In the people management space Rise inhabits, employee health and wellness programs are becoming a staple of benefits offerings. With HR professionals continually searching for ways to support their employees, companies are getting serious about the wellbeing of their workforce and implementing a wellness program in the workplace. In the process, employers are recognizing the value of engaged, healthy, and happy employees in bolstering the bottom line.

Healthier people translate to better business. In addition to the wide range of health benefits—across physical, mental, social and financial wellbeing—employees derive from wellness programs, employers reap the rewards of:

  • decreased absenteeism & presenteeism
  • increased productivity
  • heightened employee engagement
  • reduced healthcare costs
  • improved talent acquisition and retention
  • decreased employee turnover

With benefits like these, it’s no wonder companies across the country are implementing employee wellness programs to support the overall health and wellbeing of their people. 

Where to begin?

Are you contemplating introducing a health and wellness program? While every company has different resources and goals, each organization can create a wellness initiative that will drive benefits across all stakeholders. 

Here are three tips to keep in mind as you begin developing your program:

Assess needs

It sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many companies launch wellness programs without any idea what their employees actually want or need. Employee engagement is critical to the success of any health and wellness program. Consequently, it’s vital to determine the needs, expectations, and preferences of the workforce—and how they align with your company goals— before diving in headfirst. 

In basic terms, there’s no sense implementing a smoking cessation program if the majority of employees are non-smokers, or offering telecommuting if this is not an option people value. An employee survey is a very useful tool, as well as health risk assessments and biometric screening to assess problem areas.

Communication = engagement

A wellness program can’t help people or drive healthy behaviour if nobody participates in it. And just to be clear, sending out a handful of emails with the hope that employees participate is not a winning communications strategy. Communicating the intent, value, and details of the program throughout its lifecycle—from launch and ongoing maintenance to completion of time-sensitive components (e.g., monthly fitness challenge)—is vital for success.

A grassroots approach is especially effective, with a handful of employees effectively becoming ‘wellness champions,’ helping to spread enthusiasm for the program amongst their colleagues. And by implementing a multi-prong approach, you’re able to create awareness and communicate the value of the wellness program across the organization.

Try leveraging various channels to engage employees, such as: 

  • email
  • website & company intranet
  • posters in communal areas
  • newsletters
  • announcements at team meetings
  • payslip stuffers
  • social media
  • kick-off events

Incentives matter

The goal of any health and wellness program is to help employees adopt and maintain healthy behaviours. By offering incentives (external rewards), companies can motivate employees to instigate a new healthy behaviour, whether that’s encouraging people to quit smoking, reduce stress through meditation or yoga classes, or take control of their financial future through participation in RRSP workshops.

For example, if a program goal is to get people moving to improve their cardiovascular health and mental wellbeing, try launching a walking program that rewards number of steps logged with a gift card for the cinema. Or create a competition among departments to see which team can accumulate the most steps and reward the winning team with a group outing to an NHL game. 

The idea is that by offering external rewards or incentives, people will be encouraged to start walking with their colleagues, but the intrinsic rewards (feeling of community, sense of accomplishment, more energy) will sustain the behaviour in the long-term.

For more information and tips on launching a successful health and wellness program at your organization, I’d like to share with you the most recent e-book in our Health and Wellness in the Workplace series, Building a Successful Health & Wellness Program.

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