The Old Wellness Program Model
The Big Question Is- Are they getting well?
CEO has not supported, endorsed or participated in creating a sustainable wellness culture.
Without this support, there will be few followers of the wellness program and it will fall by the wayside. By introducing the wellness program as a ready-made "benefit" without employee input, the culture of the workplace leans toward compliance and feelings of intrusion.
The natural tendency is not to embrace something that is forced on us, especially if it seems to apply to some and not all. Without employee participation, health doesn't change, and the program is deemed a failure.
Most businesses do not take advantage of all the benefits they are paying for from their providers.
With little direction, communication, activities and events, momentum is sure to be lost - or even non-existent. Insurance providers have a multitude of services and communication pieces in their arsenal, yet most won't volunteer them unless they are asked.
Most businesses do not know what it takes to get their employees healthy again.
Employees have human bodies and human bodies have specific requirements to regain and retain good health. Yes, chronic illness has everything to do with unhealthy lifestyle choices. Managing the chronic illness with medication does little to help activate healthy lifestyle changes or employee accountability.
Most businesses realize that regular exercise plays a role in achieving good health. They leave it up to the employee to make the time, and to motivate themselves to exercise.
When an individual has never worked out or been inside a gym, we are talking about a major lifestyle change here. Giving them a discount at a local gym is tantamount to giving them a book written in Greek and asking them to give you a book report in 3 months.
Will they be able to do it? No. Without regular exercise, the chronic illness does not improve. Reassessment measures show no improvement, and the program is called a failure.
Offering information and education only, with no challenge, incentive, or drive toward attainable healthy lifestyle choices.
Most people know when they are choosing something that is not good for them. Many people have a difficult time changing lifestyle behaviors because they are connected emotionally or mentally to previous rewards. If simple education and information was enough to facilitate a change to healthy choices, there would be no need for a wellness program.
A smoking cessation program that ends there without incorporating alternate healthy choices in the previous environment has limited success. Once again, the burden of unsupported lifestyle change falls completely on the shoulders of the employee.
K.I.S.S. E.W.E. Model
Keep Integrating Simple Steps in the Employee Wellness Environment
The K.I.S.S. Employee Wellness Environment is supportive and systematic, with preparation and activation of healthy lifestyle choices that result in greater employee willingness and accountability for their own health.
Smart K.I.S.S. #1 A Letter of support from the CEO to each employee
CEO support and participation is paramount to success. Introduce the concept and rationale behind the introduction of a wellness program and ask for employee input in developing the program.
Set the tone for your wellness program by openly and boldly providing an announcement and expression of support in the form of a personal letter to each employee from the CEO. The letter should warmly embraces the employees, their contribution and value to the company.
Additionally, it should indicate concern for their concerns, share their hopes and dreams of quality life and a bright future and asks for their input by means of a survey. This preparation is integral to helping employees take ownership of their wellness program and building desire/accountability for their own health.
When a CEO asks their opinions/thoughts and then acts on them by implementing some of those suggestions, they establish not only the credibility of the program, but its supportive nature as well.
When a CEO becomes noticeably healthier, and supports/recognizes the efforts of his/her employees, the likelihood of those employees willingly participating in said efforts increases; which in turn fosters a more synergetic culture of support, encouragement and self-motivation amongst the employees.
Key point: If it is obvious that the CEO is not making adequate efforts to improve their own health, and a letter like the one mentioned above is distributed, the double standard will be obvious to the employees.
This action (or inaction) is likely to diminish the value of the letter, thereby hindering the overall goal of the wellness program. CEO support is the most critical element of all.
Smart K.I.S.S. #2 Designate a company wellness leader.
This may initially be the HR Director, or an enthusiastic employee who is willing to pick up the ball and run with it. We work with our clients (and their broker) to develop the timelines and programs that their employees want and need.
As your wellness program progresses and develops, team members and committees can be formed to distribute the responsibility and planning. There is no need to create a stressful situation of complete responsibility for any one individual.
Create the opportunity and the means for employees to participate in the planning and implementation of specific elements of your wellness program and you will see those employees mature in their self confidence and leadership ability.
Depending on the depth of the team leader responsibility, it may be worthwhile to build the time into that person's job description - again showing the high value the CEO places on the wellness program.
With An Eye on the Big Picture- Prior to or during these first two steps, the development of a Vision/Mission Statement (one or two sentences that declare your objectives for your company wellness program) and Goals/Objectives (written outline) will provide an excellent frame of reference and starting point.
Smart K.I.S.S. #3 Conduct an employee health interest survey
Before you introduce any elements of your wellness program, it will benefit you to conduct an employee health interest survey. All the basic elements you would introduce anyway will be included in the employee's answers.Ideally, you should not introduce any wellness activities/events until after the employees are asked their opinions/needs by survey.
