How-To Implement Corporate Wellness Programs Post Pandemic
Implementing corporate wellness programs has become more complex in the post-pandemic era with the increased adoption of hybrid work models. The remote workstation has increased our reliance on technology to organize and plan the work week. This is also true for corporate wellness programs, which have been evolving to better serve the evolving workstation setting. Technology is becoming a reliable solution to the increasing workforce changes.
We’ve outlined ten steps organizations can follow to successfully implement an engaging wellness program for their employees and highlighted key steps where leveraging technology can improve the ongoing administration of the wellness program.
10 Steps to Implement a Corporate Wellness Program
Table of Contents
Leadership support plays a vital role in successfully implementing and sustaining a wellness program. Besides helping a wellness program build momentum, leadership can also remove barriers affecting wellness program adoption within the organization.
Leaders have three functions that make their support and commitment crucial for wellness programs:
- They fast-track the necessary organizational changes for promoting workplace wellness
- They define what wellness means for the organization
- They decide how the organization responds to employees pursuing wellness
Leadership unlocks the funds required, time, and people to build a wellness program.
In Chris Chesney’s book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, he describes two types of initiatives that illustrate how leadership support helps with implementation.
- Stroke-of-the-pen strategy: simple declarations with sufficient resources and authority backing the directive. Think of an executive writing a check and appointing a team to build the organization’s wellness program.
- Breakthrough strategy: initiatives that require changing personnel behavior, which may require a significant percentage of staff to do new and different things.
Breakthrough strategies are distinct from stroke-of-the-pen strategies because breakthroughs often require new systems, operations, attitudes, and/or behavior to be adopted by the organization. Organizations operating for many years without an established wellness program should anticipate needing breakthrough strategies to ensure employees have access and opportunity to participate in initiatives.
Engaged leadership ensures that the wellness program is incorporated into the organizational culture. Leadership ensuring resources are put into systems and operations that promote wellness-centric initiatives is important. However, these initiatives tend to be implemented behind closed doors with most employees unaware of the initiative’s leadership support. Leadership needs to continuously communicate their support for the wellness program to encourage a culture of wellness.
In another post, we discussed how leadership communicating support for employer-sponsored wellness programs builds culture.
Even though having top leadership support the wellness initiatives is crucial, wellness leadership must also happen outside of the c-suite. Executives, middle management, and employees can all provide support towards wellness program initiatives.
Wellness champions promote and participate in the wellness program. However, there are other supporting ways leadership can promote organizational wellness initiatives. This includes building awareness of wellness initiatives within the organization; helping employees connect with the wellness program; and supporting other wellness leaders throughout the organization.
To ensure the wellness program has continued leadership support, it is important to work with leadership to define success and determine what metrics they believe demonstrate the impact of the wellness program. Discussion of KPIs with leadership helps solidify their commitment to the program’s success.
These metrics are useful for communicating how changes to the wellness program are expected to impact the workforce.
For existing wellness programs, it is important to determine what information can be gathered to help understand the impact of the wellness program and to routinely review the data.
After deciding what KPIs must be tracked, the organization must commit to collecting the relevant data at specific, scheduled intervals.
Some examples of data and collection intervals include:
- Bi-annual health assessments
- Annual wellness program surveys
- Monthly attendance
Many organizations use participation data as an indicator of a wellness program’s impact on the workforce. Strive provides summary reports and engagement data each month so organizations can evaluate the performance of their wellness programming.
Understanding the success metrics of a wellness program is essential when choosing which initiatives are prioritized in the budget. It is important to consider who the wellness budget intends to support. Some information, such as knowing the type of work employees do within the organization, is common knowledge, but some information will require employee input.
An employee needs and interest survey will provide the insights to help in determining the most engaging and important wellness offerings, including when to deliver these programs.
At a minimum, the survey should collect employee feedback on:
- Wellness topics employees are interested in learning about
- Types of classes and events (i.e. yoga, pilates, zumba, health talks, cooking demos, etc.)
- What days are employees available to participate
- What times are they available to participate
- Yes/No – would the employee participate if the wellness services were available to them at no-cost
- Employee demographic details (department, location, etc.)
We recommend conducting the surveys online and distributing via email to simplify administration. This is also an opportunity for wellness champions to promote the upcoming wellness program initiatives.
