When wellness programs work, everyone benefits — with a ripple effect across productivity, employee retention rates and general morale. But cultivating a successful program with robust participation rates can easily rank as one of your most daunting challenges.
According to a recent survey of 2019 Benefit Trends from Willis Towers Watson, employers reported that low employee engagement with benefits programs was a major concern.
If your employees don’t understand or fully appreciate your wellness programs, they won’t benefit from any of the offerings. Here’s how HR professionals can get the word out and increase engagement.
Take the pulse of your team
Surveys and interviews are an easy way to dial into employees’ wants and needs for an employee wellness program. Wellness ideas could run the gamut: fitness reimbursement, an on-site gym, healthy snacks, mindfulness training and development, programs to support weight loss and addiction management, smoking cessation programs, etc.
Include your own suggestions, but offer space for employees to contribute their own. The key is to gather as much information about what challenges they are facing and try to come up with solutions to address those challenges. When employees have the chance to buy-in to wellness programs, they’re much more likely to participate.
The more channels of communication you have to tell employees about programs, the better. Consider town hall meetings, department meetings, and newsletters or emails describing the programs and the various ways employees can get involved. Stress the benefits of your wellness program and how it can employee needs.
Make sure your managers reinforce that healthy living message each day, through encouraging words and emails or whenever they notice or hear about an employee who accomplished a health or fitness milestone. Practices like these are just as important.
Bring in classes and speakers
Fitness reimbursements can be an excellent benefit offered through your company’s health care program. However, you might wonder if employees fully utilize that benefit. Try bringing the gym into the office for a change: Reach out to local studios to find out if they can host a free trial class for interested employees. Or, you might ask local trainers or meal planners to come in for a session in which they offer advice to employees interested in healthier lifestyles.
Build healthy living time into the day
Some employees might not feel able or willing to devote time to health and fitness after a long day engaged in their work. Allow them to take time off to participate in health-related activities of their choosing, such as volunteering for the local community or running in a 5K or marathon.
You can also find ways to foster healthy habits during the normal workday. Host walking meetings, offer healthier snack options, start a company sports team, or devote a day or two per month to improve employee wellness.
Encourage a spirit of lighthearted fun by hosting workplace wellness challenges, such as competitions for most steps walked, healthiest lunches, or most weight lost in a given period. You could even challenge employees to pause whatever they are doing for five minutes for either a physical or mental break at least once a day. Creating a culture that fosters self-care and supports the true meaning of wellness will allow your employees to feel comfortable taking time away from their desk to recharge.
Add in a mental health component
As your human resources management team creates a more engaging wellness program, remember to check in with your employees’ mental health needs as well. A guided meditation session could help ensure that employees decompress from the stresses of the day.
As part of a more long-term outlook, you could give your employees access to flexible work hours or choose one day to work from home per week. Exploit your various communication channels — emails, newsletters, and meetings — to drive home the importance of self-care from the inside out.
You want your employees to benefit from your hard work crafting wellness programs. Using these HR best practices, you can improve participation rates and experience the tremendous benefits of a highly engaged employee wellness program.
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