Getting Employees to Use Your Wellness Program

Julie Shenkman
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A wellness program has a variety of benefits for your human resources department, including reduced sick days and lower insurance costs. What's more, research by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health found that great health programs can lower employee turnover. The mere existence of a wellness or health program is not enough to guarantee these benefits; to see the full effects, you must find ways to get employees to participate.

Get Personal

Each of your employees has different motivations, so a reward that works for one person might not interest another. The easiest way to get employees to use your wellness programs is to get personal. Create a survey that asks about individual wellness goals and desired incentives. Honor the feedback by tailoring your program to suit your staff. Eliminate perks that don't interest employees, and offer a menu of incentives for each level. If your employees express interest in a completely personalized program, consider a system that provides reimbursement for gym memberships, fitness tracker purchases or other health-related expenses. Then, use employees' health goals to make changes in the workplace. If your staff wants to eat better, add healthier snacks to the vending machine; if they want to burn more calories, buy standing desks or create a company sports league.

Focus on the Big Picture

Wellness involves more than exercise and healthy eating; it also covers things such as stress, sleep, job satisfaction and work-life balance. Increase employee participation by identifying common pain points and using the program to alleviate them. If your staff members struggle to make it to their children's daytime events, consider adding a few hours of flex time each month to cover personal outings. Boost job satisfaction by enabling each person to dedicate time to a job-related passion project, or offer exercise and fitness programs at the office so workers don't have to rush to the gym after work.

Lead by Example

Give your employees confidence to take part in your wellness program by setting an example. Ask managers and high-level executives to participate in visible ways, such as biking to work, taking time during the day to work out or joining company sports teams. In a fast-paced, productivity-oriented company, employees may be afraid to stop working long enough to take advantage of wellness activities. When management leads by example, it shows lower-level workers that they won't be penalized for pursuing work-life balance.

Use Games

The idea of "wellness" isn't necessarily fun on its own; by turning a wellness program into a game, you can make it more entertaining and engaging. Big goals, such as losing weight or improving heart health, can feel overwhelming. Instead, break down each major goal into a set of levels, each with a specific reward. If you want to promote weight loss, Level 1 might be walking 10,000 steps per day, Level 2 might add strength training in the company gym and Level 3 could involve eating healthier meals. Add a competitive element using fitness trackers to create a company leaderboard for steps, calories burned or active minutes.

A great wellness program can save money, improve corporate culture and act as an important recruiting tool for human resources staff. By taking the time to create a tailored program, you can engage employees and maximize your efforts.

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