In the past, corporate wellness has been viewed as a one-dimensional employee benefit. Biometric screenings, smoking cessation, gym membership discounts; it’s as if health and wellness are not the most personal aspect of every human being. We’re looking at wellness the wrong way. It’s time to climb higher and give it a 10,000 foot view. In order for wellness to be woven into your business, it has to be practiced by your leadership, your employees, and become part of your culture.

In a survey conducted by WIRED, 70% of participants said that ‘wellness programs positively influence culture at work’. The tribe has spoken: wellness is one of the keys to a strong company culture.

This begs the question: how can a company build (and not manufacture) its culture to be centered around wellness?


It starts at the top

You might be a C-suite executive reading this, or a person who just wishes their higher-ups would institute wellness in their office, however, there is one single item that is a constant in having a successful culture of wellness at work: leadership buy-in.

Study after study demonstrate various aspects which lead to higher engagement, and none are more powerful than executive engagement. So, whether you’re a leader in your wellness department or a leader of the company as a whole, you’ve got to get involved. That doesn’t mean just listen and approve; show up, participate in  wellness events, demonstrate you care about the programs and are doing them yourself. Share on social media or send out personalized emails about how awesome they are and support those who do them.

The power of the “top floor” personnel is invaluable. If you are a manager trying to get them involved, ask your executives if they’d like to see their employees engaged in their wellness investment. If yes, then say, “Great, that is why you will be the first one signed up for our company workout.”


Be aware of your environment

Too often, a wellness director builds a wellness program about what s/he wants and likes. Before you start running programs, look at activities your people already do on their own. Are they going to fitness classes together, do people get together and walk at lunch, is Weight Watchers important to your team? You can’t legislate engagement, it has to come as a result of true interest and desire.

It is much more difficult to change the habits of your employees than to play on what they are already interested in, or cater to their personalized needs. In a survey conducted by Welltok and the nonprofit National Business Group on Health on 1,000 full-time employees of large companies, 37% of those that did not participate in their company’s wellness program stated that it was because they ‘didn’t find the program personally relevant’.

It’s important to have a strong pulse on your current employee engagement to understand what the next steps should be. Is your one-size-fits-all gym membership even being used? Are your employees intrinsically motivated to exercise on their own? Audit your current state of affairs and study the corporate wellness environment in existence and you’ll learn about the needs and values of your team, and thus, what your program should look like.

If you’re unsure where to even begin, try going the survey route. Send out a company-wide survey on health habits (or lack thereof), exercise preferences, wellness routines, etc. This will give you more than enough information as to which direction your wellness program should head.


You've got programs, who cares?

Okay, you’ve gotten buy-in from the top, you’ve listened to what people want and have gotten those programs approved. Now, how do you foster and encourage the company culture of engaging and sharing wellness?

Once again, it depends on your crew and what mediums they like to share with. The important constant is that you find ways to highlight the programs and participants. Publicly reward those who are engaging while constantly leaving the door open for those who are late adopters and maybe want to join the wellness fun.

Make sure your decisions are constantly rooted in your mission; don’t promote fitness activities but serve fried chicken in the cafeteria. Avoid contradictions like promoting walking breaks but getting on them for the ten minutes of work they “could have been doing.” If you want to instill wellness into your company culture you have to provide the resources and support for your team to easily adopt it.

Culture is a delicate thing. It takes time, energy, and effort to build, but can be destroyed with a few bad decisions. Guard the culture, because if it survives, the programs you made available will thrive not by a mandate by the support and engagement of your people.

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