What is your employee wellness program missing?

You’ve got your company wellness plan all ready to go. The newest technology has been implemented, health assessments and biometric screenings have been completed and a wellness coach is in place. Now all you have to do is spread the word and your program will be a success, right? Wrong. So, what is your employee wellness program missing?

Wellness programs are more than technology, screenings and coaches. Underlying every successful wellness program is a huge commitment — to people. What many of these programs lack is true passion, genuine empathy and qualified leadership.

But let’s back up. What is the heart and soul of wellness?

Defining wellness

Wellness is not all about physical health. There are many social factors that tie into physical health. Not to mention, natural and acquired competencies, such as coping with stress and forming relationships, that all contribute to the big picture called “health.”

These are fluid states that drift with the world economy, family situation, community changes and workplace environment. The best program managers and business analysts know that wellness programs are continual works in progress.

Striving to be your best is never finished. But it starts with tracking your journey. Take a mental snapshot: Where are you now? Stressed? Broke? Content? Assessment and goal setting are the foundation of any wellness program. This is where technology comes in to measure tangible health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.

But that’s just the physical. Wellness includes much more, so it is critical that assessments include psychological and emotional factors.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being 5

Through extensive research, Gallup-Healthways, a household name in research and development across healthcare, developed a five-part definition of wellness and assessment of the essential components to employee global wellness:

  • Purpose: Are you happy and motivated in what you’re doing daily?
  • Social: Do you have loving and supportive relationships?
  • Financial: Are your finances (and stress) in control?
  • Community: Do you like where you live? Is your community safe and a source of pride for you?
  • Physical: Do you have enough health and energy to meet your life demands?

The post-assessment diagnosis: thriving, struggling or suffering.

Thriving physically is not enough. Gallup-Healthways notes that thriving in all five areas leads to significant reductions in:

  • Sick days
  • Worker’s compensation claims
  • Employee turnover
  • Poor adaptability to change
  • Apathetic charitable contributions

So what does your wellness program need? A holistic approach. Wellness programs must look at employees from where — and who — they are.

Passionate and empathetic leadership

It takes strong leadership, company-wide culture and tools to implement a successful wellness program.

Leaders need to be qualified to promote a successful program with all of these:

  1. The right attitude: To reduce apathy, leaders need to energetically reinforce that well-being is the company, not just an implemented program — and is here to stay.
  2. Clear and consistent message. Strong leaders define well-being clearly and persistently so employees can internalize the message.
  3. Model behavior. They lead by the example they want their employees to follow — from working out at the company gym to supplying the company with healthy foods.
  4. Genuineness. Commitment to employee health must be more than lip service or providing services. Employees need to know their company is genuinely interested in their well-being.This means taking personal interest in employees’ lives outside work too.
  5. Ongoing adaptive assessment. Program monitoring keeps it fresh and alive, often tweaking the program to fit the company population.

Knowing who works for you

Each generation has specific characteristic traits and needs. For example, Millennials want different things from their home, community and work life than Baby Boomers.

According to a Gallup Poll, 57% of Millennials (born 1980–1996) report that well-being in their job and work-life balance matter most. However, this same generation thrives least on the Gallup-Healthways well-being scale. Here is where wellness programs can do serious work.

Again, strong, meaningful leadership is key.

  • Managers must be sincerely open to talking to their teams about subjects beyond work: their hobbies, home life and relationships.
  • Managers must build trust. This takes ongoing care, empathy and attention.
  • Managers must be educated. Sensitivity to time and place builds trust and openness. Walking the line between too personal and interested is delicate, so leaders need resources, training and education.
  • Managers are uniquely positioned to personally inform employees about company wellness offerings.
  • Managers can create incentives, encourage participation and utilize accountability for results and rewarding goal achievements.

Company Culture

No doubt, company culture starts at the top. Wellness programs thrive in a complementary culture to the program’s goals. Their design and reach should weave naturally into the ongoing company practices and messages.

Leaders need to set goals that target each component of well-being. These could include offering financial courses, gym memberships, counselors and incentives for community volunteering.

Providing resources is not enough. Work-life balance and company culture should integrate, incorporate and reinforce encouragement for career and good living.

Engaging employees

Nurturing a company culture of well-being first requires engaging employees privately, intimately and without forcing them. How can this be achieved?

Gallup-Healthway suggests five strategies to make employees feel appreciated and connected to the company:

  1. Encouragement: When setting career goals and job expectations, companies can customize well-being activities to each employee.
  2. Recognition: Reward achievement and improvement while recognizing challenges.
  3. Communication: Discuss specific goals to achieve the five parts of well-being through activities designed to promote individual success.
  4. Cooperation: Make employees part of the company culture by encouraging opinions, ideas and feedback.
  5. Accountability: Include well-being discussions into performance reviews, milestones and future goals. Ask employees what management can do to help them achieve their wellness goals.

Equipping employees with information on how well-being can positively impact their life supports voluntary participation. Rather than mandating participation, show employees how wellness lowers their health insurance premiums.

When employees understand that they are not merely earning prizes or gym memberships but lowering their bottom line, they may strive to pass or improve screenings and biometric measurements.

In this way, employers can steer their employees who don’t pass screenings into wellness programs that will help them eventually access those discounts.

Thriving wellness is thriving business

Respect, privacy, compassion and connection: these are the ingredients to an effective, long-running wellness program. Holistic approaches to employees as invaluable living assets with individual needs and capacities.

Companies that build trusting relationships with care and communication run not only successful wellness programs but businesses — that thrive.

Health Hero provides smart, multi-channel and integrated health engagement experiences that are powerful and simple to deploy to employees in seconds. Contact us today to learn how we can create a customized plan for you!

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