My grandmother once told me that she would save her allowance all month to walk three miles to the soda fountain for a single milkshake. From ready-made foods at the market, to the fast-food drive by, to diet pills purporting instant and effortless weight loss, our culture today is all about instant gratification and results. The basic fact that not everything is obtained without an effort and/or wait seems to be a lost concept.
When it comes to a person changing their mindset to adopt healthy habits and rid unhealthy habits, results and gratification take time. It takes a commitment and constant effort to succeed at losing weight, exercising regularly, tobacco cessation, and other habit changes. If they're to be successful, workplace wellness programs not only need to recognize the above, but also to understand what elements will engage employees over the long-term.
Let's say you've hosted a health benefits presentation on active lifestyles and eating right. The employee turnout is high, and you had a lot of sincere interest from your employees. However, you observe a week later that very few have made any of the recommended changes. Within a few months, even most of those that made an attempt are back to their regular routines.
The above is an all too common scenario that confirms the reality that most people are more well-intentioned than self-motivated. Therefore, motivation should be one of the key elements provided by your wellness initiatives. Here are a few tips to help you inject motivation into your workforce:
* Make the experience personal for employees through offering a health risk assessment that will show an employee their own unique health risks and what steps he/she can take to address each risk.
* Completion of the assessment and any resulting follow-up recommendations should be tied to the health risk assessment incentives you're offering, such as reduced health plan premiums.
* Keeping in mind that an individual must be willing, ready, and able to make a behavior change, you might focus on those that express a desire to make positive lifestyle changes. Aside from offering incentives, you might also help employees see the risks of failing to make positive changes, such as by posting charts with comparative lifespan stats on individuals that are smokers and non-smokers; pre-hypertensive, hypertensive, and of normal blood pressure; and are overweight, obese, and of normal weight.
* Provide/encourage support system structures, such as employee-based walking clubs, sponsoring a biggest loser competition, subsidies for joining certain fitness centers, or newsletter articles featuring health-successful employees.
Change is rarely easy for any of us. Employers must be careful that they don't get so caught up in the black and white of a wellness program that they forget to address what will make or break it – human nature.