A little while ago, I encountered a company that had recently launched its corporate wellness program. The kick-off messaging was rolled-out successfully and the staff were excited and engaged. But at a company-wide training session shortly thereafter staff walked into a conference room filled with tables, pens, pencils, chips, soda, cookies, candy, and the like. As the kids say nowadays, “MAJOR fail!”
Sadly, this is all too commonplace in the corporate setting. Many companies institute corporate wellness programs like they administer 401k plans, or offer health benefits. It’s an add-on to the culture; not part of the culture. And most employees can tell you from first-hand experience that if wellness isn’t part of an organization’s culture? Than it’s not authentic. And if it’s not authentic? Than it’s not gonna “stick.” This is evidenced by break rooms around the nation full of “Eat Healthy! Get Active!” posters hanging up next to vending machines containing soda and candy bars.
Given today’s troubling societal health trends – everything from obesity and diabetes, to cancer and heart disease – coupled with the quickly rising cost of employer-based health care, there has never been a more critical time for workplace wellness efforts that are authentic and effective. There is a huge economic incentive for companies to have a healthy workforce given the increasing shift to experience-rated health plans. And a growing body of research is showing empirically that healthier employees are not only happier individuals but also significantly more productive employees. That, coupled with the long-term savings on preventable lifestyle-related illness, means that a company’s bottom line has a lot to gain from a healthy workplace.
The trick for any corporate wellness program, however, is to be authentic and actually be embodied by the company’s daily culture and workplace behavior from the top to the bottom of the organization. So, if you’re a business leader developing a wellness program for your own workplace? Here are some key questions to ask yourself:
– Company Leadership Supports it, but Do They Live it? Nothing can tank a company’s health efforts like a group of employees getting back from a healthy lunch-time walk only to file past the board room with a side board of soda and cookies being set up for the next meeting. What kind of mixed-messages are practiced in your company’s culture? Just like any individual who is trying to change their own personal health and wellness habits, a company is going to go through some growing pains as well as it learns to shift its culture. That’s just par for the course. When you find areas of your organization where behavior doesn’t align with intention, simply identify it, acknowledge the inconsistency, and exhibit a change in behavior.
– Are Employees Involved in the Development? Activities, dashboards, and metrics are all good, but if a corporate wellness program isn’t ‘user-friendly’ or realistic? Than employees won’t buy in. Be sure that you engage key members of your workforce (at various cross-sections of the organization) in the development, roll-out, and analysis of your company’s plan. Not only will your efforts stand a higher chance of success, but by engaging employees across multiple levels of the organization, you’ll ensure a higher level of buy-in within your corporate culture.
– How Are You Going to Measure Your Progress? Saying, “we’re going to become a more healthy company” without identifying some metrics to track ahead of time usually ends as successfully as when individuals set a New Year’s Resolution to “get healthy.” It doesn’t last long. Just like in any area of your business, it’s awfully hard to achieve vague goals, so be specific about “what success will look like.” Don’t set a goal to ‘lose weight’ if you can set a goal to ‘lose 10% of our collective weight‘.
Remember, hype and incentives can only get you so far. Excitement wears off after awhile. To actually make it across the finish line, corporate wellness has to be an authentic part of your organization’s culture.
Image by: Phil Whitehouse, Flickr. Used by Permission Under Creative Commons License.