Wellness, as we know it, is at a crossroads. For those of us who have been in the industry a while - a long while - we are seeing opportunity and change. We are seeing employers from all industries looking for the silver bullet that will bend the steep upward trajectory of their healthcare costs.
Wellness is no longer only a project for the self-funded company, but rather a solution sought by all businesses -- large and small, self-funded and fully insured. Wellness programs are adopted, administered, and talked about by health insurers, brokers, and human resource specialists everywhere.
For the wellness veterans, this is the day we have been waiting for and we are excited and energized. For those professionals new to the industry, we are growing, but not fast enough. Our newest generation of HR professionals and students want more and better technology, widespread usage of the wearable fitness trackers, phone apps, websites, home monitoring and any other modern device to make wellness easier, smarter, and cheaper.
Change, to them, is not coming fast enough. What both veterans and the new wellness professionals need to remember is this: change is hard, yet exciting and energizing. Change can also overwhelm. We need to remember the focus of employee wellness programs - the employee. Whether they are sitting the entire day in front of a computer, learning their jobs through computer-based programs, or standing beside an assembly line tightening a screw, it is up to us to bring wellness to them, wherever they are, however they need it.
What we so often forget is that they may not be up-to-speed with current technologies. It is up to us to bring them what they need, where they need it, and how they need it. So to the veteran, I say: embrace the new technology, learn it and -- if it makes sense for your groups of employees -- put it to use. Don't be afraid to use it.
Help those employees adapt to new habits and try new things. Those employees who seem more at ease with a printed health risk assessment might just surprise you if given the chance. Try new things, while staying true to the core of wellness - behavior change, disease prevention and reward.
To the new wellness professional, I say: the industry appreciates and welcomes you. We can't wait to see what you will do, but be sure and don't let your desire to use technology overshadow the very human element of wellness programs. People are encouraged by interaction, by goals set and achieved, by rewards earned and by positive outcomes seen.
While some people might be motivated by the number of steps they managed that day and their deep sleep patterns, others need something more basic - a pat on the back, a word of encouragement, a little team competition, or simply a small reward that they earned and can hold in their hand.
Meet people where they are first, and bring them along slowly to where you want them to be. Thank you. Whether you are an HR director who is just embarking on bringing wellness to your employees or the new wellness consultant that is working to convince an employer that a wellness program is the right way to help bring down medical costs - you are making a difference by choosing to help people make lasting lifestyle and health changes.
The road will be long and winding and wrong turns will be made, but at the end of the path is the ultimate reward: the employee who looks up and says, "Thanks - I just needed a little push."