- Requires repeated effort and resources to restart the program
- The intermittent wellness program competes for resources against ongoing priorities that have budgets earmarked at the beginning of the year
- Intermittent programming doesn’t demonstrate an ongoing commitment to employee wellness the same way a year-round program does
The theme of using technology to lighten the administrative load continues with liability waivers. A wellness vendor should be able to fully administer and manage the process on behalf of the organization.
The wellness vendor should also be able to provide a templated liability waiver form. Alternatively, generic liability waivers are available online. A premade waiver form can help save time, but it is always advisable to clear any liability waivers with the organization’s legal counsel and/or risk management team before using the form.
Strive has a robust liability waiver form and management system built into the Strive registration platform. Our clients genuinely appreciate the reliable waiver administration and management. It reduces their internal administrative time and any risks due to the provision of these types of services.
The employee registration process can bog down HR teams in menial work that can be delegated to technology. An ideal technology solution will allow employees to register online. The sign-up process should be intuitive and provide clear instructions so employees can register without issues. Ideally, the registration process will also help employees remain connected to their wellness schedule with calendar invites and timely reminder notifications.
An online, self-serve registration process also makes communicating changes or cancellations fast and simple. Having registration data stored electronically also supports re-engaging employees that have reduced participation in the wellness program.
After the registration process has been determined, the organization needs to coordinate the wellness activities. This goes beyond scheduling classes and can be broken down into the tasks below:
- Determining onsite/virtual location(s) for classes & events
- Determining optimal class/event times
- Conducting QA/QC on instructors, classes, and the class locations
- Are classrooms safe and conducive to physical activity?
- Do instructors have classroom etiquette they are expected to follow?
- Have the instructors provided a framework for their classes?
- Scheduling instructors and specialists (along with backups) for class times
- Scheduling data collection and survey/feedback collection
Other teams within the organization may need to be involved with the coordination. This could include:
- IT to clear the use of any technology
- Facility managers authorizing the use of onsite locations
- Legal/Risk Management team providing guidance on liability waiver form language
- Any supporting staff to handle programmatic updates and administrative assistance
- Communications/Marketing team to assist with program announcement and ongoing engagement materials
The goal of an implementation plan is to develop a timeline for launching the wellness program and to anticipate any additional support requirements for launch. Organizations with pre-existing wellness programs will want to integrate their new programming into the overall structure of the program as well as the rest of their employee benefits.
An implementation plan is inclusive, requiring all relevant internal employees and any external stakeholders to be involved in the operations planning. It also promotes accountability for all parties involved by outlining the specific goals and tasks each party is responsible for executing.
By creating an implementation plan, the organization may recognize the need to source qualified wellness vendors and specialists to deliver wellness services. Partnering with wellness vendors provides an organization with dedicated resources to work on implementing its wellness program.
Successful wellness programs market the wellness offerings to employees internally. Launch communications aim to inform employees about upcoming offerings and inspire employees to participate.
Additionally, communication strategies should match the multi-level approach of the wellness program. Specific groups to consider would be the remote, onsite, and field employees of the organization. Consider each office in different locations as its own organization and find ways to connect those separate organizations as a whole. Providing a template for middle managers to communicate with their teams can also help to involve the managers with the wellness program.
It is also important to plan the methods of communication to ensure maximum reach:
- Social media
- Messaging applications
While preparing launch communications, consider taking the time to update new hire onboarding communications, too. Onboarding new employees into the wellness program as they enter the organization provides them with the best opportunity to enroll and experience the organization’s commitment to overall employee well-being.
All organizations should create an ongoing engagement strategy for their wellness programs to promote wider employee adoption. An ongoing engagement strategy helps overcome stagnation and reduced participation by motivating current participants and inviting new participants to join the wellness program.
To ensure the wellness program sees increased engagement, the engagement strategy should focus on three groups of employees:
- Actively participating employees
- Disengaged employees and employees with low participation
- Unengaged employees
Each group requires different solutions to motivate their decision to participate or continue to participate in the wellness program. Actively engaged employees may benefit from engagement campaigns focused on recognizing employee performance, while less active employees may need reengagement campaigns that encourage them to return to their classes.