Workplace Wellness – Employee Engagement

Many employers balk at investing in health management programs because the keeping employees engaged in the program seems to have diminishing returns. This is when there is great excitement about the program at the beginning, but as the program continues, the participation numbers tend to wane. This can be true if the program is not entered into thoughtfully with the beginning, middle, and end result in mind. There is some organic truth to employees becoming less interested in wellness as their daily lives take precedent over everything else. If people had the discipline and ability to stick to a wellness plan by themselves, there would be little or no need for a corporate wellness program, not to mention the entire fitness industry which built upon the masses’ inability to stick to a wellness program by themselves. This being said, it should come as no surprise that people’s interest in your wellness program will wax and wane if you do not put in the proper rules of engagement.

A large misstep that many wellness programs make is giving a huge kick off at the beginning, giving a nice sizable pay off at the end, but completely eliminating the incentives for the all important middle of the program. Adding this piece to your program will pay dividends with far less attrition than you might have experienced without it. Here are a few ideas of small rewards that are cost effective, but will also keep your participants engaged.

  • Entered into a drawing for gift card (Starbucks, Subway, Zoup) with a value of $5-$10
  • Company logo wear
  • Extended lunch (15-30 minutes extension)
  • Fitness prizes e.g. Jump rope, pedometer, work out DVD, yoga ball, etc
  • Leave early, come in late coupon (15-20min or whatever time you find to be suitable)
  • Trophy or Certificate for completion of a goal
  • The list can go on and on!

The point here is not to break the bank on prizes, however it is to keep your employees engaged long enough for them to dismantle unhealthy habits while building healthy ones. Little rewards for staying in the game will go a long way with keeping them on track towards the ultimate goal which is living a healthy lifestyle. When your employees live a healthier lifestyle, the company wins big with healthcare costs. Of course the incentives should be commiserate with the goal that has been met. You should not give a person who has quit smoking after 20 years a $5 Starbucks gift card.  Something more sizable should be given for such a lofty and difficult goal being reached. Much in the same you wouldn’t give a half-day off from work for attending a lunch and learn. Be creative with these incentives. It is a good idea to have them aligned with the end goal to keep them focused on the ultimate prize at the end. Again the idea is to properly incentivize people to stay engaged and committed to being an active participant in their own health and well being.

These are the rules of engagement for a successful corporate wellness program:

  1. Behind your communications campaign for the program, give a huge kick off that includes an incentive for starting the program.
  2. During the progress of the program, continue to incentivize your employees for staying engaged. Make the carrot suitable for the goal.
  3. Provide an ending incentive for finishing the program and reenlisting for the following year. This should be the big prize.

Keeping your employees engaged may sound like an expensive feat. And yes you will have to invest financially in your wellness program. However, not having them engaged in living a healthy lifestyle will be far more expensive in the long run for your company. Follow the rules and you will be well on your way to your ultimate goal, which is reducing your health care cost for the long term.

-Stephanie Gray., MS, CPT, CCWS