A Greener Path to Promoting Corporate Wellness

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The least green policies consume the most greenbacks. That is to say, few papers cost so much paper as pamphlets about corporate wellness. These trifold brochures that look like TripTiks and read like travel planners, with their glossy shine and color photos, are an attempt by companies to educate workers about health, fitness, and nutrition.

That most workers crumple or trash these papers, treating them less like directions from Triple A and more like handouts from politicians, like unsolicited propaganda from volunteers outside the factory gates; that workers treat these papers like yesterday’s newspapers; that the entire exercise — from designing the brochures to hiring the writers to write the copy to paying the printers to print and box tens of thousands of copies — is a waste of time and money; all of that is reason enough to devise a new approach to how companies promote health and wellness.

The problem is more about the message than the medium.

In fact, augmenting the message by combining the power of the page with the dynamism of the screen is a better way to get workers to read about the benefits of corporate wellness.

According to Ronak Singh, co-founder of The Wunder Company:

“Augmented reality (AR) transforms passive consumers of content into active participants in a story in which they are the main characters. The experience is interactive—the feeling is immersive—so that readers have a stake in the outcome of the story.”

In other words, good content begets good results.

The challenge, however, is one of acceptance. Bigger companies will show greater reluctance to change. In turn, there may be a greater need for the agents of change to reach the person(s) who have the freedom to embrace change.

Recognizing this challenge is the best way to prepare for any objections that may arise throughout the course of events during and after a change in policy.

Regarding the medium and the message, therein lies the problem. A static medium with a stale message is a guarantee for failure.

Why, after all, should workers read what they already know? Why should they suspend disbelief so as to pretend that the generic is grand? Why would workers want to read something that looks like what it oftentimes is, homework?

If corporate wellness is to thrive, companies need to better understand how people read in an age of mobile devices.

They need to understand not only how we read from left to right, line by line, but how we engage with a page of text -- how we touch, tap, scroll through multiple tabs on the screens of our smartphones and tablets. They must know how we multitask between reading for work and leisure, segueing from a hardcover or paperback book to the links within an electronic book; how the merger of the page and screen augments reality; how augmented reality is a new approach to reading.

Picture, for example, reading about ways to improve cardiovascular health while seeing and touching a screen illustration of a beating heart.

Picture reading about healthy meals, and seeing a kitchen with the depth and dimensionality of the real thing.

Picture synchronizing a book or pamphlet with a mobile device, so the reader has an interest in finishing the story by turning the page and touching the screen.

Better to picture these scenarios than the alternative, an alternative reality in which reading declines and ignorance prevails, in which ignorance is neither blissful nor blessed.

Remember, too, that writing still matters quite a bit. Good writing is the essence of good storytelling. That comment may seem obvious, but it does not negate the fact that too much of what we read sounds like a foreign language, with tortured syntax that is just as torturous to read.

To invest in good writers is to give readers a vested interest in reading a book or pamphlet about corporate wellness.

The point is not to scare people into reading, but to reveal how frightening it is — how terrifying a real-life horror story can be — when the threat is something we can see but not understand, because we cannot read.

Literacy is a form of wellness, enriching the body by enriching the mind. The latter increases the former, strengthening the sinews of productivity; producing people who work well, not because they have no say in the matter, but because they choose to work how they live: with energy and enthusiasm, with respect for themselves and admiration for their fellow human beings.

So yes, words are much more than a collection of symbols.

Words change how we perceive the world.

Words change our perception of reality.

If we are to change the world, we must first change the words and images that define our reality. If companies augment what we read, if they promote wellness by publishing interactive content, together we can change the health of the nation and the world.

With each turn of the page we come closer to realizing the promise of a healthier and more active workforce. With each sentence of good writing we come closer to closing the chapter on an unjust sentence of fear, doubt, passivity, and disbelief.

Let us write the next sentence in a new book about health and wellness.

Let us immerse ourselves in the story, inspiring others to do likewise.

Let us share that story with the world.