According to a newly published report, 86% of employees don’t participate in wellness initiatives because they just don’t have the time. The report published this past week by the corporate health initiative Global Corporate Challenge (GCC), is based on a survey of 378 organizations across all continents and a broad spectrum of industries including government, banking, accounting, manufacturing, mining and others.
Wellness programs in the workplace are no good to those who don’t have time to take part. Trying to follow a healthier lifestyle – through exercise, distressing or nutrition – has to be an integral part of a company in order for it to have a place in the work day. It has to be part of the culture. Employees can’t feel they have to break free of their schedules to take time to feel better; it has to be part of their schedules.
Culture change does not happen just because you do a lot of wellness programming. There is this false belief that you can change and create a healthy culture by having everyone do a health risk appraisal, or by having everyone get a health coach, or by having everyone do your wellness programming. Most wellness programs are directed at individual change—they do not address group, organizational or community change—and I really don’t think culture change works that way. There’s a lot more to culture change than just expanding your individual programming or offering team activities.
We’ve seen that people can make changes for a short time, but not a long time if the culture is working against them. With willpower and personal motivation, employees can override the resistance within their environment for a week or a month or a couple of months, but eventually they seem to revert back to whatever the culture is demanding from them in terms of behavior. We need to understand that we have been successful in motivating lifestyle change, but we need to create a culture where the healthy choice becomes the easy choice, where the types of changes that we’re interested in just become the way things are done.
What steps can an employer take to instill a culture of health & wellness within the workplace?
- Assess the characteristics of the existing culture.
- Determine the desired culture.
- Communicate the desired culture to all employees.
- Have management that leads by behavior/example.
- Reinforce the desired behavior through recognition and reward systems.
- Continually evaluate, monitor and assess to maintain the desired culture.
How can you inspire employees to buy in to a healthy culture?
True buy-in from your employees and an observable shift in your company culture are visible characteristics of successful programs that can move you in the right direction. Active engagement of your team in healthy programs will result in a cultural change, just as a change in your workplace culture will steer those resisting the program unconsciously toward active participation. There are three keys to achieving true buy-in.
- Lead from the top. Actions speak louder than words, so you must have senior leadership involved in health initiatives. Senior management must be actively engaged in and using wellness services.
- Communicate. There must be a clear statement and clarification of new values and beliefs of the organization. Keep employees informed about the process of cultural change and allow them to be involved and to take ownership of initiatives.
- Offer recognition and rewards. Make sure your policies align with your company’s vision to strengthen the clarity of the message.