In part 1 of this blog, I started with a gloomy portrayal of the mess many wellness vendors have made of the seemingly altruistic endeavor of corporate wellness. Okay, maybe corporate wellness isn’t altruistic; maybe that’s a little “Pollyanna” of me. But I think we can agree that one of the primary motives for implementing a corporate wellness program is to help employees improve their health.
And if employers are focused on improving employee health through corporate wellness, one of the elements they need in their strategy is opportunities for exercise and physical activity. Enter truth #1: Fitness initiatives fail in corporate wellness because they aren’t creative.
Let’s move on to truth #2:
Truth #2: Fitness initiatives fail as part of a corporate wellness strategy because they lack multilevel support within the organization.
“Support” comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s about money; in other cases, we need to look at support through company health policy. And in still other circumstances, support comes in the form of hands and feet—actual people who are driving your wellness initiatives.
To the CEO, CFO, and COO: We cannot run successful initiatives without money. There is a lot we can accomplish with no more than brains and people power, but at the end of the day, we’ll need some money. Recognizing that and removing the hurdles for your health promotion staff to get basic funding will go a long way toward ensuring success.
If your organization is considering company health policies, but there is significant pushback about legislating what people eat or how they spend their break time, keep these thoughts in mind:
- You’re not Mayor Bloomberg: You don’t have to get your policies passed through government or the courts.
- Writing policies with some flexibility that allows employees to choose their path will resonate better than dictating your own 10 healthy commandments. For example, if you write a healthy food policy for meetings, you can allow employees to still have donuts and pastries, but their department will have to foot 100 percent of that cost. If they choose fresh fruit, whole-grain bagels, and low-fat yogurt, the company will significantly subsidize the cost of the food.
Following are a few key ways to find the support you need to ensure successful fitness programming as part of your corporate wellness strategy.
Find Your Fitness Champions and Put Them to Work
There is a good chance you have employees who are already passionate about regular exercise. Leverage their enthusiasm by anointing them as your fitness champions and providing them with enough support to invite those around them to participate in your corporate fitness program. Put those individuals on your advisory committees or wellness teams and empower them to use their experiences to positively motivate their peers.
Create a Fitness Center Reimbursement Policy
If you don’t have an onsite corporate fitness center, or your fitness center is not accessible to your entire workforce, implementing a reimbursement policy for fitness center membership may be an important addition to your wellness policies. Use the web as a resource for writing your policy; SHRM offers this sample fitness center reimbursement policy as a guideline.
Check with your health insurance provider. They may have a commercial fitness center network you can participate in that offers discounted memberships to your employees as well as countrywide membership for employees who travel routinely. You may also be able to negotiate company membership rates with commercial gyms in your area; most fee-based facilities have an established corporate wellness members programs for this purpose. You can find out more by calling the facility and speaking to a membership representative.
Require Fitness Goals as Part of Annual Performance Appraisals
Imagine the potential to truly move the needle on the health of your workforce by fostering an environment where colleagues help each other achieve their health-related goals. Consider the impact of successfully meeting those goals as a small piece of each employee’s performance.
Incentivize Participation in the Corporate Fitness Center
Help your employees connect the dots between your corporate fitness center and your overall corporate wellness strategy by incentivizing participation in the facility—just like you incentivize participation in other parts of your wellness program.
Provide Flex-time to Allow Anytime Workouts
Building a variety of physical activity opportunities into the work day will have the greatest impact if your organization supports a flexible schedule for participation throughout the day. Rethink the traditional workday to allow for increased access to exercise options. When you have a traditional hourly workforce (for example, call-center or manufacturing-based employees), providing flex-time will require some creativity and new thinking to figure out how to maintain business operations while your workforce has 15 minutes of paid daily physical activity time.
Subsidize a Walking/Running Club
Spring for t-shirts for your employee-driven walking or running club. Not only do the participants of the running club feel supported by their employer, they also become moving billboards for your organization that promote your interest in your employees’ health.
Manage the budget for this simple program by establishing club rules that allow for the company to subsidize participation in one (or two, or whatever the company can afford) road races per year. There’s a good chance you already have a champion at your organization who will spearhead this club; count on that person to take the initiative and to literally run with it.
You can’t do it alone. Seriously, you can’t. As you’re mapping out that creative programming we talked about with truth #1, also map out who can provide you with additional support both inside and outside your organization.
Up next: truth #3, which focuses on keeping your company out of legal hot water that could arise as a result of poorly planned fitness initiatives.
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.