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4 Ways to Increase Engagement With Your Company Wellness Plan

For corporate wellness businesses and professionals across the country the real work starts now. Once the marketing campaigns have succeeded and the people have bought your message, the next great journey is delivering on your promises.
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In 2016, you'd be hard pressed to find a company without some form of office wellness program. Over a year ago, a SHRM survey found that 70% of employers reported having a wellness program up from 58% in 2008. It seems that the message has been received, healthy employees make better businesses.

While there are still those who need to see the cold hard ROI numbers to measure the value in wellness, there are just as many businesses that know a good employee wellness program can help to lower their insurance costs, increase employee productivity, and to attract and retain good talent. In fact wellness is such an accepted fact of corporate life today that we have to focus much less time preaching, proselytizing, a fighting for a seat at the grown ups table. We've made it - we're as much a part of the organization as the payroll company. So now what we do we do?

Making the Most of your Wellness Program

For corporate wellness businesses and professionals across the country the real work starts now. Once the marketing campaigns have succeeded and the people have bought your message, the next great journey is delivering on your promises. How we perform during this stage of the game will determine whether corporate wellness is a passing trend, a fun buzz phrase, or the serious business we know it to be. But making a wellness program succeed isn't as simple as passing out a bunch of fitbits and letting employees hop to it. Any great wellness professional can tell you -- long term engagement is our greatest challenge.

In the interest of furthering the industry I love, I've put together a list of the top 4 ways to make sure your wellness programming succeeds in the long term. This can be used by wellness program managers, HR leaders, brokers, wellness professionals or practitioners. In fact, by anyone with a stake in the game of keeping employees healthy in the long term. So break out your planning books and see how you can integrate these 4 tips for creating a wellness program with long term engagement.

1. Start Simple -- One of the greatest mistakes we can make in wellness is biting off more than we can chew. A big complicated program is difficult to manage, to administer, to understand, to sign up for, and to keep up with. When you're first introducing wellness you want to lower the barriers to entry with something simple for you and simple for employees. Remember, you can always add to your program, but the psychological consequences of having to peel things back can be devastating to a new initiative.

Suggestion: Start with a short term challenge by one of the online platforms or by working with a local professional to institute a few weekly classes!

2. Keep your workplace wellness at work! For your most at risk employees completely changing their lifestyle can be scary and intimidating. There is a reason that they developed their unhealthy habits and chronic conditions in the first place. Remember that you don't have to lose hundreds of pounds to have great health benefits. Just making very small changes can create dramatic differences a person's health profile. A recent Careerbuilder survey found that while 55% of people believe they have gained weight from working at a desk all day, the majority of them did not participate in their company's wellness program. The number one reason why? They don't have enough time, or are too exhausted to hit the gym after work. Integrating wellness into the workday takes away the number one roadblock to engagement.

Suggestion - Focus on people's workplace behaviors, not their personal lifestyle choices. What food is offered? Is there opportunity to walk or take the stairs? Integrating wellness into the workday takes away the number one roadblock to engagement. Try Voom! The
program helps employees exercise right at their desk!

3. Become a human behavior expert -- What motivates your population? Who is the most visible employee in the office? What has kept other programs from catching on? Working in wellness is as much about understanding the brain as it is about understanding the body. Getting healthy is all about changing behavior, and what worked for one company might not be the right approach for yours. Things like company culture, demographics, and industry should all be considered when implementing wellness programs.

Suggestion: Try starting with a survey. Ask employees what's important to them, who influences them, what some of the roadblocks have been to getting healthy in the past. Once you have this priceless information you can design a program that has a chance of lasting.

4. Plan for the long term -- While we want you to start simple and with programs employees want, you should already know how you plan to build your program over the next year. Adding and changing elements of the program is one way to keep people interested and increase long term engagement. The great news is if you started small, you have a lot of options available to you. Try a progressive program, where wellness challenges get a little more difficult as the year goes on.

Suggestion: If you work with multiple vendors try to get them to put together some kind of package for you. The smaller wellness vendors are lovely people who got into this business to make a difference. Many of them work together in multiple locations and would be happy to help you design a custom program based on your survey results.

We're so lucky to be living in the time of "what kind of wellness?!" rather than, "what's wellness?" Now is the time to learn, to experiment, to build, and to develop the kinds of wellness programs that will deliver the absolute best results for both organizations and individuals. Work is such a fundamental part of our daily lives, the true impact of having healthy workplaces and healthy work styles will be way more than simple ROI can measure. If you have any tips or tricks to building Wellness Programs that last, comment below!