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What Does Your Perfect Wellness Program Look Like?

Greg Justice, MA

A happy group of employees giving a thumbs up to the camera.

Is there one perfect wellness program that works for every company, every time?  No, there is not.  However, you can create a wellness program that is perfect for your company and your employees.
What does your perfect wellness program look like?  It is efficient, convenient, and flexible with low admin time.  Your perfect wellness program is cost-effective and has a high return on investment in both the short term and the long term.  Your participation rates are high, company morale is high, and your direct and indirect costs of un-wellness have been reduced dramatically.

Many corporate wellness programs have fallen short of this perfect wellness program scenario.  The good news is that they don’t have to stay stuck where they are and they don’t have to throw in the towel.  Chances are that program was a mixture of insurance and employee benefit provider options with a few other components added in for good measure in the premise that something will work.

Many of those companies whose wellness programs have fallen short of their perfect ideal understand the value of taking time to investigate what their customers want and need and trying to out-market their competition to boost their profits.  When a company applies a similar process to their employee wants and needs for wellness and understands the competition for wellness, they can create an effective foundation on which to build their perfect wellness program.

With numerous vendors at your fingertips who can provide a large variety of expertise, services, resources, and activities for any and every aspect of your wellness program, how do you know which one or combination is perfect for you?

Here is a simple plan to help you develop your perfect wellness program.  If you have a program in place that is not working for you, simply step back for a moment to consider a ‘do over’.

First you gain agreement from your upper management about the scope and nature of your wellness program.  If you have major disagreement or apathy in this area you will not have a perfect program no matter how you try to tweak it.

“Do as I say, not as I do” never gains support, participation, or compliance.  When upper management is on board and participating themselves, the leap in companywide participation will have a positive ripple effect.

The major point in this first step that usually provides the most controversy is the issue of disease management as opposed to true wellness.  A company that buys in to disease management will only see short term gains as employee un-wellness is brought under control and maintained.  They will not see the long term gains that true wellness will bring.

Quite simply, chronic illness is the culprit that has created the need for wellness programs in the first place.  Chronic illness is the result of poor lifestyle choices, namely sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition habits, stress, and other unhealthy lifestyle habits. That small list of poor choices holds the key to correcting, reducing, and banishing chronic illness.  When those specific issues are addressed and provided for, companies will achieve their ideal results. If the causes of chronic illness are not addressed and the bandage of disease management is used, the lifestyle habits have not changed and the chronic illness still exists.  It just looks a little different for a period of time.

When your upper management has reached agreement on the nature and scope of your wellness program you are ready to begin building your program foundation.

Next you select a leader and committee or group of people who will head up the wellness program to get it on track.  These people will also agree with upper management about the scope and nature of your wellness program and will bring enthusiasm and energy to the forefront.  Select them wisely.

A mission statement or vision statement must be prepared to keep everyone on the same page and help your wellness program move forward in the direction you want it to go.

Once you have your vision in place, this next step has been very effective for us in creating those perfect wellness programs – why?  Because participation is crucial to every wellness program and participation during the development period is every bit as crucial as participation once the program is up and rolling.

This crucial step is the letter of support from the company CEO acknowledging the need for wellness in both the company and the staff, embracing a wellness program concept, and ASKING for the employee input through an upcoming Employee Wellness Interest Survey.

If you miss this step, your wellness program can easily be construed as another attempt from management to control the actions, time, and money of the employees.  It is common for people to want to have as much control over their own lives as they can.  Employees who have limited decision making abilities at work already feel little to no control over a large part of their life.

When employees give input prior to implementing a wellness program, they feel good about having contributed to the selection of program elements and the structure of the program, and most importantly, they feel good about participating in it.  When the program rolls out with their suggestions in place, they feel like management listened to them.  Yes, you were going to do that anyway, but let them participate and feel good about it to set a cooperative tone to your program.

Your Employee Wellness Interest Survey will include all of the elements you would possibly offer anyway, so there will be very little surprise for you when you analyze the responses.  Structuring your survey in a way that covers all your bases up front, you create an amazingly useful tool.

Once the survey is completed and responses tabulated and analyzed, you have hard data to help you design your perfect wellness program.  The employees have already bought into it and are waiting for it so they can jump in to participate.

At this point you have gotten agreement from upper management, have a wellness leader, and perhaps a wellness team in place, a wellness vision statement, a heartfelt communication from the CEO, and the data from your survey.

You have built a solid foundation for your perfect wellness program and are ready to add the framework.  The framework of your wellness program includes the choice of components and the strategy you use to present and market it to your employees, the attributes applied to each, and the recognition and benefits that will transpire upon participation.

The components you use in your perfect wellness program will be multi-purpose and flow seamlessly together to create awareness of current health status and health risk, to educate about healthy lifestyle choices and the consequences of unhealthy choices, and to provide the action necessary to make the changes necessary to achieve wellness.

If you do not provide the action component and only create awareness and educate them, your program will fall short of perfect.

Let’s take a brief look at something here.  You create awareness among your employees of company policies, give them clear job descriptions, and explain their role in their position, their department, and the company as a whole.  Then you educate them by telling and showing them their job and all the elements and activities they will be doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Does it stop there?  No.  The employee now has to DO their job.  All of the awareness and education about their job you provide will be of no use to you or them if they do not DO their job.

