How-To Optimize Wellness Engagement in the Workplace Post Pandemic
Even as employees transition into a post-pandemic workplace, the effects of COVID-19 are still apparent, with presenteeism becoming the new normal. While the primary effects of presenteeism are lost productivity, the secondary effects include employees becoming less engaged with their own well-being. Organizations are challenged with mitigating the effects of presenteeism and helping their employees engage and stay engaged with their well-being by promoting their wellness programs.
Hybrid and remote work models have made offering wellness services to employees more complex, with the need to include virtual offerings to reach the remote work population. Regardless of whether the organization offers onsite, virtual, or a combination of services, optimizing wellness program engagement follows the same guiding principles.
In this article, we outline the wellness program’s goals, describe the types of employees the wellness program engages, and discuss how to optimize engagement around these categories of employees.
Optimizing Employee Wellness Program Engagement
Table of Contents
- Providing employees with knowledge and practices to maintain their wellness
- Helping employees foster and maintain healthy behaviors, independent of the organization-provided wellness resources
- Connecting all employees to the wellness program
Looking at the goals outlined above, it may not seem obvious how the objectives can help produce an effective engagement strategy. Isn’t the point of the wellness program universal adoption, after all?
This is true, however, every employee has a different relationship with wellness and the organization’s wellness program. Employees fall into one of four categories:
- Healthy employees practicing wellness on their own
- Employees that need some support and encouragement to begin
- Employees that need to be motivated to practice wellness
- Employees that refuse to participate in the organization’s wellness program
Before elaborating on each type of employee, consider that there are eight pillars of wellness: physical, social, emotional, occupational, financial, spiritual, intellectual, and environmental.
Every employee has a different relationship with each dimension of wellness. It is unlikely for employees to be well across all eight dimensions. Understanding which of the pillars the employee population needs support with is necessary for optimizing employee engagement. The communication strategy must connect the wellness program’s services with the needs of employees.
We wrote an article on the 5 Best Workplace Wellness Initiatives that satisfies multiple pillars simultaneously. The article can also help organizations understand the breadth of the wellness program, even if it is focused on a single wellness pillar, which can help organizations develop their wellness messaging to engage employees.
Healthy Employees Practicing Wellness on Their Own
The first group of employees are healthy individuals who maintain their wellness on their own. This group understands the benefits of maintaining their wellness and have recurring habits in place to foster it throughout the week. By their very nature, this group will likely have lower healthcare claims than the other groups and are less likely to be affected by absenteeism and presenteeism.
Even though this group prioritizes wellness, this does not mean the group will participate in the wellness program. These employees have already created their own wellness routines and are more inclined to use their own preferences. This can make them challenging customers to engage because they have specified expectations for wellness service quality.
What this group needs from a wellness program is seamless access to high quality services. Inviting this group to provide feedback on improving the wellness program can produce valuable insights and create wellness champions for the program.
Employees that Need Encouragement
Unlike the first group of actively healthy employees, this group of employees needs encouragement to recognize the benefits of wellness. They want to prioritize their well-being, but they haven’t yet found ways to make their well-being a priority.
Put another way, these employees need help incorporating wellness into their recurring habits. They already value wellness, they just haven’t yet transitioned from wanting to be well to needing to be well.
The barriers for this group are similar to the first group of employees who are looking for easy access to quality wellness services. Consider how the organization’s culture, policies, and programming make it easy for employees to participate in the wellness program.
Though shifting the culture, creating initiatives, and improving programming are not simple tasks, the organization does not have to spend additional resources changing the mindset of this group of employees to care about their own well-being. It’s only a matter of operations and procedures to free up employee time to take the first step.
Besides any direct ROI benefits the group contributes to improving their health, these employees are perfect for supplying employee feedback on the wellness program because their participation is so closely tied to the program experience and wellness culture of the organization.
Employees that Need Motivation
The distinction we want to make with employees needing encouragement vs. motivation is this: if the organization granted each group an hour every day to participate in the organization’s wellness program at any time during the workday without any negative consequences to their jobs, would the employees use the time to improve their wellness?
The former would, but the latter needing motivation will not. Whatever the reason, this unmotivated group is content within their set habits.
Dedicating resources to marketing, tailored communications, incentives, and leadership support can all help influence this group to take the first step and engage with the wellness program.
Employees that Refuse to Participate
This final group is a tough group to reach. They are making a conscious decision not to engage with the wellness program. Ironically, they may be the group that needs the wellness program the most, needing multiple pillars to support them. However, this group will require the most resources to convert. The upside to this is that they make great success stories when they do become champions of the wellness program.
While an organization may choose not to dedicate many resources to engaging this group, their perspective is invaluable. Consider gathering this group’s feedback specifically to discover ways how the organization can further improve the wellness program, and what it needs to undertake to foster a culture of wellness.
- Employees will want a “fair” exchange for their effort
- Employees begin to question the motivations behind the wellness program
- Policies – are the necessary policies in place that allow employees to participate in the wellness activities during work hours?
- Culture – does the organization have a wellness-positive culture that encourages employees to make use of the wellness programs without fear of punishment?
- Availability – are wellness services available when employees are available?
- Service Delivery – do the wellness services encourage interactivity, collaboration, dialogue, and personal improvement?
- Marketing invites employees to go on a journey towards life change with clear outcomes
- Marketing builds trust between the employees and the organization
- Helping employees connect the benefits of the program with their personal well-being goals
- Ensuring the messaging is employee-focused and elevates their wellness journey
- Convey the ease of signing up and participating in the wellness program
- Reinforcing the wellness program’s mission and connecting it to the broader mission of the organization