Stress has reached an all-time high – before the pandemic 80% of workers were experiencing stress, according to the American Institute of Stress. Now those numbers are even more staggering. From remote work causing undue stress for workers, especially those with school-aged children to the “on-call” nature of work, human resources faces a big challenge in initiating and executing workplace wellness programs.

One major problem is that participation rates are still lower than desired, partly because of the weak communication. Two-thirds of companies offer wellness programs, but only 33% of the employees at those companies are aware of their wellness programs and many others are not inspired to participate.

There are three key ways to enhance engagement in workplace wellness.

  1. Executive Buy-in

It starts with executives. If the executives are not on board in terms of investment of finances and employee time, then the managers are not going to get on board and the employees will not engage. Believe it or not, there are still some Silicon Valley companies with a culture of we don’t go out to lunch. Besides the fact that this type of culture is demoralizing, it disengages employees from doing anything but working or looking for another job on company time. What does work is the C-suite communicating their support all the way down the line.

According to a Washington Post article entitled, Workplace Wellness Programs Work Best When Bosses Buy into Them,

“studies have shown that successfully adopting a culture that promotes health and wellness can help companies reduce health-care costs, cut absentee rates and perhaps attract and retain top talent.”

The managers pick up the cue and are in the sweet spot of being the conduit to the teams. Having managers set their own wellness goals and then working with each member of their team to set wellness goals is extremely impactful.

Leading by Example

Second, leading by example, is another technique that is critical. For example, David Joyner, CEO of Hill Physicians Medical Group in San Ramon, CA, runs marathons annually. The impact of seeing a CEO participating in a physical challenge speaks volumes to employees. Data shows that employees are more likely to feel higher levels of well-being when they sense higher levels of organizational support. The opposite is also true. Employees are more likely to feel lower levels of well-being when they perceive less organizational support.

3. Communication

One of the key issues with employee engagement in wellness is the failure to communicate. Just because your company has invested in a sophisticated wellness portal, while admirable, does not bring employees to it. You have to drive the messaging to the employee. Taken from the tenets of advertising, people need seven touchpoints before they take action to buy.

Create a powerful pack of wellness champions whose task it is to create and manage a vibrant wellness offering. The communication piece includes not only pushing out notifications via every communication channel, but also physically going out to visit the teams, remotely for now. This one step will not only drive participation, but will also enhance energy to your diversity and inclusion efforts.

Mari Ryan, CEO of Advancing Wellness and author of The Thriving Hive: How People-Centric Workplaces Ignite Engagement and Fuel Results advises that your wellness program needs branding. What are the elements of a well-being brand?

  • Name – that represents vision and mission of the well-being program
  • Logo – a graphic image that provides instant recognition for all employees
  • Tagline – which serves as a short descriptor for your program’s theme

One example is Raytheon Corporation, a defense contractor. They named their wellness program “Mission Health” with the tag line, “Put Your Health on the Radar.”

Like any good advertisement campaign, communication vehicles include:

  • electronic invites
  • frequent reminders
  • multi-channel messaging
  • apps
  • varied content

Something as simple as a flyer on the walls of the elevators, stairwells, and cafeteria with an appealing visual will act as a reminder for employees. Given that work is mostly remote right now, engaging employees with a virtual background branding the wellness program will certainly keep wellness top of mind.

Why do you want your employees engaged in wellness? Healthy people are happy. Happy people are engaged in their work and they like doing it. They treat each other well, they treat customers well, and they’re more productive while they work. Moreover, the bottom line is very healthy. A happy workforce creates a healthy company.