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by Julian J. Varela | January 21, 2016
Modern workplaces are finally embracing the importance of keeping their employees healthy, with benefits including increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, prevention of injuries, and boosting of the overall bottom line. However, there are some companies who say they want to integrate and successfully manage effective wellness programs, but are not diligent about quality programming and continual oversight and assessment. One can't expect to lose 10-20 pounds without putting in the time, dedication, and effort, and the same applies to improving the wellness of your organization. But if you want to guarantee that your wellness program doesn't make any headway in delivering positive results, be sure to commit these five common worksite wellness offenses below. 

1. Don't get organizational support
Wellness programs don't miraculously appear overnight and don't happen without the support of key leaders. Resources must be identified, including existing internal programs; external community resources; wellness incentives; and supporters in management, the front lines, and everyone in between. In order for a wellness program to take root, a top-down and bottom-up approach to foster leadership is vital to gain overall organizational support. Identify your resources and key people, and engender their ongoing backing. Without that, the program is doomed from the start. 

2. Don't assess your current company culture
Poor communication and unhealthy relationships between management and employees will kill any wellness efforts. The importance of assessing your current culture and morale during the planning stage cannot be overstated. A simple online or paper survey with the right questions can help you understand your team's perspective on the existing climate and provide you insight on how to improve it. 

3. Don't measure change
You cannot change what you cannot measure. If you want to reduce on the job injuries, you need to understand past and current trends. If you'd like to reduce absenteeism, then you need to measure total days lost to illness. If you'd like to improve the overall health risk factors among your team, it's necessary to measure biometric data over time. Pick out the key metrics most important to your organization, measure them and monitor away. 

4. Don't practice what you preach
Although incentives are important, interest in the program and leadership is just as or even more significant. Yes, gift cards for those continually participating in 5K runs or various wellness events will generate smiles and high-fives, but seeing the CEO or management team running alongside you at the 5K will inspire and energize the team in ways gift cards cannot. So yes, incentivize, but also practice what you preach and make sure your management team does the same.  

5. Don't integrate the program 
Wellness needs to become the new normal and an overarching theme of your organizational vision and purpose. The health, vitality and wellness of your team is just as important as how you generate profit, so make sure this is stated in your vision statement, employee handbook and draw attention to it during your staff meetings or annual picnic. 

Simply bringing a wellness program into your organization is not enough to obtain the ROI we've all read about. If you want to progress towards creating a permanent culture of health and wellness, these programs must be incorporated as a real part of the day-to-day. Paying attention to avoid the above common pitfalls will not only help your program become robust, but also help your team realize that you truly care about improving their health, well-being and company culture.

Julian J. Varela holds a M.S. degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. Julian also holds a M.A. in Clinical Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy and is the Senior Wellness Manager at ACI Specialty Benefits, providers of the CORE Wellness program. He can be contacted at jvarela@acispecialtybenefits.com.