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Workplace Wellness

Focusing Your Efforts

Wellness issues important to you – brought to you by Blue Chip Advisors, LLC

Now that you’ve completed the analysis of the worksite assessment and employee survey and taken a look at the array of program strategies to be considered, it’s time to narrow your focus. By looking at what you currently offer, you should be able to see the gaps in areas where there are additional strategies that could be implemented. By identifying those gaps and comparing them with the current health habits and interests of your employees that were gathered in the employee survey, you should be able to match high priority gaps with high priority employee needs or interests. Finally, by answering questions about the importance, cost, time, effort and potential number of employees that will be reached by your program strategies, you will be ready to select what will be included in your wellness program.

Considerations

As you make plans on where to focus your wellness efforts, consider that some efforts may have greater impact than others. Your wellness programming can include many components, such as:

  • Health screening and assessment
  • Education through presentations, printed materials and web resources
  • Program activities, including “campaigns” over a specified time period
  • Environmental change
  • Policy change

All of your programming should involve creation of a supportive social and physical environment where healthy decisions are the norm. Part of creating this environment is to clearly define the organization’s expectations regarding healthy behaviors, and implementation of policies that promote health and reduce risk of disease.

Changing the environment and changing policy is crucial to affecting change in most health habits. Policies create the opportunity for widespread behavioral change because they change the existing “rules,” which can have a powerful effect on employee behavior and habits. Environmental changes, both physical and cultural, provide options or opportunities to adopt healthier habits and can also result in widespread change.

Company policies and changes in the work environment will affect or influence individual behavior at work, which may also lead to changes outside of work. In many cases, policy and environmental changes make it easier to make the better health choice. An example would be serving bagels and fruit instead of pastries at company events. Some other simple examples are:

  • Formal written policies:
    • Guidelines for ordering food for company events
    • No smoking on company property
    • Company cost-sharing for health club memberships
  • Environmental changes or cues:
    • Outdoor bike racks
    • Labeling or highlighting health food choices
    • Posters promoting healthy messages

Think about addressing some of the easy changes first to get a taste of success and show that your wellness program is working. As your program develops you can always tackle some of the more difficult issues.

Unlike trying to impact change at an individual level, environmental and policy changes have the ability to impact large groups of people and will likely provide the most “bang for the buck.”

Interventions that target individual behavior change take a great deal of resources and impact only one person at a time. Policy and higher level interventions targeting communities and organizations have a much greater potential impact. Although your wellness strategies should address as many levels as possible, it’s also important to focus on areas where the greatest potential benefit could occur.

Employee Readiness: Stages of Change and Program Considerations

A major factor to be aware of is that people vary greatly in their readiness to change behavior. In your survey of employees it may be helpful in developing programming to know what percent of employees are at the various stages. Most people go through five stages in changing behaviors:

  • Pre-contemplation – At this stage they are not thinking about changing their behavior in the near future.
  • Contemplation – They are beginning to seriously think about changing their behavior in the near future (next six months).
  • Preparation – At this stage most people have tried to change their behavior at least once in the past year, and they are thinking about trying again within the next month.
  • Action – Real steps are being actively taken to change their behavior. This is the stage where a slip is most likely to occur.
  • Maintenance – stage applies to people who have changed their behavior for over six months and are now maintaining that healthy behavior.

People can move from one stage to another in order, but they can also move back and forth between the various stages before they adopt a behavior for good. Again, a slip is not a failure, but an important part of the learning and behavior change process. Most people may attempt healthy behavior change several times before they succeed and the chance of success increases every time.

Developing the Wellness Plan Content

One way to develop your program activities is to take your worksite assessment checklist and evaluate the areas where no policy or program exists or areas where some policy or program exists, but can be improved. For each of these items, ask the following questions:

  • How important is the item?
  • How much will it cost to implement the item?
  • How much time and effort would be needed to implement the item?
  • How great is the potential “reach” or how many employees may be affected.
  • How well does the item match employee’s interests? Use the survey results to help answer this question.

You should also “package” your activities whenever possible so that they build off of each other. By providing the right mix of programs, you can get a multiplier effect that is greater than the effect of adding up individual activities. “Packaging” related strategies will lead to greater participation and long term success. For instance, having a policy that encourages physical activity on break time, coupled with using pedometers as incentives and then providing maps or on-site trails to get staff out walking will lead to greater success.

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