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47 tips for corporate wellbeing programme success

You can read the original version of this article we wrote for HR Zone here

Most corporate wellbeing programmes have a simple objective. To provide staff with knowledge and motivation to make informed lifestyle choices that result in energy, enthusiasm and engagement in all areas of work and life.

A simple objective yes, but sometimes easier said than done, so to help you fast-track the success of wellbeing in your business, here are some tried and tested tips.

1. Have a strategy: No serious business project will succeed completely without a clear strategy.  Your wellbeing programme is no different.  Spend time planning what you want to achieve with the programme, why you want these results, who you are targeting with specific initiatives and how you will monitoring results?

2. Be creative: Corporate wellbeing started with health insurance and gym memberships and now includes dance sessions, resilience workshops, martial arts classes, massages, health assessments and podiatry to name but a few.  For your programme to be popular and be a success, always keep an open mind about what your staff might find most interesting and most beneficial.

3. Build a portfolio of initiatives: Not every element of a wellbeing programme will ignite the passion of every individual in every business.  The most effective wellbeing programmes are made up of a wide range of targeted initiatives with regular review of the portfolio to ensure that all initiatives are relevant and value for money.

4. Consistency is key: Your wellbeing vision for the business needs to be understood throughout the organisation and wellbeing should be a consistent and ongoing feature of company culture.  This is why you need a strategy.  The strategy will dictate the content, tone and frequency of initiatives and communications.  Regular initiatives that are well communicated will encourage maximum numbers of staff to get involved.

5. Tackle popular topics: Most people have an interest in food and drink and how our consumption of various items affects our mood and performance.  A company-wide healthy eating plan combined with some key messages targeted at specific audiences within your business will help staff make sense of the mass of nutrition information out there, and provide them with healthy eating ideas and strategies that they feel are relevant to them, their family and their professional commitments.

6. Get everyone moving: Some people love exercise, some people hate it, and a large proportion of the working population have simply forgotten how good it can feel to get active.  Get staff involved in some shared activities or challenges and remind them that fitness can be fun.

7. Make sure everyone has access to the resources they need, when they need them: Some people procrastinate over making lifestyle changes for years, but when they decide the time is right, they want results immediately.  Help employees take advantage of moments of motivation by ensuring you have a range of initiatives and resources available to tap into when they’re ready and a clear process for them to access these resources.

8. Make use of technology: Printed information still works for many people looking to make lifestyle changes but you also need to provide online resources in the form of text, audio and video clips so that all staff are able to access wellbeing resources in a format that suits their learning style and will also fit their schedule.  Sometimes they might want to read full details of a specific element of wellbeing while at other times they just want to download a podcast of video they can play back later on the train for a quick burst of motivation.

9. Tap into social media: If you can get staff talking positively about healthy lifestyle choices and the benefits associated with these, you can change the tone of conversations around the organisation and help individuals move away from finding reasons not to do what they know is right and instead strive to make the most of every opportunity to enhance their energy levels and performance.  Social media and fitness, healthy eating and mindfulness Apps provide a great way for people to track progress, research information, and communicate with, support and motivate each other.

10. Target individuals: This may sound like a lot of work, particularly if your organisation employs thousands of people, but only by researching the requirements of individuals will you come up with the wellbeing programme that caters for the majority and provides you with the best value for money.  Think creatively about how to gauge demand – this is where a team of wellbeing champions comes into its own for localised research – and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can pinpoint what will work most successfully.  All businesses have popular characters with their finger on the pulse so make use of these individuals to help you with your research, whether it be structured questionnaires and surveys or informal conversations.

11. Keep people informed: Communicate clearly about your programme keeping staff up to date with what’s on offer and why people should take advantage of your initiatives.  Even the most carefully planned wellbeing programme will have limited results if people aren’t aware of its existence or they’re not clear on why they’d want to participate.

12. Employ creative marketing: It can take repeated exposure to messages before people are motivated to act so broadcast your wellbeing messages from a variety of angles.  Email updates area great but can get lost in the sheer volume that many people are dealing with so supplement these with posters positioned cleverly around your business (toilet doors are a great place to ensure your messages are always seen). 

13. Nudge staff in the direction of wellbeing: Don’t just communicate with information.  A water cooler is a prompt for people to stay well hydrated.  A fruit bowl reminds them to eat their 5-a-day.  Providing staff with pedometers reminds them to keep moving.  When we get busy it’s easy to forget about healthy living or let it slip down our list of priorities.  The more you remind people of the positive choices available to them, the more regularly they will choose to do the right thing.

14. All regular business events should have a wellbeing component:  Staff meetings provide a great opportunities to include wellbeing messages so team updates should always include a quick reminder for everyone to prioritise wellbeing and share ideas on how to make this easy in a busy environment.  What works for one is likely to work for others too. 

15. Wellbeing encourages quality work: A short break to stretch and breath can enhance concentration and productivity and reduce stress levels.  Encourage staff to take regular moments through the day to re-establish their focus.

16. Associate wellbeing with professional success: Training, development and leadership programmes should always include an element of wellbeing.  Staff attend these programmes in order to develop their professional success.   A fundamental part of this success is making sure they are in the best mental and physical state to perform at their best.  Including a combination of strategic wellbeing in the form of workshops, and practical wellbeing in the form of sessions that get people moving, will cater for all learning styles, ensure that messages stick and make each event memorable.

