4 Ways Leaders Inspire Employee Wellness

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While today’s employers continue their steadfast commitment to improving employee health and productivity, top-level leadership support remains a key ingredient for successful employee participation.

According to results from the 2015/2016 Willis Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey, 84 percent of employers say improving employee health is a core component of their organization’s health strategy, and nearly four in five plan to sharpen their focus on building workforce health and well-being in the coming years.

However, research also shows a number of factors are keeping employers’ health and well-being programs from being as successful as they could be. Near the top of this list: A lack of senior leadership support.

Managers are top motivators

According to recent survey results from Welltok and the National Business Group on Health, “Whispers from the Water Cooler: What motivates employees to improve their health and well-being,” 57 percent of employee respondents rank their manager as a top motivator to improving their overall health and well-being.

What I’ve seen over the years is that visible support from a company’s leadership, regardless of the level within the organization, sets the tone for employees—communicating that it’s acceptable to fit in a workout during the workday, participate in a weight loss challenge with co-workers or take advantage of healthy food options.

Here are four ways I have observed that leaders at all levels of the company can support wellness program and engage employees in their health and well-being.

  1. Show, don’t tell
    Some of the most successful employee corporate wellness programs have visible leadership that can be called upon for support—whether it’s taking the first official step in a new walking program or approving strategic program decisions. Employees often listen to the words, but trust the behavior exhibited by senior leaders, such as when the CEO is first in line for a health screening.Where I work, at HealthFitness, our senior team has made a commitment to encouraging healthful behavior in the everyday routine of our employees. If you visit our Minneapolis headquarters, examples of this in action are easy to see. Employees have free access to treadmill workstations and an on-site fitness center—and senior leaders at all levels of the company regularly use both, opening the door for employees to do the same.
  2. Share success with employees
    Leaders at one large manufacturing company share health management program successes with employees, showing aggregate percentages of how many employees are at high, medium and low health risk, and how the company’s collective health is improving. Providing these results reminds everyone that their health choices affect the company’s health and demonstrates a ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality.
  3. Ensure health is part of your core business strategy
    Express your company’s passion and direction for health and productivity in your mission, vision and goal statements. Put corporate leadership front and center in communications about the program. Use all the tools in the arsenal: videos to employees, all-employee correspondence, group meetings and blog posts, among others.
  4. Support healthy behaviors at the workplace
    Provide healthy vending and cafeteria options. Map out walking/running trails and ensure they are safe. Bring fitness equipment on-site for maximum employee access. Organize a monthly farmers market or a fruit and vegetable co-op at the worksite. At HealthFitness, every Friday, employees at our Minneapolis headquarters are treated to healthy breakfast items such as fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and energy bars.

These are just a few of the strategies I have seen be successful in the workplace. What about you? What innovative strategies have worked for you to help leaders support employee health and well-being in your workplace?

Photo Credit: anniejoubran1 via Compfight cc

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Ann Wyatt

Ann Wyatt

Ann Wyatt (@AnnMWyatt) is vice president, account management at HealthFitness. In her role Ann oversees a national account management team, provides leadership support and guides strategy development for new health management and corporate fitness programs, the transition of existing programs, employee recruiting and training, program quality assurance and operations management.

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