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Why New Year’s Should Be A Time for Corporate Wellness Resolutions

Mark Verstegen

A profesionally dressed woman standing on top of a skyscraper on the phone

Around the country, motivation to train is never higher than on January 2nd. On-site company gyms are packed, memberships are sold in droves, and enrollment in digital or wellness-coaching programs skyrocket. New Year’s resolutions may often fail, but the momentum, excitement, and intentions behind them demonstrate that people often have an interest in transforming their health, but consistent engagement, motivation, and support is a challenge.

That’s why I propose that companies, not just employees, set wellness goals for 2012. Setting company-wide wellness objectives achieves makes health a C-level priority (which automatically get the attention of your employees), gives middle managers the incentive they need to engage employees in a meaningful way, and creates a powerful employment brand to recruit and retain high achievers. Below are three resolutions all US companies should make this year, along with some tips to bring it all together:

  1. Don’t Try to Swim Upstream: Make it your mission to create and implement a program that intersects with your company’s culture. If your corporation is filled with engineers who work long days, focus on mini-recovery stations on each floor that can be utilized to increase energy and reduces aches and pains during ten-minute breaks in the day. If you already have training programs in place that help young employees transition from college into their work life, make health a component of those initiatives so that fitness and nutrition are not afterthoughts—they are part of the existing infrastructure employees complete as part of the on-boarding process. I meet with so many companies who try to put their existing culture and wellness initiatives at odd—doing so is like mixing oil and water. Instead, identify trends, culture patterns, and communication channels that work for everything in your organization and apply lessons learned to your health programming.
  2. Think Outside the Box: Employers often think about wellness within the confines of a fitness center or gym, which is incredibly important. But for your non-movers in particular, many of them haven’t set foot in the gym and are too scared to take that risk, and to lower your healthcare costs in 2012, you simply must impact those individuals. For 2012, make it a priority to find people who are too intimidated or too busy to participate in existing programs and identify creative ways to engage them. At Cerner Corporation in Kansas City, they met this goal by placing simple signs about topics like hydration, aches and pains, and consuming more fruits and vegetables in cafeterias, stairwells, hallways, and elevator banks—reminding people about simple strategies they can adopt to make a life change is critical to the overall success of your program. Your culture, your values, and your wellness programs should permeate your employees’ lives—give them a reason to believe in themselves and your company with an innovative, thoughtful approach to their health.
  3.  Walk the Walk: Often, C level executives want employees to “do as I say, not as I do.” It’s imperative that instead of spending our time emailing, calling, and preaching to people what they should do that we as leaders walk the walk. You want employees to use the on-site cafeteria for healthy eating needs? Commit to being there twice a month with a registered dietician who can answer employee questions about their nutrition needs. You want employees to increase their energy levels and performance? Do your next company telecast from a standing desk and ask everyone to stand up with you to do a few quick stretches to get it started. Sales team on the road non-stop? Make sure every single one of them has a company branded card with the healthiest suggestions they can find at major airport restaurants so they can make informed decisions on the road. A great example for all of us in Leo Percopo, the General Manager of the Sheraton in Downtown Phoenix—in addition to creating a workout space for employees to use, Leo made his Executive Council meetings a wellness opportunity, integrating their regularly scheduled meetings with fitness activities, nutrition education sessions, and recovery techniques to reduce aches, pains, and stress.

If you’ve identified your goals for the year and set a plan to achieve them as a company, here are some tips to make sure they succeed:

  • Post it: After two years, almost 81% of resolutions have failed (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1988, cited in Psychology Today). One proven way to improve your chances of succeeding whether you’re a large corporation or an individual employee is to write your goal down and post it publicly. Social media can be a great tool for this—use Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and your company’s internal communications outlet to energize people around the goal—doing so will keep you and your entire team accountable to it.
  • Celebrate: Celebration is often left off the map in a wellness setting—we toast people’s birthdays and anniversaries (and rightly so!) but don’t take enough time to celebrate health. If your company set a goal of getting 80% of employees to complete HRA’s and you hit it, organize a healthy snack break to celebrate your team’s success. Health should be fun and engaging, not something that feels like a chore, and celebration is a critical component of that mission.
  • Set Reminders: Nobody likes to have a finger wagged at them, so instead of saying “hey guys don’t forget about this goal we set”, find other ways to remind folks to re-engage in the company’s health mission. Set monthly themes to cue people to re-focus their efforts, and identify stress traps such as three months into resolution time in March and the holidays, as scheduled time to revisit and energize employees in a meaningful way.
  • Don’t Skip Recovery: Often times, in the race to save money on healthcare costs or create a cutting edge opportunity, corporations overlook recovery as a critical component of employee health. Two things happen when this occurs: first, employees look at the fitness initiative as just another item to add to their plate, which is overwhelming, and two, no matter how many great programs you implement, if you don’t have well-rested employees you’re never going to have an optimal work environment. Whether you’re giving people ten minutes a day to reduce aches and pains, or teaching them proven sleep techniques to get better rest at night, don’t overlook recovery when it comes to your own health and the well-being of your company.

So in the spirit of starting the year off right, let me say this—I believe resolutions do and can work, and that every company should consider setting wellness goals for 2012—doing so will help reduce healthcare costs and develop the positive momentum required to transform the culture in your workplace.

About The Author

Mark Verstegen is the Founder of Core Performance, an industry leader in proactive wellness for leading-edge companies. Core Performance currently works with companies including Intel, C&S Wholesale Grocers, and Walgreens to deliver personalized, integrated solutions for better health. Mark and his team at Core Performance are innovative and results-driven, having developed proprietary intellectual property that helps drive deeper personalization of programs in a scalable manner. To learn more about Core Performance, visit us online at www.coreperformancewellness.com

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