Thursday, May 6, 2010

Two Widely Held Misperceptions about Workplace Wellness Programs

There are two things I always hear at programs on workplace wellness that I disagree with strongly. If you believe what you're told, they could get in the way of your starting a successful program in your workplace.

Myth #1 - You must have top management support for a wellness program.

What you really need is for top management not to be a barrier. Put another way, it's a nice to have, not a need to have. Of course, you may need management to approve the proposed budget for the program, but they don't have to tout the benefits of a wellness program and they don't have to don their tennis shoes and Zumba with you (though it would be really great if they did)!

Myth #2 - You need cash incentives to get people to participate.

Are you nuts? Last week, I attended a benefits bench-marking session and the presenters threw out a figure of $150 in incentives per employee to encourage participation. We have a staff of 250, so that would be $37,500. Uh, no. Spend that money on screenings, education, exercise classes, and fitness equipment.

I don't think you really need a carrot or a stick to get people to do what they know is good for them. Just figure out what is getting in the way of people making healthy changes and break down those barriers. Make it fun. Create a sense of community that people want to be part of. Start small building the program a little at a time and then try to brand the program so people start seeing how it all ties together. People will want to participate in your wellness activities if the activities are well supported, relevant and fun!