies who offered wellness, Gallup shows that only 60% were aware that their company offered a program and only of those aware only 40% participated.
So, the question is, how can we encourage participation among our employees?
- To increase participation, you must have senior level support. This does not mean that the responsibility falls all on the CEO of the company. Yes, the CEO must buy-in and be supportive of the initiative but all levels of management must support the initiative and lead by example.
- Develop and follow a well-crafted operating plan. Your workplace is unlike any other. Your employees are unique. To effectively engage them, you must know them. By having a well-crafted operating plan, your wellness program will have a vision, clear objectives, employee’s needs & interest, communication strategies, timelines and metrics to track to show success of the program. This operating plan should be transparent and everyone in the organization should know how the program works, what is expected, how awards are achieved and what has been the success of the program.
- Promote and encourage healthy behaviors. It has been perceived in the past that if you offer opportunities for employees to improve their health, that positive change would automatically happen. Over time we have learned that it takes a lot more than just opportunities. Your employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work, so it is each organization’s responsibility to promote and encourage healthy behaviors. At the organization this means looking at the physical environment your employees work and looking at company policies and adopting policies that lead to healthier lives. For example, if you organization offers smoking cessation programs, but does not offer a supportive environment by banning smoking from its campus, then it’s unlikely any positive changes will occur.
When looking at any strategy to increase participation, keep in mind to keep the focus on your employees and their wellbeing. Remember, your organization’s health and prosperity is directly influenced by the health and wellbeing of your employees.