Pandemic-Proof Employee Wellness
Corporate wellness is a make-or-break factor for companies. As a business leader, HR professional, or Health and Wellness professional, you already know this. Successful companies are keenly aware that an effective employee wellness program is not only good for the bottom line but also leads to intangible benefits like increased productivity, lower turnover, and better alignment with the company’s mission. However, a common disconnect occurs between knowing what is important and knowing how to prioritize it effectively.
Translation: You know you need some sort of Corporate Wellness Program in place, but maybe you aren’t sure how to design one or can’t track the effectiveness of what you are currently doing.
HR and wellness leaders have long wished for better participation in their wellness programs. And with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, the priority of keeping employees mentally and physically healthy is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. That is why so many companies are offering virtual wellness sessions for their employees, either for the first time or more than ever before…but to succeed, the programs need adequate levels of employee buy-in and participation.
This conundrum got the team at Healing Hands Corporate Wellness thinking about the tactics most companies are currently using to design and measure the effectiveness of a corporate wellness program. In fact, we decided to ask some business owners, human resources leaders, and wellness professionals the following two questions:
- What are the primary metrics you currently use to measure the effectiveness of your employee wellness program(s)?
- When crafting a wellness program, how do you decide which classes to offer?
Certain patterns quickly emerged as we compiled the responses. Jamie Dokovna, Business Litigator and Shareholder at the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, says,
Right now, we are offering meditation and wellness webinars. It’s important to stay connected and engaged especially while we are socially distancing. We include our employees as part of the [decision-making] process. We have a wellness committee composed of employees, management, and HR. By incorporating employees in the process, we find they are more engaged. What we offer is based on interest and participation.
Her firm also holds a variety of wellness competitions, including walking and hydration challenges, in which “results are tracked, and awards are given.” The wellness committee tabulates the results of the challenges themselves. Dokovna explains that while sometimes the firm brings back an old challenge that had significant participation, they also mix in new programs and classes “to keep employees engaged and interested.” In regards to deciding what classes to offer, she says “It’s about seeing what works, and if it doesn’t, we try again.”
A Wellness Program Manager and Coach at a Fortune 100 company (who wishes to remain anonymous) says her company generates an “annual key performance report as one piece to analyze performance which is based on biometric screenings and health risk assessment aggregate data.” This allows both the client and the wellness company to use the data, including employee feedback, in their annual program planning.
She notes, “It’s interesting that we have offered all virtual programming for the past 2 months due to COVID-19 and have had better engagement numbers than our onsite programming. I believe this is due to the emphasis in health and well-being and working from home during the pandemic.”
So what can we take from this? You’ll notice there are some trends in these responses:
- Include employees in decision-making
- Listen to their feedback
- Track participation
- Provide rewards and incentive
- Determine interest before you decide on an offering
- Track changes over time in data such as biometric screening
- Include a variety of offerings
- Emphasize a culture of health and wellbeing in the company
Both companies exemplify these points, which explains the success of their wellness programs. By including employees in the decision-making process and listening to their advice about what is working and what can be improved, they can not only decide what services and programs to offer, but also how they’re offered – by incorporating and analyzing feedback and data over time.
However, qualitative data such as employee feedback is not always enough to make sound decisions; it is also necessary to interpret quantitative data. This is where the tracking of participation rates, as well as the analysis of results-oriented data (such as biometric screenings) comes into play. If the data trends in the direction that you want, it’s working. If not, then as Dokovna says, you try again.
There are also several factors of human nature that can affect a wellness program and its success: trouble with motivation and difficulty adopting new habits. When it comes to studying habit change, a preeminent expert is James Clear, author of the New York Times bestselling book Atomic Habits.
In his book, he explains that “the key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first.” So in order to change your habits on an individual level, you must begin by changing your identity. It would stand to reason that this holds true at an organizational level as well: establish a culture of health and wellness at your company, identify as a healthy workforce, and then change the habits of your workforce to comply with that identity.
When it comes to motivation, it is useful to have an understanding of operant conditioning theory and the principles behind reinforcement, and therefore the need for rewards and incentives. In short, a stimulus will lead to a behavior, which then leads to a consequence. Reinforcement occurs when a response is supported over time. So at an organizational level, by offering rewards and incentives (monetary or otherwise) your employees will associate participation in wellness programs with a rewarding experience, and will therefore be more likely to participate.
Given the current challenges in work and home life we are all facing during this unique time, it’s more important than ever to prioritize your employees’ health and wellbeing. Whether you are starting from scratch or making changes to an existing wellness program, keep these takeaways in mind to maximize your value on investment. Now is the best time to connect with your employees by designing a customized digital wellness program that is not bound to the walls of your office.
About Healing Hands Corporate Wellness
Founded in 2011, Healing Hands is currently on a trajectory of strong growth in an industry that is undergoing fundamental changes with regards to Americans’ attitudes towards wellness in the workplace. The company offers both on-site and digital wellness programs that are carefully customized to the needs of the client. Most employers report offering wellness programs for their employees for reasons beyond ROI and healthcare cost savings, so Healing Hands chooses to focus on maximizing VOI (value on investment). This method of measurement focuses on savings in the long term by decreasing absenteeism, increasing productivity and engagement, and improving retention rates.