Companies are only as healthy as the performance put up by their best workers, and employees tend to perform best when happy and healthy.
They know it, too. According to a recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Principal Financial, 52% of those surveyed say they have more energy to be productive at work as a result of participating in at least one work-sponsored wellness program.
Harris' study covered 1,121 workers aged 18 years or older and 533 retirees. Most worked for small and medium-sized U.S. business, and a plurality -- more than 40% -- said that access to health and wellness services such as gym discounts boosted loyalty. More than half of participants also cited lower overall healthcare costs.
Perhaps that sounds obvious. After all, healthy and happy employees will be stronger physically, and a healthy body makes for a healthy mind, which should lead to greater alertness, better business decisions and safer working conditions.
But if all this is true, then why aren't more employers designing programs to help workers get healthier? Only two in ten, or 18%, of respondents to Harris' survey said managers encourage them to get involved in a company health and wellness program. Millions in potential savings are going unrealized as a result.
It doesn't have to be this way. Here are five low-cost strategies for implementing a health and wellness program employees will actually use:
Healthy living should be a group activity. At work, that can mean anything from a shared fitness challenge to offering additional gym discounts to teams that commit to working out together. The activity itself isn't what matters. Team-building skills can't help but rise to the top when groups commit to any shared goal, especially one so important as improving each member's basic health.
Use online tools to give employees access to wellness resources. Create blogs with open threads for sharing favourite workouts or healthy menu choices available at nearby restaurants. Create private LinkedIn groups for those struggling with certain types of health and wellness issues. Whatever specific mechanisms you choose for increasing engagement, make sure that it is easy to find and even easier to use.
Reward Behaviors Rather Than Results
Rather than reward weight loss, design programs that recognize behaviors that contribute to weight loss. Something as simple as completing a risk assessment or working through a checklist of basic tasks -- joining a gym, completing a short run, committing to healthier diet choices, consulting a nutritionist, etc. -- is much more likely to build healthy habits.
Set an Example at the Executive Level
Adoption should come from the top. Get executives to commit to the program and publish at least some of their results. The message? Wellness is a priority for everyone, especially those in the executive ranks.
Again, healthy living is a group activity. Encourage participants to use social media to tout successes and support peers. Highlight the tweets, posts, and blog entries throughout the corporate website. Start a "wellness achieves" club for recognizing those who've set and met goals.
Wellness programs carry a variety of personal and corporate benefits. The hard work isnt in starting them; it's in supporting and sustaining them. Use these strategies to make sure the investment pays off.
John Mills is executive vice president of Business Development at Rideau Recognition Solutions, a provider of employee rewards and recognition programs.