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There IS a Wrong Way to Wellness

By Jordi Wallen

If you ever thought you couldn’t do something (we’ve all been there), did someone threatening you inspire you to take the action? What about public shaming? How about being penalized?

I’m going to make an educated assumption that most of those tactics wouldn’t work on you, because we’ve seen that they don’t work in wellness programs. There may not be one definitive “right” way to structure your wellness program, but there certainly are some wrong ones.

  1. Don’t Penalize- When organizations threaten to elevate healthcare premiums for employees who choose not to participate in voluntary wellness offerings or who don’t fit inside an “acceptable” range of biometric measures, they risk major backlash. You are essentially communicating to this segment of your population that you’re giving up on them- that it’s your way or the highway and if they don’t choose to make themselves uncomfortable by participating in the wellness program, they must reap the consequences.
    The Fix: You want outcomes, not consequences, by meeting employees at their state of readiness. Instead of shaming them into participating in something that makes them uncomfortable, have more options that are a better entry point to wellness, like tracking step goals against a wearable device.
  2. Rewarding for Screenings- Employees don’t care about biometrics or ROI. These technicalities aren’t the things that get them engaged in wellness, and HRAs and biometric screenings don’t truly measure engagement of those participating in a healthy lifestyle program.
    The Fix: Go beyond screenings by discovering the things that truly motivate your populations! Do they want step goals? Nutrition counseling? To form a softball league? Encourage feedback from employees on what healthy activities or education they’re interested in. Your support and encouragement makes them more likely to participate.
  3. Only Offering Discounts- Discounts are helpful, don’t misunderstand us. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be costly (but cheaper than medications, doctor appointments, and medical procedures down the road), but discounts don’t guarantee action or change.
    The Fix: Wellness programs that see the highest engagement actually offer rewards on the back-end. Reward employees for reaching a predetermined goal, like 8 gym visits per month or a quarterly step count.
  4. One-Size-Fits-All- I hate dance clubs. You will never see me dancing in the dark with a bunch of sweaty strangers to techno music. My best friend absolutely loves them- she wants to get dressed up and groove all night with overpriced drinks. Much like our difference in late-night-activity preference, your employees have different tastes in fitness. By limiting your rewardable activity to only one mode of activity you are isolating everyone who doesn’t get fit that way. It isn’t feasible that 100% of your population will be gym-goers.
    The Fix: Channel your employees’ intrinsic motivation. Break down any possible barriers by opening up your roster to runners, cyclists, walkers, hikers,  swimmers, Yogis, kickboxers and more by rewarding for Group Exercise classes and steps against a goal.

Tags: Employers

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