Employee wellness programs have become increasingly popular in recent years as companies recognize the benefits of promoting a healthy lifestyle for their employees. However, implementing a successful employee wellness program that solves the true wellness needs of employees and moves the needle in helping them achieve their health goals requires skill and a clear understanding of what wellness means.
Consequently, many organizations make several mistakes in launching the right wellness program for their employees, some of which are discussed below.
Poor Employee Engagement
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is not involving employees in the design and implementation of their wellness programs. This can lead to low engagement and a lack of interest from employees.
Employees need to be involved in creating solutions that work for them. Creating generic solutions that employers presume would work for all employees would lead to a waste of resources and poor health outcomes. Ask employees, through surveys or even direct consultations, how best the organization can help them lead healthier and happier lives, and what specific measures would help alleviate their wellness and health challenges.
It also helps to involve employees when rolling out evidence-based wellness initiatives, talking them through the importance of some measures, and providing support to them where necessary.
Lack of Management Support
Without support from upper management, employee wellness programs are unlikely to succeed. Companies need to have buy-in from management to ensure that wellness programs are taken seriously.
What’s the use of mental wellness programs where employers champion a toxic work culture that borders on discrimination, cultural insensitivity, and workplace stress? Are employees likely to participate in workplace weight loss programs when organizations do not provide the needed mental support for employees battling with obesity and overweight?
Management support does more than encourage employees to participate in programs, but it also clearly reflects the culture of a workplace, and how valued employee health and wellness is.
Wellness programs should be tailored to the specific needs of employees. Companies that take a one-size-fits-all approach are unlikely to see high levels of engagement.
The problem with a generic approach to wellness is that it presumes that the determinants of health and wellness are the same for everyone. Mental health problems for a LGBTQ community who faces continuous discrimination and lack of inclusivity at work may differ from mental health concerns of an employee that works from home and struggles to find a clear line between work and personal time.
Therefore, both scenarios require different approaches, which depend on their individual contexts. Taking a personalized approach to wellness benefits all, as it solves an employee's true wellness concerns and builds a more productive workplace for organizations.
Why is your organization launching paid gym membership plans? Why are your wellness managers setting up a food wellness project? If the goals of wellness initiatives are not clear enough, the programs would not be sustainable and everyone will lose their drive in a short time.
For instance, a clear goal for setting up a weight loss program and healthy nutrition initiative may be to lower the prevalence and risk of chronic disease among workers, which improves workplace productivity, and reduces time spent off sick for managing chronic diseases. In addition, these projects reduce healthcare spending considerably, leading to enormous cost savings for organizations.
Zero or Wrong Incentives
Without incentives, employees may not be motivated to participate in wellness programs. Companies should consider offering rewards for participation, including gift cards or paid sick days off.
It is important, also, to know how incentives work and not to abuse it. Incentives are most effective when they are result-based and not merely participation-based. Incentives, such as paid gym memberships or awards, should be tied to wealth and health results achieved and not merely participation in a wellness program.
Constant communication emphasizes the need for a wellness initiative and its role in helping employees achieve healthier lifestyles. Poor communication about the benefits of these programs to employees and, by extension, their families and productivity at work leads to poor engagement and poor results.
Communication also involves regular evaluation of the wellness program, engaging employees to determine if the initiative is achieving results, and what programs need to be tweaked to achieve better results.
Lack of Resources
Wellness programs require resources, including time and money. Companies that don’t invest enough in their wellness programs may not see the desired results. Organizations that don’t factor wellness and health into their budgets often have an unhealthy workforce as this clearly demonstrates that health and wellness is not priority.
It is important also to have a clear understanding of what wellness solutions are needed before investing. This may inform leveraging platforms, such as employee assistance programs, financial coaches, financial webinars, mental health counsellors, and other resources to achieve the target wellness results.
Lack of Flexibility
In creating employee wellness programs or initiatives that work, wellness managers and employers need to ensure flexibility. While engaging and following up with employees, managers may become aware of some programs that may need to change or be substituted for other ones to achieve the desired results.
Further, managers must be ready to implement the needed changes to build a healthier workplace, such as creating a hybrid work pattern for some workers, providing more support for remote workers where necessary, or revisiting work descriptions to ensure the most suited for each role or task is hired for it.
Lack of Long-Term Strategy
Wellness programs should be part of a long-term strategy for employee health and well-being. Companies that don't have a long-term plan for their wellness programs may struggle to sustain engagement and participation.
Wellness programs are not a one-off measure to improve health outcomes or productivity levels, it should be integrated into workplace culture and wound into the fabric of work. Any time employers get comfortable with the status quo and ignore employee health and wellness, they often begin to record poorer health and workplace results.
Lack of Evaluation
Some employers don’t realize the value of testing wellness programs and measuring the outcomes of such programs. Are these wellness initiatives effective at achieving the target health outcomes or are there better approaches to adopt?
Regular evaluation of wellness programs helps organizations keep their target in sight and modify the initiatives per time. Without proper evaluation, managers are unable to determine if these projects are working or resources are being wasted without moving the needle.
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