Today is #WellnessWednesday! Just a reminder that the goal is to:
- Provide value to our VIPs and readers, and to
- Pass along key and actionable findings from recent journal articles.
Why is this important to you?
All else being equal, a healthy workforce will always outperform an unhealthy workforce. When workers are not distracted by illnesses, they are more engaged and ‘present’ at work!
The primary strategy in wellness programs is to establish a culture of health by using strategic communications. A number of years ago, before I left corporate, we tried multiple wellness initiatives in many different departments over the years, everything from stretching programs to walking programs. Our typical health initiatives lasted only a few months at a time, and usually took a lot of effort both to initiate and maintain, and really only got limited buy-in by small employee groups within the organization. The rest of the employees were simply not aware or they had no interest in participating. We did not know how to effectively market our program to staff nor how to position it in a way that they would find attractive.
We had missed critical parts that, if present, could have definitely led to better wellness program outcomes. In a way, we never really got off to a good start because we were missing these 3 keys to success:
- Leadership commitment
- Social and physical environmental support
- Employee involvement
There is a lot strong evidence that well-designed, appropriately implemented and properly measured workplace health promotion programs can improve health, manage health care costs, and increase worker engagement and productivity. In the office culture of 2016, we all tend to be aware of these benefits but there is a gap with knowledge, expertise, and experience needed to design and implement effective programs.
Usually that leaves internal wellness programs to be fragmented, like the ones that I participated in long ago.
But, with just some key points of information (see below), many workplaces can strategize, develop and implement an engaging wellness initiative.
What you can implement today
I know that this can be considered an understatement, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for wellness programs. Successful workplace wellness programs must be tailored to employees’ health needs and goals as well as each organizations’s unique culture. In saying this, there are many general strategies that many will find useful. These are shared below.
Wellness programs should always be tailored and targeted to each organization. One size does definitely not fit all.
- Organizational leadership is arguably the most important part of establishing a wellness program.
- Leadership must always show their commitment to wellness by practising healthy behaviours, implementing health promoting policies and practices.
- Leaders must consistently express the importance of employee health and well-being to the organization (through words, actions, and policies) and devote adequate resources to health promotion efforts, even if programs are not expected to save money immediately.
- Managers must encourage employees to incorporate health activities into the workday.
- Employees must participate in, engage in the process wellness so that the program meets the needs of individuals and their families.
- Co-workers should encourage one another in health promotion efforts and create teams to improve their health together (of course this is easier said than done to implement).
- The physical environment should offer healthy options as the default. Employees should also have access to convenient, high-quality resources to improve their health.
- Health and well-being should be promoted with social/organizational expectations and accepted ways of behaving.
- Communications with all staff should be designed to educate, motivate, market program offerings, and build trust. Also, they should be designed to increase awareness of health issues, inspire employees to improve/maintain their health, connect employees to health promotion resources, and increase buy-in to the program.
- Materials and messages should always be appealing to employees of different age, sex, education level, or job category.
- A variety of message channels should be used. For example, e-mail, break room and bathroom stall posters, intranet, mailed materials, and word-of-mouth can all be useful!
- The timing, frequency, and placement of messages should be carefully planned so as to maintain ongoing engagement without overwhelming employees, and to reach employees at key decision points.
- There is an ongoing effort to gather feedback and input from employees about their needs, interests, and barriers they face for improving health.
Kent, K., Goetzel, R., Roemer, E., Prasad, A. & Freundlich, N. (2016). Promoting Healthy Workplaces by Building Cultures of Health and Applying Strategic Communications. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 58(2), 114-122.