Introducing any specific elements prior may be viewed with suspicion and inferred compliance.We have attached our recommendations for survey questions along with standard questions that give the most input to developing a program that will be utilized and embraced by employees. (see below)
With an Eye on the Big Picture- After the Employee Health Interest Survey results are tabulated and the employee interests are obvious, it becomes imperative to generate roles/responsibilities for some of these projects. From the people who expressed desire to participate, hold a meeting and fill the roles.
Be sure that you define the responsibilities and set appropriate timelines during this meeting. Other orders of business that should be addressed at this meeting should be to establish baseline health measures with biometric screening, planning the elements of the health fair, and addressing any issues pertaining to the formal introduction of the wellness program.
You will also want to get pricing for each element you wish to include and develop a budget to help with planning.
Smart K.I.S.S. #4 Provide an opportunity for health screening
A health fair is an ideal place to introduce the scope of your basic wellness program. This can also create opportunity for the employees to obtain a biometric screening, participate in an HRA (if they so desire), and to learn information about the opportunities that are available to them.
These opportunities could include intervention programs, lunch & learn seminars, educational seminars, receiving specific information about key components of health/wellness, as well as learning about prevention of common chronic illnesses.
An introduction to physical exercise and healthy nutrition are key elements to keeping the body healthy. It is highly recommended that some type of physical activity and nutritious food be made available for employees whom attend/participate.
A health fair can be perceived as a fairly safe place to explore wellness in the safety of the masses without calling much attention to one self. They should be viewed by participants as a fun and interactive event that fuels enthusiasm.
With An Eye on the Big Picture- Communicating your wellness program is an ongoing process. Ideally, a multi-faceted communication strategy will drive the message home more effectively. Newsletters, posters, emails, announcements, and even newspaper recognition articles of special achievement are all effective communication measures.
Smart K.I.S.S. #5 Administer an annual physical activity campaign
Getting the employees involved in physical activity is imperative. Not all employees will join a regular exercise program at the start. By offering yearly physical activity campaigns, non-participating employees have a chance to take part and become engaged - and perhaps enjoy it enough to join a regular group activity.
Whether taking part in a community challenge, creating an internal department or sister company competition, and/or a special incentive challenge, something new should be offered once a year to pique interest of non-participants. It is important to give regular participants added incentive; something more to strive for.
With An Eye on the Big Picture- Program evaluation and measurement are important. After each major event such as a health fair or a yearly physical activity challenge, decide what and how you will measure the effectiveness of your program. Using your goals and objectives is a great place to start determining this.
Smart K.I.S.S. #6 Hold Lunch & Learns
Make a list of specific topics that were most requested on the employee survey. These will become some of your mainstay sessions that you will hold once a year, or bring back by popular demand. Lunch & Learn allows the opportunity for employees to experience healthy foods they may not be familiar with, and to listen to a topic of interest in a pleasant environment.
The company also saves some time by holding these sessions over the lunch hour. Some research has indicated that quarterly sessions are ideal. Have the employees complete a survey after each lunch so that you can learn/assess how they valued the topic/discussion.
Other concerns to address in such a survey are: what they (employees) will do with the information they have learned, the quality of the speaker, and similar issues. We have attached a sample survey for this purpose.
Smart K.I.S.S. #7 Establish a company wellness library
Educated and well-informed employees who have opportunity to participate in activities that generate health will want to know more. The more accurate health information they absorb is, the more likely they will be able to continue investigating and participating in a wellness program.
Your wellness library can contain information from reputable sources in the form of self-care books, health magazines, instructional DVDs, audio books, newsletters, pamphlets and behavior change guides.
With a few comfortable chairs nearby for easy reading /listening and the ability to borrow material, you might be surprised to see how many employees will utilize your wellness library.
Smart K.I.S.S. #8 Send out a quarterly health newsletter
Health information distributed on a regular basis can create top of mind awareness. With coverage of a variety of topics, information will always be fresh and timely. Writing for a sixth grade level is a common practice for easy absorption and reading by all.
An article tied in with a quiz helps readers grasp more of the article, and completed quizzes may be used for a random drawing for special items. Dinner for two at a healthy restaurant allows the winner to share their good fortune and the concept of health with someone close to them.
We have attached a list of thought starter topics that can be used in a health and wellness newsletter. You may also wish to have a medical memo/newsletter with a guest physician each quarter such as a chiropractor, women's /men's health specialist, and/or an internist.
One column of the newsletter could also be devoted to the monthly calendar of awareness (i.e.: February is National Heart Month). They may also include a healthy recipe (and possibly employee comments about a previously submitted recipe).