17. Reinforce wellbeing behavior and remove barriers to healthy living: All meetings, reviews and planning sessions should feature plenty of water, fruit, nuts, seeds, healthy snacks and meals as well as the traditional supply of coffee, pastries and sandwiches.  There should also be regular micro breaks to allow people to stretch and clear their head for more focused thinking and to maintain a positive learning state. Movement should be encouraged with breakout sessions on the go, ideally outside if the weather allows.

18. Focus on the benefits of wellbeing: Send regular communications relating to why people will want to take advantage of your programme.  Most individuals know what they should and shouldn’t be doing in relation to healthy living so you need to get them motivated in relation to all the possible benefits of taking prompt action and sharpening up their approach in this area.  Focus on the results they’ll experience, rather than what they’ll have to do to achieve these results.

19. Anticipate excuses: Just as most people know what they should be doing when it comes to healthy living, they’re also very familiar with the reasons why they don’t quite get the results they know they could be capable of.  Find out the most common reasons (otherwise known as excuses) cited within your business for not optimising wellbeing choices – it could be lack of time, workload, travel commitments or considerations outside of the office – and highlight solutions to these issues regularly when communicating about your programme.

20. Wellbeing should be proactive: Don’t just tell everyone (again) about the negative implications of high blood pressure, cholesterol or body fat.  Provide them with an opportunity to find out their current measurements and get specific advice on how to make improvements where appropriate.  Heart disease isn’t known as the silent killer for nothing and a simple screening will reassure many and provide positive actions for others.  Knowing the facts combined with a simple action plan for maintaining healthy numbers will motivate far more people to do make positive choices than yet another list of negative associations with generic health risks. 

21. Take things to the next level: To maximise the success of your programme, always plan one step ahead. If a corporate gym membership is relevant for your business, set it up, but don’t stop there.  Think about how you can fast track results for those keen to take advantage of it with targeted training information and coaching.  Consider innovative ways in which you can persuade waverers to take the plunge and get themselves along to the gym regularly. This could be some type of challenge, loyalty reward scheme or social and fun element. Then think about what you need to do to appeal to and encourage similar results for those who will never be attracted to a gym.  Simply setting up initiatives isn't enough, you need to encourage maximum participation and results at every stage.

22. Prioritise areas where benefits are far reaching: Healthy living information will benefit individual employees and, in turn, their colleagues, family and friends. Knowing what choices to make and being motivated to make them helps people feel better at work and throughout the rest of their weekly routine. Energetic and dynamic role models inspire others to follow their lead and very soon your office will become a vibrant place to be.  Think carefully about which initiatives in your programme will generate such a depth of success that they eventually sell themselves.

23. Think bespoke: General wellbeing tips are great but targeted messages are even better. The content and tone of your communications can be easily flexed to appeal to office workers, engineers, scientists, sales teams, technical experts, creative types, financial minds, those who commute, those who travel and anyone who works from home. Specific populations that receive bespoke messages are far more likely to sit up and take notice.  They’re also far more likely to take action and get results.

24. Be original: Just one or two original elements to your programme can ignite interest in the whole range of initiatives. 

25. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel: Being original might not mean continually devising new initiatives but can be achieved by putting your organisation’s spin on some established tried and tested ideas.  The way in which your initiatives are branded or how they relate to company culture and values might be what make them most appealing to your staff.

26. Encourage personal responsibility:  Make it clear that you are happy to provide initiatives and resources as long as staff continue to take advantage of them. Collect data on the popularity of initiatives both by participation and with feedback on results achieved. Aim to have a variety of initiatives in your programme and prioritise value for money.

27. Create accountability: Every initiative should have moments of review that encourage staff to focus their efforts within a specific time frame.  If initiatives are too open ended, the speed of results will be too.  Wellbeing days should be regular to encourage staff to make progress between events.  Workshops and training modules should include follow up at regular intervals.  Lifestyle coaching programmes are a great way to add motivation as well as accountability to any wellbeing programme.

28. Create an environment ripe for quick success.  There are a few different theories on how long it takes to change a habit and achieve positive results but what’s clear from human nature is that often people take as long as you give them to complete specific tasks.  Deadlines and expectations can be used to your advantage when it comes to wellbeing communications.  Broadcast messages that focus on the simple but effective changes people can make right now to achieve positive results sooner rather than later.  This approach very quickly removes perceived barriers to wellbeing success.

29. Give meaning to wellbeing: Making the right choices with healthy living can seem like an abstract concept for many or a low priority in the middle of a busy day.   Make sure you regularly communicate the clear relationship between what we eat, how we get active and how we slept, rest, recover and manage stress; and how we feel moment by moment through the day and perform through the week.  The more immediate people perceive the benefits of making healthy choices to be, the more likely they are to stay on track.

30. Add a sense of urgency.  Good wellbeing shouldn’t be about hoping things will be better in the future, it’s about knowing what to do right now to make things better today.  Encourage people to act now rather than procrastinate and illustrate in detail how small steps in the right direction can add up to huge results.  One less coffee, a healthy snack, a carefully planned evening meal and a bit of fresh air will increase energy levels today, aid good sleep tonight and encourage a more productive tomorrow.  Start this simple process right away and every day to come can be more rewarding.

31. Broadcast success stories: One of the biggest motivators to for staff to make wellbeing changes is reading stories of people like them having achieved great results. The more you publicise success stories, the more interest you will