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Keeping Employees Engaged in Wellness Throughout the Year

Colleen Reilly

Employee engagement is a crucial part of any wellness program.

Whether you are just launching a workplace wellness program or you are managing one that is already well under way, it is important to stay focused on keeping employees motivated from week to week and month to month throughout the year—the success of your program depends on it.

A health assessment is a great initial step for all-encompassing wellness program because it identifies key health risk factors for individuals and the organization as a whole. Often, employees are most motivated and willing to make behavioral changes to improve their health immediately following the health assessment, so you need to continually consider ways to keep employees engaged and focused on wellness throughout the whole year.

Set Goals and Communicate With Employees Often

The most effective way to keep employees engaged is simple: set specific goals and communicate often about them.

First, share your goals. Make your overall organizational goals and action plans known, and let employees know what tools you will be providing to help them make progress toward their individual goals. For example, if you have set a goal to reduce tobacco use in your organization, clearly and specifically communicate your plans to help people kick the habit and explain the benefits your organization—as well as individuals—will gain from achieving this goal.

Second, remind employees of the goals and process. As you progress through your action plan, remind employees often of the overall goals of the program, as well as the past accomplishments and next steps that they can expect to see. As a result of encouraging employees to take ownership of their own goals, they will be more likely to become wellness champions not only for themselves, but for the organization as well.

Third, relate to individuals. Strive to bring your organizational goals down to the individual level as much as possible. Through both mass and individualized communication, urge your employees to set measurable personal goals with clear milestones along the way. Be clear and straightforward about what you hope for them to achieve and why it’s important for their well-being. Make sure to include communication that emphasizes the importance of health and life goals and how they can make a difference in every aspect of their life.

Last, get creative. Think about how to introduce both new and old wellness themes throughout the year. By tying your wellness themes to seasonal events or topical subjects, you will increase recognition of your wellness programs and keep participation in the program fresh, helping to continually motivate employees to participate.

Offer Rewards

Develop a rewards program that will motivate employees to work toward wellness goals. Both individual short-term accomplishments (for example, exercising 30 times in a quarter) and organization-wide achievements (lowering health risk through better nutrition) should have rewards attached to them.

You could implement a company-wide casual day for meeting an organizational goal, and then offer an additional casual day for individuals who also made progress toward their personal short-term goals. It may be beneficial to create a calendar of incremental self-checks and rewards for your employees. When people are able to see their own and others’ progress, it helps them continue to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Create a Wellness Culture

Incorporating wellness principles into your corporate culture is critical to establishing and nurturing a long-term program. To ensure that your wellness programming is a “water cooler” topic, consider including team-building activities in your program.

Team challenges and competitions foster fun in the workplace while cultivating accountability to others. Start a weight loss or walking competition and then provide tools and resources for tracking and making comparisons among teams. Creating wellness activities for your employees encourages them to have a good time while living healthy and achieving their goals.

Think Outside the Box

Don’t think of a wellness program as a static set of rules. Just as there is no one path to wellness that will work for everyone, there is no one activity that will motivate all employees. Be creative and implement a variety of programs that promote individual and team activities, and remember that while some people welcome significant challenges, others might prefer to make life changes in incremental steps.

Leaders who are actively and enthusiastically involved with wellness activities tend to inspire employees to follow suit, so seek out the wellness champions in your organization and have them lead lunchtime walking programs or other activities that help put the spotlight on the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Consider adding unique and unexpected elements to your program—perhaps a scavenger hunt that requires employees to climb the stairs and visit various departments. This will keep things fresh for your employees and remind them that there are easy ways they can strive for their goals on a day-to-day basis.

Take It Outside the Office

As you encourage your employees to make lifestyle changes, you need to recognize that the choices they make outside the office are just as critical to the success of your program as the choices they make during work hours.

A multi-modal approach with online, telephonic, print, and on-site programs gives your employees different ways to participate and stay on target to achieve their wellness goals. Providing people with the right resources at the right time in a format that effectively communicates with them ensures that employees get individualized opportunities to put wellness at the center of their lives.

Stay Positive

Employee engagement in wellness will ebb and flow throughout the year, depending on many factors. Some programs may be incredibly successful right from the get-go, while others may struggle and have low initial participation. Stay positive and analyze your program at every stage to discover what changes are necessary to build a stronger program. There are countless ways to motivate employees throughout the year, so it’s important to remember to keep it fun, choose a variety of program options and communication techniques, and portray wellness as a priority for every day.


Colleen Reilly is the founder and president of Total Well-Being, a leading provider of workplace wellness programs with a holistic approach to wellness—providing services that motivate employees to achieve their physical, financial, personal, and professional wellness goals.

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