Getting your office wellness program to put workers first can be more difficult than it sounds
Fostering productive and highly engaged employees should be the number one goal of your employee wellness program.
The thing is, many wellness programs focus on numbers. Like assessments, weight-loss, and rewards for changing habits. And why not? Your performance is tied to moving the needle on those numbers. But do number-driven wellness programs really engage employees? Make them well? Some experts think they’re downright ineffective and counterproductive.
Why? Let’s say your company wellness program prioritizes weight-loss. On Wednesday, you decide to have a big lunch. Do you think you’ll be judged? Probably. How likely are you to partake in said wellness program? Unlikely.
What if you wanted to design a completely new experience? One that drives engagement? One that’s more “employee-friendly”? We know it’s possible. So we picked up the phone to talk to 10 veterans in the HR field (our customers) and asked how they go about it.
Here’s the 4 things they said most frequently:
1. Start with your internal champions
The first thing we noticed is that some human resource managers started with their internal champions. They set up 30-minute coffee meetings with 5-7 employees who are consistently early adopters or fans of any initiative generated by their office. The outcome? This super-charged the process. All 7 HR managers who used this tactic have wellness programs employees were quick to adopt.
The other habit we noticed with the more successful HR managers was that they noted and presented their learning to the decision makers. If that’s you, great. Collect your learnings anyway and share them with colleagues and employees for buy-in before making a final decision.
With employee interests and concerns built-in rather than tacked-on, you make employees feel like the hero. They should be, right? They’re the intended user of the program, the person who ultimately benefits from its implementation.
You’re one step closer to an employee-friendly wellness program. Hooray!
2. Ask employees what they want
Don’t make a move until your employee’s interests and concerns are built-into in a wellness program.
To front-load a decision with feedback from employees, try surveying with open-ended questions rather than closed or leading questions. This way of gathering information challenges accuracy and completeness of thinking in a way that puts people at ease to answer. For example:
- What’s your biggest health concern at work? (open-ended)
- What is your biggest productivity challenge at work? (open-ended)
Avoid questions like these unless you are looking for inaccurate, narrow responses:
- What would make you feel healthier or happier at work? (leading)
- Of these options, what should be implemented? a) a gym; b) better food; c) a leadership course (closed-ended)
3. Make it personal
How many times do you leave your desk to go for a brisk walk outside because it’s good for your health?
Exactly. We all hear wellness tips that make sense but don’t stick.
Instead, what if you left your desk everyday for a walk to get off diabetes medication? Now that’s a real-life deal to get behind.
The thing is, tapping into personal motivations creates a strong call to action. Check out J&J’s story. They have a 90% participation rate in their employee wellness program because it’s lifestyle-oriented. Rather than giving an abstract sense of the right thing to do, the plan teaches employees how to maximize their energy to improve their performance at work and at home. One way to execute this is to set up many small, personal wins that keep employees on track and steer them back when life gets in the way.
Make the end game personal for your employees and your wellness program is more than halfway to employee-gratification.
4. Support employee health
There are undeniable benefits of healthy eating.
I know I mentioned the big lunch thing at the beginning of this post, but hear me out. It’s biology.
Want to know how to increase dopamine intake at work? With healthy food choices. (By the way, Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is central to the experience of curiosity and motivation.) In sum, fruit intake is connected to improved mood and spurts of creativity due to the nutrients that produce dopamine.
So, give employees fruit. That’s the take-away?
Yes and no.
Employee access to nutrient-dense food is the take-away. I know what you’re thinking. That’s costly.
Sure, maybe offering gourmet meals from a Google-style cafeteria isn’t exactly a viable option for many companies. Companies like The Broad Institute, HubSpot, and Brainshark, use a food program stocked with healthy, fresh, grab-and-go meals.
Final tip: Make your employee the hero
Regardless of which direction you take with your wellness program (metrics vs metric-less) remember the point we talked about at the beginning of the post.
Fostering employee engagement really comes down to this one thing: making your employee the hero. Put them first.