Is Your Wellness Program Actually Stressful? How To Make It Better

(Story by Justin Jed originally appeared in Digitalist Magazine)

Misguided wellness programs may actually stress employees out more than they boost health. Your employees have plenty of things to worry about inside and outside the office. The question is, does your program support employee health and well-being, or overwhelm employees with another obligation?

To ensure your program isn’t having adverse effects, here are some ways to make well-being more manageable for employees:

Focus on well-being

Is your wellness program focused on employee well-being? Or is it centered on health-risk reduction?

Often, when the industry thinks about wellness programs, they think about reducing health risk and perhaps have a few nutrition and exercise activities – but it’s so much more than that. Great programs are holistic and address multiple factors of employee well-being, including emotional, financial, work, and social health. If your program doesn’t focus on these areas as well, you’re neglecting key employee needs, and it might stress them out more than you anticipate.

In fact, a 2015 survey of employees published by Quantum Workplace and my company, Limeade, found that employees crave benefits that address their overall well-being. For example, 70.5% want standard-of-living raises, 76.7% want time off to recharge, and 60% want work-life balance benefits.

Incorporate total well-being into your wellness program to alleviate the stress employees feel inside and outside the office. When this is done well and programs are truly holistic, your well-being program can become the hub for other programs, like volunteering, training, and corporate social responsibility programs. This way, employees aren’t overwhelmed by countless programs – they exist together. They also tie an individual’s well-being experience to the culture and goals of the business.

Encourage healthy competition

Keeping up with any goal is difficult, especially when employees feel alone. Personal goals set in private tend to have less accountability, which means people don’t stick with them, which results in poor results and ultimately frustrated employees.

Make individual goals social by introducing healthy doses of competition into your wellness program. This could include holding team challenges or asking employees to share their goals with one another. After all, research from the Dominican University of California found that study participants who wrote down their goals, shared them with others, and sent weekly updates to friends were, on average, 33% more successful in meeting these objectives.

In addition, employees are more engaged when activities take place in a group setting. A 2014 study by Yale University found shared experiences are amplified, with people becoming more absorbed or engaged in an experience when sharing it with others.

If your wellness program makes employees feel isolated when working toward goals, they’re going to feel like improving their well-being is impossible. Use friendly competitions to bring teams closer together, keep employees accountable, and keep them interested in the experience.

Introduce the right gamification elements

Making personal changes to improve well-being can seem like a huge unattainable goal. And when the wellness program looks difficult, your employees won’t want to participate. In the Aon Hewitt survey, 40% of millennials said they are more likely to participate in health and wellness programs if they are easy and convenient to do.

Make well-being seem more gradual and achievable with gamification elements. Gamification provides a clear set of rules and guidelines that makes the program fun and motivates employees to participate with points systems, levels, and notifications. Gamification can also use social media to keep employees updated on events and remind them to work toward their goals and share progress with others.

Gamification can turn health and well-being into many small goals, instead of one intimidating one.

It’s time to evaluate your wellness program and determine if it’s truly supporting employee health and well-being. Make changes to encourage participation and get the most from the program.