One person can champion health and well-being at work but with a wellness team behind them they can make it happen. Judi Ulrey explains how.

Let’s start by considering the purpose of a wellness programme. There are plenty of sensible reasons for wanting a fit and healthy workforce and for an employer two of the most compelling are to lower the risk of injuries and to reduce workplace stress. Two of the most common tactics that can be adopted are encouraging employees to be more active and teaching them how to make better food choices.

These are all noble intentions and any success certainly benefits everyone. But what we need to remember is most adults have spent 20-40 years fine tuning their bad habits. And we all love our routines. So is it feasible to suggest that a junior HR person, as part of her job responsibilities, can realistically support hundreds of employees in making challenging changes?

What is needed is a support team – a wellness team – a significant number of employees who are committed to being change agents. They know that if they commit to supporting their colleagues in making more healthy choices, they themselves are more likely to stay on track too. When they’re invited to support someone else they will feel empowered and motivated. You’re encouraging them by asking them to help another.

So consider this: if you don’t have a company wellness committee, you are doing yourself AND your employees a disservice. So how do you recruit these internal change agents?

First, senior management should be invited and do some of the inviting. Those who step up should be assured support, acknowledgement, and time allocated during their working days to wave the fitness flag.

What does a wellness team member look like? They look like everybody else. He’s not perfectly fit. She likes chocolate. He has a bit of a belly. She’s irregular in her exercise. He drinks beer. She’s frustrated with her weight. Do you think you have any employees who fit this profile? Of course you do.

Point being, anyone and everyone should be on your wellness team. If someone isn’t in a place to commit to the monthly meetings, maybe he can be responsible for promoting the monthly wellness message at his department meetings every month. Maybe you have a contest crew who rally every time there’s an incentive programme, encouraging all to join in.

Remember, when you encourage another you encourage yourself. So the more employees who are engaged – some way, somehow – the more will be making more healthy choices.

You want everyone to take part, even on a small scale. This suggests offering multiple levels of engagement. Consider three levels of employee participation:

Vision team

This is your key group of employees who are intently committed to wellness promotion within their department/office. They meet monthly, either live or via teleconference. They understand monthly meeting participation is expected at this level. This group should be well recognised by senior management as critical to culture change and be given regular acknowledgement.

Activities team

These folks spearhead the various activities – lunch and learns, walks, contests, monthly reinforcement activities and quiz. Again, the more the merrier, as two, three, four flag wavers are better than one. If you allow them to volunteer for less than a full year you’ll increase participation and enthusiasm. Maybe they commit to six months but stay on thereafter. They report to the wellness team representative at their location.

Support team

Never underestimate the power of the one-time volunteers. These people are on call to help wherever there is a need. One month they may help facilitate the quiz. Another month they’re doing lunch room demos. Maybe they simply help their wellness committee representative with admin duties. Gather a list of support volunteers you can call on when you need hands on deck.

So what’s a wellness team to do? What exactly does it mean to ‘facilitate change’?

There are multiple options for engagement. Activities team members may pick one or more:

Communications

Communication is key, and with today’s technology, we’re inundated with messages. It’s all too easy to press the delete key. The more the personal the message, the more likely people are to read it. We pick up when we see a friend’s number on our phone. We don’t when it’s withheld. The same is true of your wellness communications. People are much more likely to read if their department wellness team member had mentioned it than if it’s simply more stuff from corporate. Many companies choose one person to be in charge of communications. But what if she’s on vacation? Or simply gets too busy? Who’s her back-up? You don’t want momentum to lag just because someone’s sunning on the beach.

Show time

Keeping practical wellness messages consistently in the forefront is critical foundation building. Many work groups have regular monthly meetings. Add some variety and take five minutes to discuss a new topic each month. A person from each of these departments/shifts who facilitates this discussion each month adds great value to your wellness team.

Monthly activities

If you present a new fitness focus each month, what if you invited a few employees to coordinate a demo or activity to reinforce the message? Maybe you get a new team of folks every few months to encourage new ideas, more involvement and avoid burn-out.

Monthly quiz

To encourage all to engage in your monthly wellness topic, offer incentives for completing a short quiz. Designate a quiz team or two.

Small groups

The best teachers of your employees are your employees. Whether it is sharing healthy recipes, tips for fitting exercise into a busy day, or simply accountability, small groups offer personal support. All you need is a facilitator who’s a good question-asker. Find folks from each of your departments who would be willing to facilitate a small group gathering. Remember, helping another will help them too.

Finally, let’s look at lauding and applauding your wellness team. Multiple studies have been done on employee satisfaction. What do we want from our job and our supervisors? Results confirm that acknowledgement by the boss goes a LONG way.

People like to help. People like supporting others. People like making a difference. But they like it a whole lot more after their boss says, “Thank you so much for all your help on the wellness team. I appreciate your efforts!” So Mr Big Boss, consider sending personal, hand-written notes, Starbucks cards, a few pats on the back. Your accolades make a difference. As you create your campaign strategy, recruit and empower your team. Your success is dependent on them.

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