When it comes to a company’s wellness program, a key to keeping people interested is an ongoing program to generate excitement about both the program itself and the benefits it offers workers.
“It is key that management supports wellness initiatives by providing time and financial support as innovative and helpful programs are developed,” says Peggy Zanin, RN, BSN, MS, the coordinator of Women’s Heart Health Program at Akron General Medical Center’s Heart & Vascular Center.
Smart Business spoke to Zanin about ways a company can build excitement and maintain worker interest in its wellness programs.
What are wellness programs designed to do?
Workplace wellness programs are designed to create a culture of health in the workplace. They often offer incentives for employees who adopt healthier lifestyles, such as discounts on group health premiums, and penalize those employees who do not. A healthier work force lives longer and is happier, so employee wellness programs are good ideas. Ideally, programs are designed to help employees make better lifestyle choices.
Is it better to have a designated ‘spirit leader’ or to have a top executive take on the cheerleader role?
The top executive does not have to be the cheerleader. It may be vital that the top executive involves many champions to live and share the wellness mantra. Again it really is key that management supports wellness initiatives. They need to provide time and financial support.
What kinds of wellness events work best?
A pep rally is not always needed, but a health message presented in different forums to reach diverse employees should be offered at least monthly. The events should take many forms and are often easiest and most beneficial when they are linked with national events. Make events timely. Use national health themes to generate interest and confirm the importance of message. Provide programs when people are available. Workers have demanding schedules and family obligations so it is crucial to make the programs enjoyable, convenient and affordable.
How do you get the message out?
Generating buzz takes a communications strategy, successful tactics and a commitment from leadership. Nothing beats repetition. Consider e-mail blasts, fliers, posters and giveaways to pique your employees’ interest. You may also want to develop a standard design template and color palette to strengthen the branding of your program. Sending the message that you care about your employees’ well-being will help reinforce their healthy behavior.
How can you get your employees to be excited about wellness programs?
Creating a wellness committee to support your new programs is critical to transforming your company’s culture. A wellness committee can help empower your staff to be more active and adopt positive behaviors that support a lifelong commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
Recruit the fit and those challenged to live a healthy lifestyle, smokers and nonsmokers, and a range of professionals, such as human resources managers, employee health representatives and marketing experts. The more diverse your core group is, the more likely you are to create enthusiasm in all parts of your workplace and the easier it will be to spread the message about the program.
A wellness committee also can help you get a handle on how these programs are being accepted by the employees, gather information about what programs work and determine what kind of incentives would be most popular.
How do incentives drive engagement?
It’s vital that employers offer no-cost or low-cost incentives to incite employee lifestyle changes. Some employers are providing subsidized on-site healthy lunch programs or discounted gym memberships. I’ve seen very effective programs that pay employees as little as $1 for each pound of weight they lose. Like any incentive program, the plan must be well communicated and reinforced in order for it to work.
What health messages should employers repeatedly share with their employees?
Companies want to focus on programs that raise awareness and prevention for the leading causes of injury and death. As their employees become healthier they will be more productive and ultimately have less illness and disease. By engaging employees in healthier lifestyle choices, it will lead them to a better quality of life and they will be able to give more to their job and others. Women and men need to know their health risks and proactive employers will design fun, innovative programs to help prevent these diseases. Heart disease and stroke are the two leading causes of death throughout the world. Many women still believe breast cancer is their major health concern.
Presentations, health screens, contests, walks and continual messages are beneficial and worthwhile to assist workers to be more active, stop smoking and control waistlines, blood pressure, diabetes and lipid levels.
PEGGY ZANIN, RN, BSN, MS, is the coordinator of the Women’s Heart Health Program at Akron General Medical Center’s Heart and Vascular Center. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.