Employers – you’re asking terrible employee wellness questions.

managing employee wellness in a corporate environment

So you’re interested in promoting health and wellness for your employees. Great. But, start by asking the right questions.

The number of questions I’ve answered about corporate and employee wellness initiatives is creeping up to the hundreds. Both from other fitness professionals and from the employers themselves. With dozens of examples coming from productivity thought leaders in Silicon Valley, it appears as though there is a sea change in the way companies think about their employees’ health.

We know one thing is certain – managing chronic and acute disease care is VERY expensive for employers. There is no end in sight for rising acute costs. So, employers are looking to prevention.

So, what are the worst questions you can ask when starting an employee wellness program? Here they are:

  • “Do you offer discounts for a certain number of employees to come to the gym?”
  • “Can you put together a ____ week program?”

Why are these terrible questions? Put simply: they do not lead to improved health outcomes from employees. Point blank.

What should you ask when starting a corporate wellness program? Easy – “Do I actually want my employees to be healthier, fitter, and more productive?”

This is the heart of any good employee wellness program. Is the goal to actually improve long-term health outcomes? You see, reduced cost access to a facility or an 8-week yoga program will not do much to create a culture of wellness.

If you’re looking to check a box that says you have a wellness program, by all means – find a cheap facility and grant access to your employees. But usage statistics will look pretty much exactly as they do in access-only facilities – about 5% of people will actually take advantage of that access. The other 95% may try it for a couple days – maybe a couple weeks – and fall off.

What does an effective employee wellness program look like?

An effective program in a corporate setting looks just like an effective program in any setting and is comprised of several components:

  1. Gradual, sustainable progress. Workplace “challenges” and limited term programs do very little to improve health outcomes.
  2. Culture change. You must create a culture that values the vibrancy and productivity that accompanies sustainable wellness programs.
  3. Early, frequent wins. Truth is – most people fail their fitness, nutrition, and wellness attempts within the first 2 weeks if their programs do not offer a systematic approach to demonstrating improvements in fitness and health.

So, how do we get there?

First, decide if you’re simply wanting to “check a box.” If so, find the cheapest, quickest options out there. If you’re looking to play the long game and improve employee health outcomes, look to fitness professionals. Their livelihood relies solely on their ability to provide measurable results, frequent victories, and ongoing support – despite the inevitable failures.




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