Once you start a wellness program you will have a range of employee participants. Some will already be very engaged in being active and eating well and your program will only reinforce and enhance their health. Others will be people who may not engage no matter what you do. The remaining group is probably the largest group in most organizations – people who are at various stages of readiness to improve their health given the right type of program and motivation. Summarized below are some tips you may want to employ once your program is up and running.
In today’s society there are many key factors that influence people’s health behaviors. Consider the following list in maintaining participation in your program:
- TIME. People are busy, so the more you can work activity and healthy eating into their existing schedules, the better your chances for success. For example, a walk at lunch doesn’t take away from existing time, it just uses it differently. Also, look at the time of the day and length of any activity you might be promoting, since both components may be factors.
- ACCESS. How accessible are your programs? Are they onsite or at a nearby site? Do you offer access during breaks or outside of normal work hours?
- KNOWLEDGE. People need to know why they are participating (the benefits), and they need instructions and education on adopting healthier habits and behaviors.
- COST. Being able to provide no-cost or reduced-cost programs will help participation rates. Coupled with incentives for participation, rates of participation will likely increase dramatically.
- INCENTIVES. Some people need incentives to get started in a wellness program.
Key Time Periods
Good habits are often difficult to develop. There tend to be critical times when people drop out of a physical activity or diet program. One key time period is the first six weeks. If people can stay consistent with a program through the first 6 weeks, they have made a fairly serious commitment to incorporate the habits into their lifestyle. The second key time is at about six months. Those who made it past six weeks may get bored and/or distracted from their program after several months. If people can get past six months and sustain behavior through a full year, they have a very good chance of making the changes permanent.
Consider these time periods and think about how you can boost your employees to get them past these critical time markers. Promoting individual or group challenges, using incentives and increasing publicity and marketing are a few of the things you can do to help get your employees through these key time periods.
Setting goals has been shown to lead to better participation and more people making a strong commitment. Whether it is a team goal of walking the equivalent of once around your state or an individual goal of so many miles or minutes of activity, having something concrete to aim for increases the likelihood people will stick with the program.
Buddy Systems or Team Goals
The social aspects of improving one’s health cannot be underestimated. Many studies point to tight social groups being the backbone for a successful campaign because each individual has a commitment to something bigger than themselves; plus, it’s just more fun for most people. Consider building your program around teams or partners.
A worksite-wide campaign or competition can help you keep your message and initiatives more visible and alive. Encourage campaign participation, but make it voluntary so that those who prefer that type of motivation can join while others can participate in their own way and at their own pace.
Incentives are often helpful in maintaining or raising interest. Incentives such as cash or health insurance rebates have proven to be strong motivators for employee participation. Listed below are some sample incentives:
- Achievement awards. Verbal praise and a pat on the back are motivational to some, but a token of recognition of achievement may offer more. A colorful certificate to congratulate an employee for achieving a health-related goal is one example.
- Public recognition. Announce recognition at campaign mid-point or wrap-up festivities.
- Food. Include some healthy foods to kick off, revitalize or wrap up a wellness campaign.
- Entertainment. Events serve a purpose in jump-starting, re-energizing or wrapping up a campaign. Having entertainment of any kind can boost morale.
- Merchandise. There is a long list of merchandise incentives, including sports equipment and small gift certificates to use at local merchants.
- Monetary rewards. Worksites that have used cash or rebates as an incentive have shown much higher participation rates.
- Time off. This may be the next best incentive to cash. This type of incentive makes good business sense if the number of absences drops significantly and attendance is used as one of your evaluation criteria.
Also look at your current benefits package and see if there are wellness components that are already covered by your health care provider. If you have reimbursement opportunities for things like fitness classes or club memberships, you should promote them so employees can take advantage of a benefit that is already covered by your benefits package.
AUI has tools to help you understand, create, and evaluate wellness programs. For more information, please contact us today!