Workplace wellness programs that stick

Workplace wellness programs that stick

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might recall our article, Launching a Workplace Wellness Program, posted last spring. Relatively few medical practices sponsor organized wellness initiatives aimed at employees, though many do have small groups within the office who support one another to lose weight, exercise more, or stop smoking. Watch for these casual support systems to morph into more formal programs in the coming years as practices seek to reduce the cost of providing health insurance and curb the number of employee sick days.

Is your practice ready to get serious about wellness? If so, re-read the post linked above, poll staff about which health and fitness goals they’re most interested in, determine a start date for your program, and then make it stick throughout 2012 by following these guidelines.

Encourage office-wide participation. Hopefully, not everyone in your office needs to lose weight, stop smoking, and reduce their cholesterol numbers, but it’s likely that everyone in your office could benefit from improving their health and fitness in at least one area. Your wellness program will be more sustainable over time if the majority of your staff participates. It is especially helpful for practice administrators, department managers, and, yes-even doctors-to take the lead and set a good example by choosing at least one aspect of the wellness program to engage in.

Set up incentive programs that include both short-term and long-term rewards. If six of your employees declare weight loss as their goal, arrange for rewards to be given throughout the year. You might offer cash bonuses (e.g., $5-10 per pound lost) divided equally among the six employees based on their collective weight loss each month, paid hours off calculated at the end of each quarter for each individual’s weight loss, and one big celebration or group outing at the end of the year if weight loss goals are achieved.

Hire a professional. Visit the International Coach Federation’s Web site to find an experienced wellness coach in your area who can work with your staff as a whole, in small groups, or even one-on-one. Having an objective professional on your wellness program team will increase accountability and the odds that employees will be successful in achieving their goals.

Go public. If employees agree-and only if they all agree-consider going public with your program as a way to draw attention to the fact that your practice is serious about health and wellness. Doing so sets a good example for patients and builds in accountability for staff. The way you go about making it known to those outside your immediate circle will depend on how open everyone is willing to be about their goals and progress. You might put up a small poster in the office with photos of staff along with quotes by each of them about why they’re serious about health and fitness or what they hope to achieve. You could post updates on your practice Web site or in your patient newsletter. If you really want to tell the world what you’re up to, notify the local media about doing a story on your wellness program.

Good luck making 2012 the year that you and your staff achieve your most important health and fitness goals.