Workplace Wellness: Focusing Your Efforts


This post is a supplement to our monthly webinar series.  This month’s topic is Employer Sponsored Wellness Programs and the Impact of Marijuana Legalization on Employers.

Now that you’ve completed your analysis of the workplace assessment and employee survey and considered an array of program strategies, it’s time to narrow your focus. By looking at what you currently offer, you should be able to see the gaps where additional strategies could be implemented. By identifying those gaps and comparing them with the current health habits and interests of your employees, you can match high priority gaps with employee needs or interests. Finally, by answering questions about the cost, time, effort and potential number of employees who will be impacted by your program strategies, you will be ready to decide what to include in your wellness program.

healthy at workConsiderations

As you plan where to focus your wellness efforts, consider that some efforts may have greater impact than others. Your wellness program can include many components, such as:

  • Health screening and assessment
  • Education through presentations, printed materials and Web resources
  • Program activities, including campaigns over a specified time period
  • Environmental and policy change

Your program should involve the creation of a supportive social and physical environment where healthy decisions are the norm. Part of creating this environment is to clearly define the organization’s expectations regarding healthy behaviors and implement policies that promote health and reduced risk of disease.

Policy and environmental change is a good place to begin. Policies create the opportunity for widespread behavioral change by modifying the existing workplace rules and customs. Environmental changes, both physical and cultural, provide options or opportunities for employees to adopt healthier habits and can also result in widespread change. In addition, encouraging healthy habits in the workplace can lead to healthier behavior outside of work. Some examples of policy and environmental modification are:

  • Formal written policies, such as:
    • Guidelines for ordering food for company events
    • No smoking on company property
    • Company cost-sharing for health club memberships
  • Environmental changes or cues, such as:
    • Outdoor bike racks
    • Increasing and labeling healthy food choices in cafeterias and vending machines
    • Posters promoting healthy messages, such as a sign near the elevators encouraging stair use

Unlike trying to impact behavior at an individual level, environmental and policy changes have the ability to impact large groups of people. Though your wellness strategies should also address individual behavior change, it is important to focus on areas where the greatest potential benefit could occur.

Employee Readiness: Stages of Change and Program Considerations

A major factor to be aware of is that people vary greatly in their readiness to change their behavior. In your survey of employees it may be helpful to collect information to know what percent of employees are at the various stages. Most people go through five stages in changing behaviors:

  1. Pre-contemplation – Not thinking about changing their behavior in the near future.
  2. Contemplation – Beginning to seriously think about changing their behavior in the near future (next six months).
  3. Preparation – Have tried to change their behavior at least once in the past year, and thinking about trying again within the next month.
  4. Action – Real steps are being actively taken to change their behavior; this is also the stage where a slip is most likely to occur.
  5. Maintenance – Have changed their behavior for over six months and are now maintaining that healthy behavior.

People can move from one stage to another in order, but they may move back and forth between stages before adopting a behavior for good. A slip is not a failure, but it is an important part of the learning and behavior change process. Most people attempt healthy behavior change several times before they succeed, and the chance of success increases every time. Knowing where most of your employee population falls in this continuum can help you better plan specific initiatives.

Developing the Wellness Plan Content

One way to develop your program is to take your workplace assessment checklist and evaluate the areas where no policy or program exists, or areas where some policy or program exists but can be improved. For each of these areas, ask the following questions:

  • How important is it to have a program in this area?
  • How much will it cost to implement a program in this area?
  • How much time and effort would be needed to implement a program in this area?
  • How great is the potential “reach,” or how many employees may be affected?
  • How well does a program in this area match employees’ interests?

You should also package your activities so that they build off each other, which can lead to greater participation and long-term success. An example would be having a policy that encourages physical activity on break time, coupled with using pedometers as incentives and then providing maps or onsite trails to get staff out walking.

AUI has tools to help you understand, create, and evaluate wellness programs.  For more information, please contact us today!

We do more than cover small businesses and individuals with the right insurance policies and benefit plans – what motivates our team is helping you save more so you can invest more in your team, family, and goals.

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