At Success Labs, we are firm believers that a healthy mindset and perspective are essential for developing a resilient workforce that can cope with today’s dynamic and rapidly changing business climate. One of the best ways to support this healthy frame of mind is through a workplace wellness program designed to support and improve your employees’ health and fitness.
A 2017 survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that more than 90 percent of organizations offer at least one wellness program. And among those companies offering a wellness initiative and measuring their results, more than half reported a decrease in absenteeism — as well as increased productivity, employee satisfaction and financial sustainability.
“The return is tenfold,” says Traci Precht, human resources manager at Pinnacle Polymers, a chemical plant in Garyville, Louisiana, that has experimented with different employee wellness initiatives. “The money is there, but it’s also productivity, efficiency, your employees being present at work and feeling healthy, happy, engaged and motivated. Those things are harder to quantify.”
We asked Precht for advice on how to implement and sustain an effective wellness program over the years. These are her top three tips.
Communicate in Different Ways
Wellness initiatives — such as programs to help workers stop smoking, lose weight or take advantage of free preventive health screenings — are only effective with buy-in from your employees. And that takes intelligent and sustained outreach from your organization’s leadership.
“That is probably the most important step when you’re going to roll out any type of wellness program,” Precht says. “No matter what your program is or how it’s implemented, it has to be well-communicated and well-thought-out.”
Precht suggests creating a team within your organization to craft a communication plan that will showcase the features of the program to your employees, and also motivate them and help them stay positive. The outreach efforts should be multifaceted and tailored to the specific needs of your specific team. That means a combination of electronic communication, such as email lists or app notifications, and low-tech outreach like person-to-person conversations, snail mail letters or bulletin boards around the office.
Remember that people are busy and often subject to a barrage of information on a daily basis. To break through, your communication plan should be sustained over a long period of time. “Don’t just send out a communication one time and expect it to work,” Precht says.
Eliminate Barriers to Access
With any wellness program it’s essential to make it as easy as possible for your employees to take advantage of everything the plan has to offer. That means first identifying any barriers that may exist — which often requires simply asking your employees — then developing an action plan to eliminate those obstacles.
For example, if less-tech-savvy team members are having difficulty adopting a technology-based aspect of the wellness program, such as a mobile app, this is a clear barrier to the wellness program realizing its full potential. One solution, Precht says, would be to train people who are comfortable with technology to show other team members how to download the application.
Precht says that when Pinnacle wanted to encourage more employees to participate in its wellness initiative that encourages walking, it negotiated a discount with a manufacturer of fitness trackers and provided a device to each employee. “Our new employees coming in get a step tracker, so they’re already engaged in wellness from day one,” she says.
The company also installed stationary bicycles for indoor plant operators, who are often parked in front of computer consoles monitoring critical operations and unable to walk. Another initiative brought trainers to visit their office for a variety of fitness and weight-training classes. “If people say ‘I don’t have time to go the gym,’ we’ll bring the gym to you,” Precht says.
Make Wellness Feel Fun
To encourage participation in your wellness program, make it competitive and offer some incentives for continued participation. Precht says to first look at your company’s budget to see what you can afford, then aim to offer incentives that will have the biggest return on that investment.
Pinnacle, for example, holds challenges throughout the year, such as a step contest that awards a winning team with small incentives every two weeks and a larger prize at the end of the overall competition. Precht says Pinnacle has offered beach towels, fold-up tailgate chairs, stadium blankets, hats, lunch coolers, backpacks and other items as rewards. The rewards pay off with greater participation.
“It’s voluntary, but we try to encourage everyone to participate,” she says. “For our last step challenge we had 98 percent participation.”
Precht says gamification and incentives help keep people engaged in the wellness program long after the initial novelty wears off. “We see that participation tends to drop down after open enrollment, so we try to continue the wellness activities throughout the year,” she says. “We always try to come out with new activities and new ideas to keep people participating.”
These small investments in time, effort and money can help your company maintain an effective wellness program that will foster a more resilient and productive team — qualities that can have a profound impact on your organization’s success. Helping your workforce develop an inner strength and healthy foundation will set your company (and the people that power it) up to thrive in an ever-changing business environment that is only going to get more complex and challenging moving forward.
Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.