Workplace Wellness: Focusing Your Efforts
Posted August 22, 2018
Now that you have completed your analysis of your workplace and considered an array of wellness program strategies, it is time to narrow your focus. By looking at what you currently offer, you should be able to identify gaps where additional wellness strategies could be implemented. By comparing those gaps with your employees’ current health habits and interests, you can determine what would be best to include in your workplace wellness program.
As you plan where to focus your wellness efforts, consider that some initiatives may have greater impact than others. Your wellness program can include many components, such as the following:
- Health screenings (health risk assessments or biometric screenings)
- Education through presentations, printed materials and online resources
- Program activities, including campaigns over a specified time period
- Environmental and policy changes
Your program should involve the creation of a supportive social and physical environment where healthy decisions are the norm. Part of creating this environment is to clearly define your company’s expectations regarding healthy behaviors and implement policies that promote health and reduce the risk of disease.
Internal policies create an opportunity for widespread behavioral change by modifying the existing workplace rules and customs. Environmental changes, both physical and cultural, provide opportunities for employees to adopt healthier habits and can result in widespread change. The following are some examples of policy and environmental modifications:
- Formal written policies, such as the following:
- Guidelines for ordering food for company events
- No smoking on company property
- Company cost-sharing for health club memberships or fitness classes
- Environmental changes, such as the following:
- Installing outdoor bike racks
- Increasing the number of healthy food choices available in cafeterias and vending machines
- Hanging up posters with healthy messages, such as a sign near the elevators encouraging employees to use the stairs
Environmental and policy changes have the ability to impact large groups of employees. Though your wellness strategies should also address individual behaviors, it is important to focus on areas where the greatest potential benefits could occur.
Another major factor to be aware of is that it will vary on how open employees are to changing their behaviors. Most people go through five stages when changing their behaviors:
- Pre-contemplation—Not thinking about changing their behavior in the near future
- Contemplation—Beginning to think about changing their behavior in the near future (the next six months)
- Preparation—Have tried to change their behavior at least once in the past year, and are thinking about trying again within the next month
- Action—Real steps are being taken to change their behavior; this is also the stage where a slip-up is most likely to occur
- Maintenance—Have changed their behavior for over six months and are now maintaining that healthy behavior
People can move from one stage to another in the order above, but they also may move back and forth between stages before adopting a behavior for good. A slip-up is not a failure, but rather an important part of the learning process. Most people attempt healthy behavior changes several times before they succeed. Knowing where most of your employees fall in this continuum can help you plan better, more specific wellness initiatives.
Developing the Wellness Plan Content
One way to develop your program is to take your workplace assessment checklist and evaluate the areas where no policy or program exists, or areas where some policy or program exists but it can be improved. For each of these areas, ask the following questions:
- How important is it to have a program in this area?
- How much will it cost to implement a program in this area?
- How much time and effort would be needed to implement a program in this area?
- How great is the potential “reach,” or how many employees may be affected?
- How well does a program in this area match employees’ interests?
You should also package your activities so that they build off each other, which can lead to greater participation and long-term success. An example would be having a policy that encourages physical activity on break time, coupled with offering pedometers as incentives and providing maps or on-site trails to get employees out walking.
By taking the time to focus your wellness efforts, you can develop a program that will best meet the needs of your employees and boost your bottom line.
This article is not intended as medical advice.