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How to Create a Workplace Wellness Program That Works

In the era of instant online scheduling, deliveries through the touch of an app, and wearable technology, where do workplace wellness programs fit in? Many companies are going above and beyond for their employees’ health and wellness, but none have the strong digital presence to match their lifestyles.

Today’s employers understand the importance of supporting the physical well-being and mental health of their workforce. This support manifests itself in the form of wellness services such as workout rooms, healthy snacks, volunteer opportunities, flexible work hours, and better paid leave for families. According to SnackNation, some companies use these programs as an opportunity to provide out-of-the-box benefits: Zappos provides “Recess Tuesdays” for free play, Centro gives employees 10 Ferris Bueller Days off, Asana offers their employees a $10,000 budget to create their perfect workspace, and Dentsu Aegis offers 20-weeks paid parental leave.

Unfortunately, these desired benefits don’t always align with reality. Offering free yoga classes at work sounds enticing, but when an employee is swamped with work or doesn’t feel like changing during the day, this benefit goes unused. To be truly beneficial, companies need to start providing programs that are as seamless as the technologies we use every day.

Where to start:

  • Audit your current program: Survey employees one to two times per year to get feedback about current programs and interests outside of work. This will help you to discover which wellness activities employees currently participate in during their free time.

How to identify which wellness benefits to add or remove:

1) Provide targeted benefits: Carefully think abut your employees and your larger goal as a company. Provide targeted benefits for either employees with higher risk health issues or the population that is already excited about wellness. The initial survey or audit will provide you guidance and insight into the best audience to target.

2) Provide flexible benefits: Consider new programs or benefits that are more flexible and are a better value for your dollar. For example, provide employees a pay-as-you-go exercise class pass. Each employee could have a specific number of classes to use each quarter. Also, consider digital benefits for greater flexibly. Employees work from home, from the train, from a client’s office, and all around the world. The traditional office schedule may not work for their needs. A digital wellness platform could offer on-the-go classes such as yoga, aerobics, body-weight lifting, diet goals, habit goals, or a virtual coach.

How to ensure the success of a new wellness program:

1) Create a health culture

Leadership in the company should set an example by creating an atmosphere that encourages and celebrates health and wellness. Assign or appoint wellness leaders who would lead by example and encourage others to participate in the wellness activity. He or she can invite colleagues to join them for a workout class, start a walking club during lunch breaks, or lead a health challenge for the office. Engagement will be higher when it is socially acceptable and fun to participate.

2) Provide incentives

Consider having a point system to encourage people to meet their goals, or start with a set number of points that are lost if the goal is not met. Create a visible leaderboard at the office to encourage competition and highlight people’s accomplishments and a prize for the winner of an office health challenge. According to the Harvard Business Review, gamifying healthcare creates a more motivated culture with a competitive edge.

Digital wellness program ideas:

Some flexible and digital programs are now offering wearable monitoring devices and digital scales, in addition to a platform that offers personalized plans to improve health or wellness goals. Employees are motivated by leaderboard challenges and donations to a charity made in their name. Programs such as these are currently being tested to prove effectiveness.

If successful, digital health care solutions have the potential to change the face of workplace wellness, and open doors for more streamlined programs. Wellness programs aren’t just “nice-to-have” benefits to be tossed around. They must stay relevant, efficient, and above all, offer a time investment/participation reward to employees.