Let’s face it: There’s a lot wrong in corporate wellness today. If you read this article on Forbes.com that summarized a 2013 RAND report on corporate wellness, you might be depressed. Or worse, you might be ready to throw in the towel on your business strategy for improving employee health.
It's tough not to be disillusioned. This is an industry with a lot of mixed messages that vendors aren't working to clear up. There are the over-simplification statements, like one vendor who promoted a “got engagement” message, as if we could simply add an ingredient to generate engagement. (I already ranted about this concept once; you can read the blog here.)
Other vendors are so bent on reporting and marketing positive ROI that they don’t do their homework on the tricky science of capturing true ROI. Their reports of 5:1, 7:1, or even a 10:1 return send mixed messages to buyers in the corporate wellness market. (For more on my thoughts about ROI, check out this blog.)
In truth, we’ve probably overcomplicated it; corporate wellness strategies can be fairly simple to develop. There are some critical health-related components that I think are required for a sound strategy. These include opportunities for the following:
- Exercise or physical activity
- Nutritious and delicious foods
- Tobacco-free environments
- Stress resilience education/support
And all of those components should be built on the idea of creating a successful environment where employees can thrive. A number of elements need to be in place to create opportunities for employees to access that healthy list. Those elements vary by client, and truth be told, we’re not experts at all of them.
The bulk of our work in the last 25+ years has been focused on helping individuals improve their fitness level throughout their lifespan. So I’m going to stick with what we know and provide a four-part blog with time-tested truths about why fitness initiatives fail in corporate wellness programming. Truth #1 is below.
Truth #1: Fitness initiatives fail as part of a corporate wellness strategy because of a lack of programming creativity.
Why so many corporate wellness programs get stuck on the same old walking program is beyond me. The options for establishing fun, inviting, and effective programs are many. I’ve listed several below based on our experience working with clients of all shapes and sizes. This is by no means an exhaustive list; you are limited only by your own creativity.
If this list doesn’t jumpstart you, try searching the Internet and current literature, polling your workforce for what they want, and leveraging the passion of your avid exercisers to build a diverse program portfolio.
Start Walking Programs
Yes, I just bashed “same old walking program” above. The truth is, this is a simple and generally effective way to get employees moving. But you cannot just slap up a poster for “Walking at Work” and call it done. Consider options like the following:
- What does participation and completion look like?
- Will you include pedometers or advocate that employees enlist the support of a particular app to help them track their progress?
- What are the start and end dates for the program? (This sounds so elementary, but programs with hard starts and stops are generally more effective than the ongoing—and typically unchecked—walking initiative.)
- Do you want to enlist the support of web-based, fee-oriented programs to help with tracking or will you go with the wearables phenomenon?
- How will you celebrate successes both during and after the program?
- How will you support participants throughout the program?
Sponsor Group Fitness Classes
There’s something about community that makes group exercise classes appealing. For a lot of people, the only way they exercise is through a class format. Fortunately, this is typically a low-cost initiative, and if you’re willing to pass the cost on to the employee, it can be free for the employer. For more about corporate group fitness classes, download our quick read: 3 Keys to Adding Group Exercise at Work.
Beautify Your Stairwells
Honestly, think about the last hotel you were in. Did you venture to the stairwell to get from your second-floor room to the restaurant on the main level only to find that lighting was poor, and your safety in that enclosed space was questionable? I bet you backed up and reluctantly took the elevator down one flight. What a waste!
The same experience is being had by employees all over corporate America because our stairwells are dark, boring, uninviting—or worse, unsafe. You can overcome appearance issues by committing minimal dollars for brighter paint and improved lighting. Then cap off the capital improvements by launching a “Take the Stairs” campaign. Visit the CDC’s StairWELL to Better Health website for resources for building a robust and impactful stairwell campaign.
Add Lockers and Showers
If you’re serious about creating a variety of opportunities for your employees to exercise as part of your broader corporate wellness strategy, adding locker rooms to your campus sends a strong message.
And if you’re going to go so far as to install the locker room areas, you might as well at least give consideration to providing bike lockers. Serious cyclists won't use traditional bike racks because they don't keep their expensive equipment safe. Unless you want to see bikes stashed in offices and other workspaces inside your workplace, bike lockers deserve consideration.
Build an Onsite Corporate Fitness Center
As it turns out, installing locker rooms is kind of the gateway drug to doing bigger projects to ensure the success of fitness initiatives in connection with your corporate wellness strategy. Recommendations around accomplishing this significant undertaking are too much to outline here. For more information on the basic considerations for building a corporate fitness center, you can download our webinar series.
The outline above isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get you started so that your fitness initiatives avoid the lack-of-creativity trap that seals their doom. Up next, truth #2: Look for information about how stakeholders can help your fitness opportunities either sink or swim.
Looking for one resource that contains all four of these truths about why corporate fitness initiatives fail in corporate wellness? Download our eBook for the full series.