Employee wellness is on almost every employer’s mind, especially over the course of the last few months. Between the benefits employee wellness programs bring to employee engagement, retention and recruiting new talent, and their ability to lower health care costs and boost employee performance, it’s easy to see why.
That being said, simply offering employee wellness programs is not enough. It takes a targeted approach to employee participation to see the true benefits of your organization’s employee wellness initiatives.
To help your employees take full advantage of their employee wellness benefits, here are five steps to increase program participation and stay agile and adaptable in the next chapter of your company story.
1. Communicate the “Why”
Employees want more than just an information brain dump. In fact, 55% say their benefits information is neither clear, nor comprehensive, 34% want more frequent benefits communications, and 39% of employees want communications that are customized to their life events.
It’s important to share the reason or strategy behind your employee wellness offerings and exactly “why” it will benefit each individual employee. For example, if you’re promoting a guided meditation session during their lunch break, explain how mindfulness can help relieve stress and bring more focus and energy into their workday. This information is relatable to employees and explains exactly why participating in the session will be beneficial.
2. Keep the Communication Flowing
Employee wellness communications can’t be one-and-done. While your HR department may dive in a little deeper during employee onboarding, letting the communication end there is likely to cause a fizzle in employee wellness participation rates.
Instead, create a series of messages or a campaign for certain offerings that are timely, relevant and tailored to the particular time of year. Continue to send reminders, highlight key milestones or employee testimonials, and always reinforce the “why this works” messaging mentioned above.
3. Seek Out Opportunities to Educate
Lifelong learning loves a seat at the workplace table. Use your communications campaigns to educate employees on the benefits of participation in certain wellness programs. Above and beyond the “why,” this is a great way to feature the facts about a given offering.
For example, as workplaces begin to re-open and COVID-19 vaccinations become more readily available, employers can communicate current data, research findings, and guidelines that support your vaccination awareness campaign before the return to the office.
4. Think Virtual
In the aftermath of COVID-19, we’re still living in an increasingly virtual world, and it doesn’t look like remote work will be going away anytime soon. In light of that, employers should be able to boost engagement both in-person and in virtual settings. Promoting digital wellness tools and vendor apps and portals is a great place to start, as well as offering virtual training sessions with health coaches, nutritionists or other wellness practitioners.
Since employees are 75% more likely to open a video than read a text, sharing video content around employee wellness benefits (think engaging exercise plans or healthy eating tips) could be easier for them to digest.
And, especially for employees who are continuing to work remotely, encouraging virtual wellness networking or social activities like a group Zoom fitness class or a Peloton group for the entire company can be a great way to engage everyone from afar.
5. Incentivize Participation
Incentives are associated with approximately 20% higher participation rates in wellness programs. In fact, employers who offer rewards of more than $100 reported wellness program participation rates of 51%, versus 36% for those who offer smaller rewards. That’s not to say you have to break the bank to get employees to actively engage in their wellness, though. Even using quizzes, polls, or surveys to keep wellness at the top of their minds can be an effective strategy.
Additionally, adding gamification can help increase employee participation, since 87% of U.S. workers report that workplace gamification would make them more productive overall. Think about using wellness badges or awards, company competitions (which can be wonderful as the weather warms up and people get back outdoors), rewards programs and progress bars, to name a few.
Be Agile and Able to Adapt
If 2021 has taught us anything, it’s that being able to adapt quickly, stay agile, and make changes on the fly are crucial to the success of organizations around the globe. And the same thing goes for employee engagement. Once employers learn how to encourage their employees to keep prioritizing their wellness as we move into another period of uncertainty, the possibilities are endless for sustained personal, professional and organizational growth.