5 Tips: How to Increase Employee Engagement with Workplace Wellness Programs

The key to a successful workplace wellness program is employee engagement. The reverse is also true. That is, one way to increase employee engagement is a successful wellness program.

Yesterday we were in a client’s break room, waiting for a meeting room to open up , and I noticed several flyers on the bulletin board about various wellness offerings. I was surprised by my initial reaction, which was, “Who would sign up for those?”

Why did they strike me as loser offerings? Because they seemed preachy and goody-goody and completely devoid of anything fun. One sounded like the school nurse was going to take you through a lecture on the five food groups. I’m not suggesting that wellness should be a barrel of laughs, but a good program creates energy and involvement. The more employees you can get to participate, the stronger your program will be.

An effective wellness program will do more than just increase productivity because people feel better and have more energy. It also gives co-workers a chance to do something together that’s unrelated to their usual work roles. It equals the playing field, so to speak, in a way that lets junior employees spend some time on an equal footing with those who rank above them in the company hieirarchy. It will also build relationships between people in different departments, which helps smooth the way to better teamwork and increased collaboration.

So how do you create a wellness program with plenty of employee engagement? Here are five tips:

1. Ask the employees what they want. Particularly in a small company, you can solicit input from the group. You can do a survey, if you want, but it might be easier just to ask people about their wellness concerns. Are they looking for ways to find time for exercise? Do they really wish they could quit smoking? Are they trying to eat healthier?

2. Get their help in constructing the program. Give some influential employees ownership of developing the program. If the group wants a yoga class at lunch, let an employee track down a good yoga instructor willing to do a class in the conference room. If they’re interested in a buddy-system diet, let an employee research South Beach vs. The Zone vs. WeightWatchers.

3. Make sure management joins in. The top level people in the company need to suit up and show up. If you give the impression that the boss is too busy for exercise, for example, employees might interpret the fitness program as something meant only for those who aren’t as serious about their work. Besides making it clear that you’re committed to wellness, it adds extra motivation for participation, at least by those employees who want more chances to rub shoulders with the boss.

4. Add an element of competition. Put together a contest with some level of cash prize, or a free day off, or something employees will see as worth their while. Look for a way to compete that doesn’t automatically give an advantage to the fittest among the group. For instance, instead of a contest to see who can bench press the most weight, compete on who can complete three workouts a week for the most weeks.

5. Create a collaborative goal. If your group tends to get a little too competitive, choose a goal they work towards together. Maybe after the employees collectively walk or run 10,000 miles, the company donates $1,000 to a worthy cause. Or let the collaborative goal benefit the employees more directly. After they lose so many pounds as a group, you’ll hire a massage therapist to give chair massages on Friday afternoon.


7 responses to “5 Tips: How to Increase Employee Engagement with Workplace Wellness Programs

  1. Elizabeth
    Thanks for a fine post. You identify an important issue of health programs presented as dull and moralistic.
    Having fun is one of the healthier activities going!
    I agree that the solution is defining workplace health programs as shared property rather than the domain of someone in the HR department. But organizations must be prepared for ideas that are actually creative and sometimes surprising.
    All the best,

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention 5 Tips: How to Increase Employee Engagement with Workplace Wellness Programs « Life-Sized Business -- Topsy.com

  3. Michael, thanks for you comment. And good point on being ready for surprising ideas. After Tribe completed its fitness competition last year, one of my employees suggested a contest between him and the president of the company — to see who could drink the most wine.

  4. Well, Michael, they did try to convince me the wine contest was all about balance. You know, exercise some, drink some. Knowing the enthusiasm of my group, however, I could see some potential for all of us being over served. Because, of course, the spectators would have to drink wine in support of the competitors.

  5. Great post. According to me music is also the best option. The music is so mystic and gives an out of this world experience. It converts work into pleasure seamlessly whereby you are not actually working but entertaining yourself for hours together. For more information on how music helps increase productivity refer http://www.prime-targeting.com/how-music-helps-increase-productivity/

  6. Pingback: Employee Centered Wellness Programs Get People Involved « Working Well Resources' Blog

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