Money & Business

How to Motivate Participation in Wellness Programs

By / Jan 5, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Health and wellness programs at the workplace seem to fail almost as often as personal health and wellness New Year’s resolutions. Here are a few thoughts on turning things around in 2017.

As the poet Rainer Maria Wilke said, “And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”

Never a truer word penned, right? Contemplating the possibilities of a fresh start in a new year can be a lot of fun. Yet, let’s be honest: For many New Year’s resolution makers, 2017 will likely look much the same as 2016, especially in regards to resolutions like these:

  • Lose weight and get fit
  • Eat healthier and diet
  • Spend more time with family
  • Be less stressed

I’m sorry to say that according to TIME, these four health-related declarations are among the most commonly broken New Year’s resolutions. But back to the bright side—since it is a new year, after all—here is a trend, a tool, and an association case study on wellness that might inspire your own association to help its employees reach their wellness goals.

If you’re considering writing this off, remember a healthier workplace could mean lower insurance costs for the association, as well as increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, and more endorphin-fueled happiness around the office.

A trend. According to a webinar hosted by the Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board, incentivized wellness programs are the way to go. “The last thing you want to do is invest in an expensive initiative, only for no one to use it,” writes Sarah K. White for CIO. Harvard professor I-Min Lee agrees, telling CIO, “investing in employee wellbeing programs with measurable outcomes has never been more financially responsible.”

The lesson for associations is that perhaps it’s not enough to just deploy a wellness program. Maybe associations also need to measure its success with wellness trackers or fitness wearables—and then incentivize their employees for engaging with the programs and reaching their milestones.

A tool. Brendan Weafer, a former UFC fighter, launched Workweek Wellness—a health and wellness app as “a cost-effective solution” that teaches its users healthy habits they can incorporate at the office during the workweek. Weafer says Workweek Wellness is a good add-on to existing wellness initiatives, such as discounted gym memberships, but it’s also a good place to start for companies that haven’t yet delved into wellness.

Here’s how it works: Employers can purchase the software for their employees, who access the app’s daily tips and videos during the workweek. These resources aim to encourage healthy choices, ranging from nutrition tips, to postural corrections, to bodyweight exercises and more. Plus, employers can keep tabs on how their employees have interacted with the information, which gives managers data on who is using the app and a foundation for how they might encourage greater effort.

A case study. The National Retail Federation doesn’t offer incentives to employees participating in wellness programs, but its employees still participate. In fact, NRF gets top marks for its employee-centric programs, which range from a softball team, the Sultans of Shop, to a weekly delivery of fresh fruit. Employees can also take advantage of the services of both a certified personal trainer, who holds well-attended group sessions in the building’s fitness center several times a day, and a registered dietician. In warmer months, a professional yoga instructor leads a weekly group session on the building’s rooftop.

Programs like these led NRF to win a spot in the Washington Post’s “Top Workplace” in both 2015 and 2016. The wellness program “focuses not just on health but on keeping [staff] happy,” according to the Post.

“NRF’s Life Around Wellness program has been successful because we’ve listened to our staff and developed programs that they want,” said Robin Winchell Roberts, senior director of media relations at NRF. “At NRF, we look at employees from a holistic perspective. Leadership genuinely wants them to live healthy and productive lives, which is why participation is purely voluntary and not tied to any other benefits. Our staff enjoys the interaction in the group exercise and nutrition sessions, and it gives them a nice break during the day.”

So maybe even an incentivized wellness program isn’t enough to see real results. Maybe what a successful wellness program requires is an appraisal of what your staff wants and an authentic desire for a healthy, happy workplace.

What wellness programs or initiatives have been successful at your association? Please leave your comments below.

Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. More »

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