When it comes to employee wellness, employers should be striving for irresistible, not mandatory, in order to reap the rewards of high engagement and positive health outcomes.
There is a “trust gap” with employees about physical wellness programs, according to Andrew Boyd, senior vice president of client and member experience at Virgin Pulse. “A lot of factors contribute to that gap, but employees need to be reassured that the wellness program is being done with them and not to them for the benefit of the employer,” says Boyd, who is based in Boston. “Through action and communication, employees need to be shown their employers are committed to a culture of health.”
To convey wellness programs as irresistible, not mandatory, Boyd points to the four “Es”: build excitement, entice them by pointing out what is available to them, educate them about using the program and how it can help them, keep engagement up so they establish daily habits.
The design of the program can help entice employees to participate, Boyd says. Employers should find out what employees want and need. For example, some may want to sleep better; some may want to increase their physical activity.
While communication can come through website portals, email, print communications and posters, Boyd says successful communications are inherently social. “Our founder realized in clinical work that patients who enrolled their social network—their family members, friends and coworkers—achieved better outcomes,” he notes. In addition, Boyd suggests selecting influencers in the organization: so-called change ambassadors who, if they get excited, can motivate others like them to participate. These change ambassadors can ease other employees into the wellness program, for example, by inviting them to walking meetings. “Employers should engage those ambassadors and provide them with suggestions to execute their influence,” he says.
Boyd also says events and activities all can participate in work well. But, he highlights that company leaders should also be engaged in wellness programs. “Employees will take cues for participating from company leaders and will learn how to participate from ambassadors,” he concludes.