Whether it’s a trending hashtag or a popular kitten-playing-the-piano video, an idea that goes viral grows exponentially through social sharing. A concept that starts with an individual can spread like wildfire through Westeros (#gameofthrones for the uninitiated).
Your wellness program can benefit from the same viral thinking that created a star out of a mom wearing a Chewbacca mask in a parking lot. Social trends gain popularity because they resonate with their target audience, and they often include an element of fun. Your wellness program should have both of these elements and then you can harness them to build employee engagement.
When you provide great wellness experiences within your company, you’re also creating ambassadors that can encourage more engagement among their peers. How can you start a wellness trend in your organization?
Designing the Right Program
The first step in getting employees interested in wellness initiatives is creating a program that will work for your organization. Beware of “off the shelf” solutions that promise amazing results without even having a conversation with the HR team or anyone at the company to determine your needs. The right program should match the company’s size, employee demographics, and overall culture. A high-energy on-site spinning class may be perfect for a company with primarily young, active millennials, but wouldn’t fit as well with businesses with a high percentage of staffers over 50.
“We stress to our partners that the BHS Wellness program does not utilize a one-size-fits-all approach. In order to build a successful initiative, we tailor the program to each company’s unique set of employees, making sure it’s appropriate for the different roles within the organization,” says BHS Program Manager Dana Siverd. “For example, call center operators may not be able to leave their desk for an hour-long class during the workday, and sales teams may spend a good part of their day traveling. In this situation, BHS would create a wellness program can that can adapt with components like desk exercise routines or simple meditation techniques for these associates while still including more traditional elements like on-site exercise classes and coaching. We take the time to understand your culture, designing programs that effectively impact employees at every level.”
Basic human psychology holds that to get someone to do something that they may be initially unwilling to do, you must offer an incentive. It’s one of the reasons you get out of bed in the morning to go to work. Unless you’re truly altruistic or independently wealthy, the paycheck is a motivator to leave that cozy pillow.
The incentive principle also applies to wellness programs. And according to the Price Waterhouse Cooper study, 90% of employee wellness plans do, in fact, offer Incentives to encourage participation, ranging from raffle prizes and small gifts to reduced health care premiums. Once again, it’s important to consider the audience when choosing an incentive structure. Work with your wellness provider to match the right incentives to your staffers.
“BHS works with our partners to develop a wide variety of incentives. For example, some companies offer paid time off exclusively for preventative care, premium parking spots for wellness champions, and yearly lunch celebration for wellness program participants,” explains Siverd.
Communication is Key
While the HR team may be very familiar with all the benefits available from a wellness plan, it’s very possible they’re the only eligible plan users who do understand them. Whether introduced as part of new hire orientation or during open enrollment presentations, employees are often overwhelmed with the amount of information presented and, therefore, may miss out on many of the details, such as wellness benefits.
Consider having a dedicated wellness program presentation several times a year to focus solely on these important benefits.
There are also significant advantages to having your Wellness and EAP programs developed and managed by the same company. This allows for a more holistic approach to employee well-being. Many employees are pleasantly surprised when they find out that they can use the EAP to locate a new daycare provider or help with financial planning.
Share the EAP support phone number often and remind employees that the benefit is free and readily available. Be sure to dispel the common misperception that employees have to contact the HR team prior to contacting the EAP. Another important point of emphasis is that the service is indeed confidential, governed by the same HIPAA regulations that apply to medical professionals. By removing these perceived barriers, employees may be more likely to reach out for help.
By hanging flyers in common areas like bathrooms and incorporating wellness meetings with spouses and dependents, you can help reinforce the use of these benefits and the importance that they hold.
Make it Fun
Gamification, or turning the wellness program into a game, can help to increase engagement. Competition is a basic part of human nature, and our brains are hardwired to work toward achieving goals. Wellness challenges are an excellent way to engage employees while having fun. Whether through a team approach or solo tracking, employees are more likely to participate in wellness when they are having fun.
“We’ve found that healthy competition with individual and team challenges can boost overall participation,” says Siverd. “Our BHS team has even developed and administered staff field days, complete with games and group challenges to reward wellness participants while supporting teamwork and reducing turnover.”