Not only are wellness programs valuable for the organizations and their employees, they are our biggest hope for fixing the national health crisis we are in.
Thanks to their reach and influence on employees, workplaces have a unique power to reframe the mindset around health itself — from one of chronic illness to wellness.
Companies are a small sample of society and an important setting for health improvement – and risk reduction. With 150 million Americans going to work every day, corporate America is not only in the best position to change our nation’s health, but I believe it has a responsibility to do so.
It would be wonderful if all organizations would own the responsibility to change how people interact with healthcare…like thinking about it daily, instead of once a year at a wellness fair.
The organizations with the greatest success are managing to shift people’s relationship with health from one where health is something thought about and “practiced” annually at the doctor’s office, to one where health is practiced daily through small lifestyle habits. The more proactive stance toward health that companies can establish, it will feed off of itself and enhance employees lives, while reducing healthcare costs.
Tie Wellness Into Strategy
Once a company can tie their health and wellness message under the mission of prevention, putting health in an “upbeat, positive feeling,” the program can take hold within the organization. It basically means that leaders need to work hard to tie all wellness activities back to a broader company strategy.
Safeway is a good example of redefining its core business from “a grocery company with a wellness program,” to “a wellness company that happens to sell groceries.” When leadership put this into motion, the wellness program took off. The CEO, along with the rest of the executive leadership team, ensure that health and wellness are kept top of mind.
Safeway made large capital investments in a state-of-the-art fitness center, a preventative-care health center, and health-focused cafeterias to support the organizational mission. After all, when employees can feel better, look better, and handle the stresses of the daily grind at work, they can become more productive. Creating a seamless wellness experience has resulted in participation rates of over 80% at Safeway – when the typical participation rate is 40%.
Making It Personal
When health is made personal and put in real-life terms, people discover the value that health and wellness can hold in their lives. This will provide a strong call to action. Johnson & Johnson, which has one of the longest standing wellness programs in the country, understands that people don’t strive to get healthy because it’s the right thing to do to get some extra positive press.
If we want our employees to achieve more at work, and to be more focused and results oriented, it makes sense to look at health and general wellness as a means to an end. Healthier employees = happier, more productive individuals making better decisions. People generally want to be around for their family, to get off diabetes medication, to sleep better at night, to get outdoors and enjoy life more, and to perform better at work.
When an organization can tap into those personal motivations, it can better communicate the value of health. One key element of a successful wellness program is to teach employees how to maximize their energy to improve their performance both at work and at home. The program should be designed to be less clinical and more lifestyle-oriented – in other words how do we make it fun, rewarding, and something that generates a feeling of accomplishment. Most health-oriented programs don’t do that.
One thing that I have and will constantly advocate for all employees: “Make wellness Fun, Rewarding, and something that generates a feeling of accomplishment.”
Make It a Collective Effort
Wellness needs to be done with employees, not to them, or the effects won’t last. When employees feel a system is their own, engagement increases. The best programs are actively designed for a “grassroots” partnership and harness the power of shared accountability to sustain engagement.
The company can take a “collective effort” approach and empower its employees in different locations to design their own wellness initiatives relevant to their department’s needs. If a worksite is able to get at least 20 people interested in a new program, it can receive funding and support from corporate to run that program locally. This kind of empowerment encourages many employees to become health and wellness champions in their location. It will empower them to initiate activities such as a daily Walk for Life, iMatter 6 Week Challenge, Biggest Loser Weight Loss Challenge, full-body thermal scans, yoga — and recruiting other employees to join in their collective wellness efforts.
Building such community health champions helps spread the message and ensures the program’s reach – not to mention its ultimate success. It also keeps people accountable and gives them the support they need at those sometimes unavoidable moments in life where you can become overwhelmed, or even derailed.
Celebrate Those Who Step Up
Let’s celebrate the wellness-oriented organizations for stepping up to tackle a national health care crisis. Our society depends on their reach and influence to help move practice forward, and to reframe the conversation from a focus on sick care to a focus on wellness care. Let’s give workplace wellness programs the support that will keep them, and the people in them, healthy!
You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments. And, if you want to get a copy of my latest book Healthy Habits of Highly Productive Employees you can visit www.brianhazelgren.com