UHA Worksite Wellness

Build Workplace Wellness Initiatives That Employees Want to Use: 5 Steps to Establish a Culture of Wellness

Written by Valerie Au on June 08, 2015. Posted in Well-Being, Featured2, Post

You promote workplace wellness to provide your employees and their families the tools to live happy, healthy lives. It takes time and energy to design and build a culture of wellness. If you’re like most company leaders, you want a wellness program that will inspire your employees, so that they can reap the benefits of better health, and a better life. Based on our research and experience with employers, here are 5-steps to encourage wellness participation.

Step 1. Before You Start: Take Inventory of the Culture

First, take a close look at your workplace culture. Imagine you’re a third party looking at your company with as an objective view as possible. What are your company’s strengths and challenges? In what areas could you be doing something different to increase voluntary participation?

In order to build an effective plan, you need to understand your starting point. How will your staff respond to a new culture change? Who is most likely to participate and why? Where do you anticipate you’ll get the most pushback?

With a critical eye, think back to a past culture change. What successfully motivated your employees? Ask yourself these questions to identify the aspects of your workplace culture that could block participation to your wellness program.

Third-party assessments can be really helpful, since it is difficult to get an objective, unbiased perspective of your current performance when you’re embedded in the culture you are reviewing.

Step 2. Build an Action Plan

Identify and commit to concrete business priorities. Bridge these priorities to the specific wellness strategies and initiatives you want to implement. Do you want to focus on one or more aspects of wellness such as stress management, nutrition, physical activity, or sleep? Select aspects of wellness that will mean the most to your staff, or choose a wellness aspect you can have the most impact.

  • Begin by Identifying Your Priorities
    For example, if you have 30 employees, and only one person is a smoker, focusing on smoking cessation is unlikely to generate participation from the majority of the group. Choose the particular issues that are relevant and important to your team.
  • Locate Relevant Resources and Tools
    Find credible sources of information to clarify the particular issue you intend to address, and learn everything relevant you can on the subject.
  • Develop Programming
    Clearly identify the issue, why it’s a problem, and what concrete steps can be taken. For example, if you want to focus on healthy eating, guide your team through key steps to improve their food choices such as meal planning, taste tests, and reading food labels.

Again, third-party wellness partners can be helpful advisors since they have experience with a variety of roadblocks that companies encounter, and they have developed reliable strategies for overcoming barriers.

Step 3. Identify And Break Down Barriers

Consider the specific challenges of your workplace – including employee attitude, engagement, cultural, physical, or even geographical difficulties – and look for ways you can make it easier and fun for employees to get involved.

Assess potential barriers openly and honestly. To overcome a barrier, identify them and commit to finding solutions. The easiest way to identify barriers is to work goal by goal, and outline potential setbacks or issues your staff may face in achieving that goal.

  • For example, if healthy eating is a priority, what are the barriers? It may be that the food in vending machines, though easily accessible, does not include healthy options. In this case, restock the vending machine with healthy foods, or create a local map of the top 10 healthy food vendors in walking distance.
  • Perhaps, you have a goal to reduce sedentary work, one barrier may be employees do not feel they have the workload flexibility and management’s support to take short mid-day breaks for stretching or walking. A solution to this may be scheduled 5-minute breaks for the team every 2 hours.

As much as possible, reduce the barriers that discourage staff from fully embracing healthy practices.

Step 4. Commit and Make a Culture of Wellness Part of the Fabric of Your Organization

Procedures and structures don’t bring change miraculously, but well written mission, vision, and values statements are critical as a foundation to implicitly clarify the organization’s values and intentions. How can your organization better promote wellness through targeted policies? What are managers and leaders doing to encourage staff to use available wellness opportunities. Examples include sufficient work-release for exercise classes or health programming? Could break-time or scheduling be restructured to allow staff more flexibility to get involved?

Lex Brodie’s is a great example of the power of this step. They recently transformed unused workspace into a gym at work for staff. This physical change demonstrates to the staff that their commitment to wellness is more than just lip-service.

Step 5. Recognize & Reward Progress

A little recognition can go a long way toward sustaining momentum! Take the time to give a shout-out to staff who get involved and put forth effort to make healthy changes. Personally commit to regularly praising dedicated wellness participants with specific feedback. “I notice you’ve been taking the stairs at work. How is it going?” Remember that the most meaningful rewards are not monetary. Instead it is the heartfelt recognition and element of surprise that we enjoy. A letter of recognition from the CEO or a respected manager is often more personally rewarding than a gift card or trinket.

Other recognition options include visible progress charts, inspiration boards, social media posts, or a column in the company newsletter. Communication efforts to keep wellness top-of-mind and sharing employee success stories can help to spread wellness and motivate other participants.

You don’t need to overhaul your entire organization to offer an effective and engaging wellness program. This simple 5- step plan can help you plan, implement, and maintain a wellness program that triggers staff participation – so everyone can reap the benefits of a healthier workplace.

Tune in to Part II of this series where we discuss specific measures that help increase employee participation in wellness programming once you’ve implemented this structural plan.

Valerie Au

Worksite Wellness Program Manager; Vice Chair, Hawaii Health at Work Alliance (HH@WA) Board of Directors

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