Companies often launch employee wellness programs because of the health benefits, but these programs also can increase employee engagement. By activating the programs with initiatives that focus not just on the individual but help employees connect with their co-workers, build departmental and cross-departmental relationships and feel part of a group, wellness can foster a much higher level of employee engagement. Here are 5 ideas for how to make that happen:
1. Start a competition: This could be an annual fitness competition, based on sticking to individual exercise goals; it could be a weight loss challenge; it could be collecting miles walked or run to reach a collective mileage goal. LexisNexis, based in Alpharetta, GA. has instituted an annual 5K run/walk called the LexisNexis Windward Challenge that has evolved into not just a race, but a family event with live music and other attractions.
2. Use your intranet to add a social element: Let your employee intranet make individual wellness efforts visible and create both a competitive spirit and a venue for support. Employees can establish individual fitness profiles with goals and report their progress against those goal; they can post their planned workout for the day; they can track their mileage or time,; or they could even find tennis partners or running buddies from the ranks of their colleagues.
3. Create a partner program: Whether employees are working on weight management or smoking cessation or just general fitness, studies show having a partner can increase success rates. That could mean pairing two people both working on the same sort of goals, or assigning a mentor who’s had success in that area to someone just beginning to make a change in their life. For instance, you might have an experienced runner mentor a co-worker just beginning to train for their first 5K. Or you might pair two people trying to quit smoking as support for each other. These partnerships can also be established and maintained via the intranet.
4. Launch a virtual competition across locations: This can be a particularly strong program for companies with locations spread across the country or around the world. Competing against other locations helps employees realize they’re part of something bigger that just their own office, and can build great awareness of and engagement with far-flung business units and colleagues. LexisNexis now includes a virtual 5K in their Windward Challenge so that colleagues in other locations can participate by running or walking a 5K in their neighborhood — or even on their treadmills.
5. Host a healthy lunch contest online: Ever notice how often people post photos of what they’re eating on Facebook? You can harness that same impulse for an employee competition. Employees snap a picture with their smart phone of what they brought for lunch, post it on the intranet, and then other employees can vote for it or simply “like” it. This could also include a recipe element, but doesn’t need to. Shots of hummus and raw vegetables or a healthy chili or big salad need little explanation for others to emulate — and usually prompt some spontaneous online conversation as well, which can connect employees who might otherwise never have had any reason to interact.