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Engaging employees in health and wellbeing programmes

Health and wellbeing initiatives are regularly cited by employees as their favourite benefits yet not matter how comprehensive the offer, some employees remain hard to engage and resistant to participation. Here, Paul Roberts, strategic director at IHC offers some thoughts and tips about what you can do reach those reluctant employees.

Get to know your workforce

Absence data can be useful but is focused around illness rather than wellness. Online health assessments can be a useful way of getting a more accurate risk profile of the workforce and means benefits can be tailored more accurately based on the outcomes. It has been reported that in most workplaces, around 15% of employees will be healthy, while a further 10% are either acutely or chronically ill. This means the remaining 75% would benefit from some lifestyle support and advice to prevent poor health in the future. Engaging these employees to make healthy choices will pay dividends and could deliver significant benefits.

Make sure your health and wellbeing programme is relevant

It needs to cover a broad range of initiatives that includes everything from fitness and nutrition through to mental health and financial wellbeing. Given the amount of time spent at work, it’s a great place to communicate health messages but it needs to be broad enough and accessible enough to be relevant to as many employees as possible. For example, initiatives to encourage greater fitness and activity may include a running club for the more athletic as well as walking groups so that everyone can clock up their weekly exercise requirements.

Be creative and make it personal

An IHC client who wanted to increase the amount of exercise its employees took introduced walking meetings. It had a 20 minute route that made it easy to bring some activity into the working day. Other examples we’ve seen include putting in place a health and wellbeing fund that provides employees with a set amount of money each month to spend on something that can help their personal health and wellbeing. Personalising wellbeing can be a powerful way to engage those harder to reach employees.

Focus on fun and easy

The easier it is to participate the more likely it is people will respond and take-up the benefits. It doesn’t need to be complicated, simple approaches such as allowing staff to take longer lunch breaks or flex their hours so that they can find time to go the gym or cycle to work can make a real difference. Another cost-effective measure we’ve seen work well as to install a shower. If employees know they can have a shower when they get to work they’ll be much more likely to cycle in or go for a run at lunchtime.

Tap into your employees competitive spirit

Pitting teams or departments against each other can be a great way to get people moving more but also increase productivity and improve team performance in the workplace. Our experience has shown that ‘member-get-member’ is the most effective way to increase participation in a health and wellbeing programme. Some employees may be sceptical about an employer’s motives but, when they see others benefiting, it can make them want to join in too.

Recruit health champions from across the organisation

These individuals can be from any part of the business but will be up to speed with all the benefits on offer and be able to talk to colleagues about the benefits of participating. Encouraging line managers to get involved can also work well as this provides them with an opportunity to talk to people about health and wellbeing and signpost them to relevant benefits and initiatives helping to drive take-up. This approach can be particularly relevant for mental health initiatives.

Keeping a track of what works and what doesn’t in your organisation is key but ultimately any sign of improvement should be a green light to carry on. Don’t become obsessed with trying to engage the last man standing, it’s about focusing on improvement because improving the health of any employee will bring significant benefits

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    IHC Ltd, 1-2 Bolt Court, London, EC4A 3DQ.

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