Success stories can be featured as well. Participating employees should definitely begin to see positive changes in their health within just a few short weeks.
Smart K.I.S.S. #9 Implement health promoting policies
Some studies have indicated that policies and procedures that are written into a policy manual are incorporated more easily into the workplace. Policies regarding health and safety that tie directly to state or federal laws as well as objectives of the company wellness program are appropriate for the policy manual.
Examples include the use of seat belts, safety/emergency procedures during a disaster, routine scheduling of first aid box inspection and refilling, etc. Other employee health-initiatives that could tie directly to lifestyle choices include a tobacco-free workplace and an alcohol/drug-free workplace policy.
Smart K.I.S.S. #10 Promote Community Health Efforts
Communities offer numerous health related events. These events include (but are not limited to): run/walk events, cycling events, health fairs, educational seminars that can be promoted and shared with your employees, and many other. From a business perspective, being active in and helping to promote the community generates a feeling of public goodwill toward the company.
Your employees will benefit by being kept in the loop and encouraged to participate. Many community events are covered in the media with film footage and photos. As your employees get coverage at these events, their excitement will continue to grow.
Quote: When the CEO becomes noticeably healthier, supports and recognizes the efforts of employees, they will follow and participate willingly, creating a culture of support, encouragement and self-motivation among themselves.
Sample Participant Survey
(after lunch & learn)
7 Keys to a Vibrant and Healthy Body - Lunch & Learn Topic
1. Was this lunch and learn a good experience for you? ______Yes _______No
2. What interested you the most? _____________________________________________
3. What changes do you plan on making in your life because of this experience?
4. How often would you like to exercise?
______ two days per week ______ three days per week ______ not sure ______ no
5. If you would participate in an exercise program at work, what time is best for you?
______before work _______lunch time ______after work
6. What other types of physical fitness activities interest you?
7. What other topics are you interested in hearing about?
_______ walking _______ calories, nutrition and weight control
_______ strength and toning _______ cardio and endurance
_______ water - what it does, why it is necessary and why most people are dehydrated
_______ flexibility and range of motion
_______ how-to lifestyle changes, one step at a time
_______ managing low back pain and stress reduction
_______ food label reading - how to and what to look for
8. Did the speaker hold your interest, speak professionally, and know his/her material?
9. What would you have liked to have been different? How?
Newsletters - Some Theme Ideas
(Ideas not listed include: recipes, holiday menus, specific vitamin discussion, community health events calendar, stats and warning signs, as well as prevention of specific chronic illness. A newsletter is also an ideal place to post winners of challenges and announcements.)
Theme 1 Perspectives
- Eating for nutrition, not to fill a rumbling stomach
- Exercising for health and mobility, not drudgery
- Top of mind awareness, decisions and choices
Theme 2 Exercise While You Wait
- Standing in the checkout line
- Sitting in the waiting room
- In between activities, stretch, twirl, move, hug yourself
- Fidget to burn calories -
Theme 3 Buddy Body Moves
- Play with your kids, your spouse, your family and friends. Get out there and be active
- Gardening, landscaping for nutrition, beauty, peace, and fun
Theme 4 Walk Like This
- Warm up before you walk
- Find ways to add walking to your day, park further away, etc.
- Stats on walking 2000 steps is a mile, 10,000 steps per day recommended
Theme 5 Latest Startling Statistics
- From the news
- Prevention ideas
Theme 6 Exercise Tips
- Keep balance in your moves, work your bi's and your tri's
- Supplement your workouts with other physical activities
Theme 6 Personal Development
- Lifestyle choices
- Lead by example
- New body, new personality...better health, better outlook
Theme 7 Little Things Matter
- Don't forget fingers, toes, wrist and ankle
Theme 8 Stretching
- Stretch only to the point of tension, not pain
- 2 second stretch prior to workout, longer stretch after body is warm
Theme 9 Nutrition
- Use the nutrition system
Theme 10 Body Basics
- Stress reduction exercises and tips
- Low back pain relief
- The heart is a muscle too
- 3500 calories = 1 lb. of fat, therefore 100 calories per day not burned...
Theme 11 Preparation
- Tips on proper footwear
- Buddy system for long distance training, hiking, etc.
- Know your exercising heart rate
Theme 12 Personal Best
- Gaining health and losing weight and chronic illness one step at a time
- Winners are those who....
- Motivational quotes, applied to their corporate group
- Commendations, group totals for the quarter (be careful not to single someone out)
About The Author
Greg Justice, MA owns/operates AYC Health & Fitness, Kansas City's Original Personal Training Center. 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) from Morehead State University, Morehead, KY, and a bachelor's degree in Health & Physical Education from Morehead State University in Morehead, KY. Greg is also an AFAA certified personal trainer (CPT).