Many wellness program initiatives are quite simply poorly designed to effectively engage the employees that need them the most. Do your initiatives fit their purpose?
My wife and I recently had our first baby. As if that wasn't hectic enough, the same month we were knee-deep preparing two national program launches. Needless to say the past couple of months has given me a real-life lesson in managing fatigue, stress, and work-life balance.
Ensuring workplace health interventions are designed to integrate with people's work flow and life flow is a long standing philosophy for HBD, but it was reinforced for me over these past couple of months. While I was battling sleepless nights, extended travel and full work days, I had to shake my head when I received an email from a well-known "wellness authority" promoting their newest solution to employee stress: a stress management book. I'm sure some of the information in the book is helpful, and yes, it's quite cheap and easy to give your employees a book. But the people who are the most stressed are also the most time poor. The point: they won't make time to read the book which makes this a very poor fit for purpose.
This is not an isolated example. Over and over and over again we see companies investing in web portals, lunch and learns, wearable devices, online challenges, self-directed learning courses and a whole host of initiatives which are simply not a good fit for their employee population's needs or interests. Every extra proactive step you put in place (i.e. requirements to opt-in, sign up, log in, download an app, make an appointment, count points etc) results in more of your least motivated and least healthy individuals choosing not to make the effort. How effective are web based programs and challenges for non-computer based employees? How simple is your wellness information to find, navigate and understand?
Engagement is still the biggest issue in workplace health promotion. It's not because people don't care about their health, it's that most program designs are just not a good fit for those that need them. Many companies turn to incentives to try and close the gap, but incentives do not overcome engagement issues in a sustainable manner. What is needed is a change in the design and integration of your program initiatives.
The program branding and the way you integrate educational activities and touch points into your normal work flow is critical to your success in engaging your population. Forcing generic interventions onto your employees is like trying to push square plugs into round holes: you might force some level of compliance, but you'll always have a significant leak.
Before you can expect significant behavior change you must first get meaningful engagement. To get meaningful engagement your interventions need to be accessible and appealing to your employees. They need to be adapted to fit your employees, not the other way round.
At HBD, we focus on the concept of engage, then change. We know that we need to make participation both easy and meaningful. Once we have meaningful engagement, we can leverage an individual's inherent motivation to make progressive change more sustainable. As a result, our average sustained, non-incentivized monthly program engagement is over 80% of the eligible population. So will you continue to stand blindfolded and throw darts at a dart board hoping a few will hit; or would it make more sense to re-design the board to make it easier to hit to begin with?