getting started: how to elevate your corporate culture through wellness at work
By mindi cox in Appreciation and Recognition Strategies
Looking to give your corporate culture a boost? Pursuing wellness in your organization? Me, too. While O.C. Tanner has always done many things to promote the health of our people, two years ago we started looking at the value of a formal wellness program. Did we need a program? Or, was the annual health fair enough? How much did we need to invest to get things started? Would it be worth it? To find some answers, we began with a deep dive into our health claims.
Like most organizations, some of our issues centered on prescription expenses that included a host of lifestyle-related drugs—depression and anxiety medications, treatment for cholesterol, heart disease, and ulcer/gastric reflux. Although high use of these medications is typical of many organizations and the U.S. population in general, for many people, use of these drugs can be largely eliminated through improved wellness.
I reviewed the results of our research with the senior executive team. We talked about expectations, results, and what it meant to do the right thing when it comes to wellness. Our CEO took a leap of faith and offered a start-up budget with the long-term vision that if we could build participation, the company would build support.
As an appreciation company, we strongly believed any successful wellness program should be complemented with a method to celebrate wellness victories. In short, as our employees make progress toward improving their health, well-being and ultimately improve the health care expenses of the company, we cheer. Our applause comes in the form of points employees can use to select awards that celebrate their achievements. This integrates wellness as a part of our total employee recognition program that also includes recognition for career achievement and performance.
Early on, we decided wellness meant much more than physical fitness. How were our people doing mentally? Were their finances in order? How were those considerations affecting their health?
We started small—scheduling yoga, step aerobics and Zumba fitness classes in some of our larger conference rooms. We started after-work financial planning classes. Our cafeteria began posting the calories and carbs of all entrÃ©es and featuring a lighter, healthier entrÃ©e selection every day. We measured and marked off walking paths around the hallways of our headquarters. We invited our people into conversations with experts about elder care, building confidence and goal-setting. We invited employees throughout the company to become Wellness Champions—sharing information and answering questions for their teams. We invited, explained and engaged over and over again.
People came. They signed up. They worked out. They made changes and experienced success. One year after the official launch of “My Wellness,” 44% of our employees have earned points through participation in the program.
We are now able to measure the 12-month results of biometric testing, improvements in personal finances and participation in wellness contests, fitness classes and learning events. Candidly, the improvements in our wellness metrics after just one year in most areas are slight. They are, however, what we expected—little, consistent improvements that will eventually add up to sustainable change.
My advice? Start small. Build up. Prepare your employees to receive what you will offer. Wellness is not an all or nothing proposition. Wellness is a conversation you begin with your people—a personal invitation toward improvement. It takes time. It takes catching people at the moment they are ready to make changes. And, it takes making change fun, collaborative and full of support.
Initially, we are measuring success by the positive results of inviting wellness to become part of our culture. “My Wellness” has become part of who we are, what we do and the goals we share. Employees who do not normally work together now work out together. This has created new friendships, unity and respect across the company. People who previously felt alone in personal or financial problems have discovered networks of support and resources that have improved the quality of their lives and the quality of their time with us. We regularly hear from employees who tell us they have more energy, more focus, greater happiness and more appreciation for O.C. Tanner as a place to work as a result of the program. And that’s good medicine, all the way around.