This may sound obvious, but it’s an important reality to understand: there are many paths to well-being, and many stages within each of those different paths. From “I’m fine – I don’t need to change my health” to “I know I should make healthier choices” to “I’m trying to make healthier choices,” it’s important to recognize that not everyone is in the same state of mind.
As an employer, you have an incredible opportunity to engage and strengthen your culture and develop your people through a well-being program. But you need to meet your people where they are. Improving the health and well-being of your employees requires a comprehensive strategy that isn’t one-size-fits-all.
Here are some simple reminders to help you gauge and evaluate your plan:
Inspire and fuel well-being, don’t just educate.
People operate differently when they feel they “should” do something compared to when they “want to” do something. Most people know that they should exercise. Most smokers know that smoking causes many forms of cancer, diseases and health problems. If knowledge and health literacy were enough, no one would smoke, everyone would exercise and everyone would be taking steps to be healthier.
Create a custom well-being path for your people by understanding their values.
The best motivators blend the art and science of financial incentives with intrinsic motivators like purpose, family and personal energy. Provide opportunities for your employees to set goals, and create a positive link between those goals and your wellness program.
Remember that well-being means something different to everyone, so start to explore and address those different definitions within your population. A good starting point is within your wellness plan’s communications campaign.
- Communicate with honesty and useful transparency: If your wellness plan exists to help reduce the rising benefits costs for the company, be open and honest with your people about what you can and can’t afford. Show your commitment and demonstrate how you are collectively taking steps to control costs for everyone. Whether it’s for costs, to inspire improvement or to help attract and retain talent….let your people know the WHY behind your plan. The ironic twist is that your transparency will directly strengthen (not erode) the trust you establish with your people.
- Don’t hide from the taboos around health and well-being. Many employers avoid “hot button” topics like paychecks, health measures and lifestyle decisions (like BMI or tobacco use). Instead of avoiding the conflict, address it head-on in an empowering, direct, empathetic and attention-getting way.
Reward individual improvements and healthy behaviors.
Every achievement is an achievement, no matter how small. Employees who feel valued and celebrated for their accomplishments are much more likely to build an internal bridge between the intrinsic motivations you help them determine with the extrinsic incentives you can provide them.
Empower Healthy Behaviors and Skill-Building
Taking the next step in their well-being journey could mean a variety of things for your employees. It could mean changing behavior to drive down health risks, setting goals to build new healthy habits, living a more fulfilling and stress-free life, a combination of those or something entirely different.
Offer coaching, courses and training that address unhealthy behaviors at their root.
Changing a health behavior is a lot like learning a new language or playing a new sport, except it is usually a lot harder because you need to break habits formed over decades of time. Some behaviors that perpetuate health risks are addictive and require unique care and training to change. Involving the individual’s doctor and closing a gap in care is another way to create an action plan to improve health and quality of life for those with the greatest health risks. (Download the Bravo Coaching Brochure.)
Don’t forget to empower your well-being advocates.
Sometimes we unwittingly focus so much on addressing health risks and helping individuals eliminate poor habits that we forget to focus equally on empowering those people in our populations who are ALREADY in-tune with their well-being. They are your advocates! And they are looking for creative inspiration too.
Offer fitness or food preparation classes, stress reduction resources, coaching and programs to achieve personal health, fitness or financial goals. Providing a range of activities and resources that have broad appeal will increase engagement and help every person get the maximum value out of your program, no matter their path or current health state.
Build well-being into your company’s day-to-day.
Having the opportunity to practice a healthy lifestyle is one of the most critical factors in a well-being program. Employees spend a significant portion of their waking hours at work, develop long-term relationships with their coworkers, and sometimes seek fulfillment and purpose from their work.
While it may be difficult to control the influences outside of the workplace, there are steps that employers can take to make healthy choices more natural and convenient for employees that span the physical environment, organization policies, culture, programming and employee involvement.
Create a culture of well-being…for everyone.
Think about the different dimensions of health – physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual. How can you adjust everyday activities and benefits into those that support well-being? It can start with simple changes like encouraging movement at work, suggesting that employees talk to each other versus calling or sending an email, or ordering healthier foods for monthly lunch and learns. Inspire healthy competition among employees with a group challenge to reach less engaged employees.
Build an army of well-being champions.
Strong leadership and cultural support lead to higher participation rates in your wellness program, and also is associated with a positive impact on lowering employees’ health risks, and the organization’s health care spending (SHRM). But to create a culture of wellness, you’ll need leaders at all levels of the organization.
Seek out employees who are engaged in your wellness program, are passionate about good health and give them the necessary tools to empower them to positively impact company culture. Enable them to organize physical activity and host wellness-related educational events whenever possible. Increasing employee involvement in developing and promoting the wellness program shifts the focus from being an HR “ask” to a people-development initiative.
Wellness champions across your organization will help reinforce healthy behaviors, create positive role models for health and well-being and inspire others to change. Their stories, actions and involvement in your wellness initiatives will show other employees how to “walk the walk.” When people see that someone else has been successful in changing their behavior, it increases their behavioral self-efficacy and they start to believe that they too can change.
Don’t underestimate the impact your wellness program can have on your employees.
A comprehensive wellness program that focuses on motivating and empowering every employee can have positive effects on the health of the culture, and of the individuals. In the same way that employers invest in employee training, ongoing education, team building, conflict management and other learned behaviors to enhance individual performance, they can invest in the health of their people.
Every person has the right to feel the power of individual achievement. If you provide the support and personalized encouragement they need to get there, employers can have a meaningful and permanent impact on the lives of their associates and, in many cases, their families as well.
Want more information about best practices for a comprehensive well-being program? Watch our latest webinar recording. It covers how to create a well-being program within the regulatory constraints that will still measurably reduce health risks, inspire personal improvement, and help you attract and retain top talent.