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10 Ways to Reconsider Employee Wellness Programming

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The best thinkers in the corporate world agree that employee wellbeing is paramount to productivity and profitability.However, identifying the issue is the easy part. Integrating wellness into your culture is a challenging undertaking.

It’s tricky to get people to do what’s actually best for them. Overcoming familiar habits like skipping the gym for the snooze button or opting for potatoes au gratin over leafy greens isn’t easy. Encouraging employees to use those dietary insights, workout classes, and meditation tools your team has worked so hard to make available takes time and planning.

We won’t sugar coat it: with so many reasons for employees NOT to take care of themselves, creating a high-functioning wellness program for your workforce may be the most strategy-dependent initiative in all of HR.

With that in mind, here’s what you should be paying attention to when you set up yours.

1. Low Participation.

At Balance Integration, less than 20% positive response is a sign that a wellness offering isn’t at peak performance. This is measured by receptivity — a measure of whether people have expressed interest by committing to showing up. It is measured by attendance — do they actually show up, regardless of what last minute meetings and emails pop up? Finally, it is measured by survey response — did they care enough about the experience to give you feedback? If you don’t see a consistent participation of at least 20% across these three metrics, you’ve got problems.

2. Stand-Out Communication

Employees need to feel secure knowing their participation is considered consistent with how the organization defines success. The most successful communication shows how respected leaders in the organization integrate self-care into their career planning, and always emphasizes mutual respect between parties.

3. Program Diversity

If you want your program to yield results beyond checking the “wellness” box, it’s got to fit with the realities of people’s actual work lives. With diverse work flows, varying meeting schedules, and demographic complexities that may make before- or after-work events impossible, you must offer up a variety of formats and schedules.

4. C-Suite Support

Senior management attendance sends a strong message to your workforce about your company’s commitment to your wellness program. Employees don’t have to see leadership in every workshop, but they do need to know the behaviors are valued in your organization.

5. Giveaways

If you count on free stuff to get employees to attend your wellness events, you’re in trouble. Sure, we all love a free lunch or cool water bottle, but the draw of “gimmes” should be used very selectively, in limited quantities, and with an element of surprise to keep people hooked.

6. Your Workplace Should Reflect Wellness

Is your wellness program focused on cultivating healthy habits but your lunchroom is packed with bags of chips and candy bars? Successful wellness programs don’t only exist during the one hour every other week when you host an event. They must become a core element of the way your company functions.

7. Engage your Audience

Let’s say you’ve got employees in the room for a session you’re offering. What’s the vibe? If your high attendance is a room packed full of employees staring at their phones, the program isn’t working.

8. The Invisible Middle

Every company has what we call the “invisible middle.” These people want to take an active step forward in their wellness, but something about your program hasn’t pulled them away from their desks. These folks are super important as they’re the bedrock of your engaged population, so listen to their interests. Once you hear the invisible middle’s wants, create participation incentives to give them a reason to come.

9. Setting the Bar

If your program sets the bar too high, employees may be intimidated out of trying at all. If your bar is set too low, then—from an employee’s perspective—why bother? The goal is to ensure the largest percentage of your employees have something to gain from your program while having it feel accessible. Remember: Vary your programming structure to meet the needs of your workforce.

10. Measuring Success

Wellness program should help a person improve a certain aspect about themselves. The program should include multiple touch points that give each participant several ways to measure their success. Make sure there are mechanisms for employees to goal-set beyond weight or BMI.

The most important thing to remember to ensure your program soars is that you are crafting a program for humans. Sweet, stressed, scared, courageous, complex humans. If you treat them as such, and continue to invest your own time and energy in participation, you’ve already gone a long way towards keeping it on the right track.