How do you facilitate that action?  You provide the tools, the location, and the guidance that is required for them to DO their job.  Plus, you pay them for it.

Once your employees become aware of their health status and are educated as to what they must be doing to change their health status for the better, only a handful of those employees will have enough initiative to follow through and take action by themselves.

When you provide the tools, location, and the guidance that is require for them to DO wellness, they will DO wellness.  When they don’t have to find their own way and traverse the myriad of obstacles and barriers that come at them each day, when the path is paved and the way is clear, the employees  who gave input and feel listened to, will participate, and will get well.

When we look at building the framework of the perfect wellness program and we already have the foundation laid to provide our direction, reviewing the components of wellness becomes much easier.

Did your upper level management team agree to tackle chronic illness head on?  What did your employees ask for?  What are the facilitators of change in chronic illness?  What are your direct and indirect costs of chronic illness, and what is the return on investment you want to see, therefore, what is your budget for this program?  There are many questions and most of them are easy to answer when you have your foundation laid.

When you create your wellness program with an expert, responding to your employees’ feedback with action oriented programming that addresses the main causes of chronic illness, this is what your program will look like…

It is efficient, convenient, and flexible with low admin time, providing programming your employees have asked for.  It is cost-effective and has a high return on investment in both the short term and the long term because it addresses the main contributors to chronic illness: regular exercise, proper nutrition, stress reduction, and sleep.  Your participation rates are high, company morale is high, and your direct and indirect costs of un-wellness have been reduced dramatically.

Is this what your perfect wellness program looks like?  Follow the simple steps above and seek out expert guidance.  This wellness plan is simple and it works.  It works because employees participate.

The human body and the human mind, though very complex, are also very predictable.  Working with it you can achieve success, working against it, any success is very short lived and minimal.

Twenty different companies can use this same identical process and wind up with very similar, yet very different perfect wellness programs.  The beauty of this plan is that it works for every business and every company that implements it.

Disease management with medications cannot give you the same results.  With much research now showing prescription drugs as the fourth leading cause of death in America, can your business afford not to address the lifestyle causes of chronic illness?  Can your business afford to simply hand off gym memberships to employees and tell them “Go to it!”, when 70 – 80% of them won’t go anyway?  Can your business afford to feed the poor nutrition habits of fast food lunches and vending machine fats and calories?

When you create an environment that sustains your well thought out wellness program foundation and framework you will see a natural gravitation toward wellness that becomes infectious throughout your company, increasing your productivity and profits.  And that, after all, is the heart of your perfect wellness program.

I have found that about 70% of the employees at any given company without a wellness program in place are unhappy with their current state of health.

The majority of that 70% are ready to try something and are very ready to express their opinions and give input.

This is a very important point.  Is your wellness program the company’s program or is it the employees’ program?

Abouty The Author

“Training veteran Greg Justice didn’t just get in on the leading edge of an emerging industry 20-some years ago, he helped create it. Opening the first personal training studio in Kansas City, Justice has, over the years, laid the groundwork for countless others to follow.

Being a trailblazer, however, takes a willingness to plow into the thicket of uncertainty.  It means forging ahead with nothing but faith. As one of the true leaders of the personal training industry, Justice now has the benefit of hindsight and the insight of experience, both of which he eagerly offers up to the hundreds of trainers he has mentored.”

Shelby Murphy

Personal Fitness Professional magazine, Journey to Success, May 2009

Greg Justice, MA opened AYC Health & Fitness, Kansas City’s Original Personal Training Center, in May 1986.  He has personally trained more than 40,000 one-on-one sessions.  Today, AYC specializes in corporate wellness and personal training.

Greg holds a master’s degree in HPER (exercise science) (1986) from Morehead State University, Morehead, KY and a bachelor’s degree in Health & Physical Education (1983) from Morehead State University, Morehead, KY.  Greg is also an AFAA certified personal trainer (CPT).

He has worked with athletes and non-athletes of all ages and physical abilities and served as a conditioning coach at the collegiate level.  He also worked with the Kansas City Chiefs, during the offseason, in the early 1980’s.

He has been actively involved in the fitness industry for more than a quarter of a century as a club manager, owner, personal fitness trainer, and corporate wellness supervisor where he worked with more than 60 corporations.  Greg writes articles for many international publications and websites including Exercise & Health, IDEA Fitness Journal, American Fitness Magazine, Protraineronline.com, Fitcommerce.com, Personal Trainer University, and has a monthly column called “Treadmill Talks” in Personal Fitness Professional (PFP) magazine.  He has authored a book titled “Lies & Myths about Corporate Wellness” and has been a contributing author for two other books.  He currently serves at the President of the Association of Professional Personal Trainers (APPT).

Greg was an adjunct professor of exercise science at Avila University and currently serves on the faculty of Personal Trainer University.  He mentors and instructs trainers interested in Corporate Wellness through his Corporate Boot Camp System class.  He developed this course because of the need of CEOs and HR Professionals for achieving a means of positive, effective, and lasting change toward more healthy and productive employees.  His system is tested and proven and combines the three major areas that business needs to address if they are to see a return on their employee benefits investment.

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