By Ann Wyatt, Vice President, Program Management & Engagement
What do employees value most in a health, wellbeing and fitness program? What prevents them from participating?
We conducted research in order to answer those questions. Our findings show that culture matters when engaging employees in their health and wellbeing. In fact, 53 percent of employees feel that there are cultural barriers preventing them from fully engaging with a wellness program, including their employers’ lack of support for their participation.
Our research also indicated that employee health choices and emotions are closely connected. Seventy percent of employees report that their wellness program offering means their employer cares about them.
The need for leadership support
In my 20+ years working with clients from wide range of industries, I’ve found that leadership support for employee health and wellbeing addresses both of these challenges.
When wellbeing programs work well, it starts from the top-down. At HealthFitness we’ve learned that visible support from a company’s executives sets the tone for employees—communicating that it’s acceptable to fit in a workout during the workday, take part in a weight loss challenge with co-workers or take advantage of healthy food options.
Here are 10 creative approaches we use at client sites to engage leadership—and encourage employees—to participate in health and wellbeing programs.
1. Beat the boss. The most successful employee wellbeing programs have visible leadership that can be called upon for support—whether it’s approving strategic program decisions or taking the first official step in a new walking program. For example, senior leaders at one health plan “walk the talk” as they lead weekly walks with employees. Employees track their total steps daily and those that “beat the boss” for the week are entered into a raffle to win a prize—and bragging rights. Winners received the “golden tennis shoe” award!
2. Strut your stuff. Stilettos are the running shoe of choice for this CEO to help raise awareness for the 5K charity race at this leading financial services company. Employees raise money and participate in the race just for the chance to see their CEO (who happens to be male) strut his stuff in sparkly stiletto heels. This fun approach to wellbeing has a lasting impact on employees—they are already planning next year’s race with more leaders wearing heels!
3. Wear fruit leggings. Several extroverted leaders at a leading technology company dressed up in fruit-patterned leggings, wore a sandwich board and walked around the campus to encourage employees to eat more fruits and vegetables.
4. Spin the tunes. What’s on your CEO’s playlist? Employees at this leading financial services company were surprised and thrilled to see their CEO lead the spinning class in the fitness center—and share his favorite music during the workout!
5. Get dunked. If you had a chance to “dunk” your manager in a dunk tank, would you take a shot? Employees at one leading financial services company get the opportunity to make a splash during the company’s “Fitness Field Day,” where employees compete in fun fitness challenges. Senior managers serve as judges for the fitness events and then take turns in the dunk tank!
6. Screen time stories. Let your employees know that their health and wellbeing is important. Use a variety of communication channels spread the word—whether it is email, newsletters, meetings, posters and more. For example, one high-tech company taps into the power of video to engage employees in wellbeing. Company leaders describe what being healthy means to them during video interviews. The interviews are then shared on video monitors throughout the corporate campus as well as with remote employees.
7. Energy in and out. Move beyond the four walls of the fitness centers and ask managers to invite wellbeing practitioners to meetings to lead energy breaks with their employees.
8. Take a tour. Leaders at one manufacturing company serve as wellbeing tour guides for their departments, taking employees on a tour of the company’s new corporate fitness facility. Not only does this spread the word about the facility; employees learn more about the additional wellness resources, including stress relief, sleep tips and more.
9. Provide healthy meals. Instead of providing donuts or unhealthy food options at the next department meeting, a growing number of companies are integrating with their on-site dining services to make energy breaks available, along with a healthy meal.
10, Dance party Fridays. At a leading insurance company, leaders took center stage in a popular class called “spontaneous dance” on Fridays. It was 15 minutes of movement, similar to a flash mob, and just what people needed on a Friday afternoon.
Contact us to learn more our research and how to partner with HealthFitness to inspire wellbeing for both leaders and employees.
About the author:
Ann is Vice President, Program Management & Engagement. She has 25 years of experience in the health management and fitness industry. Her role includes strategy development and driving engagement for new and existing health management and corporate fitness programs, employee recruiting and training, program quality assurance and operations management. Ann holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Old Dominion University and a Master of Education in Exercise Physiology from Auburn University.