If you’re trying to manage a workplace health and wellness program as an extra on top of your “real” job, you’re not alone.
Many small to medium organisations don’t have a dedicated person to look after corporate wellness and employee health. Rather, it’s often added to the workload of someone in HR or WHS, or a capable Executive Assistant.
Trying to juggle your workplace health responsibilities on top of your day-to-day work can be difficult. You understand the benefits of employee health, you’ve done your research and you know you need a strategic, holistic approach that reaches right in to shift employees’ ingrained habits. You can probably even visualise your perfect program – you know, the one you’d do with unlimited budget and unlimited time.
The reality, however, is that you have very little time and only a portion of the budget you’d like. So how can you create a workplace health program that does more than just tick the box? How can you make sure it’s effective?
The good news is, you can create an effective program with limited time and budget. In fact, if you do it right, you’ll set yourself up for winning more time and more budget for future programs. You just have to be smart about it.
Here’s a few smart tips to follow:
1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
I know the tendency is to throw yourself into it and give it everything you’ve got, but over-reaching yourself means that nothing is done well. There’s a real danger of going over your agreed timeframes, or delivering a disorganised program.
It’s hard, because you probably have so many great ideas. If you want senior management to be aware of your vision and capability, write up a long-term plan which outlines your future ideas as well as your short-term activities.
Try to be completely realistic about how much you can take on each month, each week and each day. Remember things nearly always take longer than you think: colleagues are away, approval gets stuck, other urgent requests are thrown at you.
Work out a detailed project plan, which outlines exactly what needs to be done and who needs to do it (see point 6 “Use other people”).
Do it well, and there’ll be time enough for all your other great ideas at a later date.
2. Chose one thing and do it well
Following from the point above, one of the most effective ways to gain traction in a corporate health program is to focus on just one single, high profile, high impact initiative.
You need to weather the criticism, and explain why you’re doing it. Some people will criticise “That’s not going to fix employee health/ our unhealthy culture/ our stress leave problem”. Be quite upfront about your rationale: “it’s a good start”, “it’s a step in the right direction”, “if you like it, ask for more.”
Throw as much energy into promoting it and talking about as you do in doing it. Don’t oversell it, of course, it is just one step. You can talk about it a lot without “talking it up”.
Say your first “one thing” is to do a Personal Health Assessment (PHA) or Health Risk Appraisal.
Explain to everyone why you’ve chosen this as your first step: “Let’s find out what the issues are, so we can identify and implement the most effective solution for our unique needs”.
Get people excited about. Get a report card on your personal health! Find out how healthy you really are! “Find out your real age”!
Leading up to the event, make sure everyone knows what to do. If it’s an online PHA, consider setting up some laptops in the lunchroom so people can just jump on and get it done.
After the event, thank people for taking part, and remind them of the long term benefits. “Thanks to you, we’ll be able to create a really effective workplace health program that helps you shift your unwanted habits”.
3. Give ‘em what they want
No, not chocolate. A strategically designed initiative that meets employee (and management) needs.
Make sure you can tie your one glorious initiative back to a documented need. This could be a trend identified through your PHA/ HRA, or through a directive from senior management.
Then, when you nail it on the head with your well-planned roll out, you’ll gain traction. They’ll be more willing to consider another initiative/ program, when they remember how the last one meet their needs so well.
4. Get feedback
Once your activity is finished, ask for feedback and document it. If your activity was a group health challenge, such as walking 10,000 steps a day, ask employees specific open ended questions about their experience.
Make it easy and quick for them, but avoid yes or no questions. If you don’t have inhouse IT help, then surveymonkey.com and other online sites have free or cost-effective surveys you can use.
Ask employees to rate their experience 1-5 or poor to excellent. Ask them if they’d like similar programs. Ask them how getting more exercise affected their wellbeing, or even better, their ability to concentrate at work.
Use this feedback as ammunition in your fight to get more funding or resources.
5. Be visible
To get the most bang for your buck, make sure everyone knows about your activity – before, during and after.
Posters are a simple and effective way to gain visibility. Some tricks include putting up posters in high traffic areas while there are lots of people around, such as in the lunchroom at lunchtime. This allows you to talk about what you’re doing and why. Don’t forget the back of toilet doors if you’re allowed to – it’s prime advertising space!
After the program or activity is over, consider posting “thank you” posters, thanking people for their time. You can add some quotes from your feedback for an extra positivity injection.
6. Use other people – they love it!
Even if you’re the only person with “health and wellness” in your job description, there are probably plenty of other people with an interest in health and wellness.
Consider creating a “crack team” of health enthusiasts, to help you plan and rollout your program. This could be a formal team, with scheduled meetings, or an informal handful of people who want to see more health and wellness at work.
They don’t have to be the healthiest people in the organisation, in fact, it’s best to have a real mix of fitness levels. The most important trait is a contagious positive energy.