What can you do to enhance employee engagement in your wellness programs?

I have developed three simple ideas to help you win over your non-joiners and even get them excited about getting involved with your wellness events, and moreover get them more engaged with your teams.

Nowadays most large companies are offering some sort of wellness programming. Unfortunately, engagement levels in these workplace wellness programs is still hovering down around 30% – 40%, according to Gallup.

#1 Bring the wellness message to your employees

First, start by looking at how you are communicating your wellness messaging. Did you know that many employees don’t even know what their company offers? They don’t bother to visit your wellness portal.

What can you do? Bring the message to them. There are two ways.

Engage the champions: The easiest method is to get your wellness champions, assuming you have a wellness champion network, going around spreading enthusiasm about the various offerings and engaging others to help spread the word. While they’re out there, have the champions do informal surveys to ask what types of programming the non-joiners need and want.

Engage the managers: The second part of this communication strategy is to request help from your first line managers. Make sure they are talking about wellness with their team because a well team is a productive team.

Furthermore, have the managers actually participate. Leading by example: it is well documented by Rand Health and others that leading by example is one of the most impactful ways to enhance engagement. Of course, joining challenges together as a team is a valuable way to strengthen the bonds within the team, as well.

Then employees receive the added benefit of the social engagement, a major tenet of workplace wellness. Social engagement releases serotonin in the brain, and connections are an important way to help prevent burnout.

#2: Confront Mental Health Stigma

The second tip is about overcoming the stigma against mental health, which is still pervasive in many companies today. Many managers are afraid to confront what they perceive as a mental health issue, so they tend to sweep the problem under the rug.

There are two ways to tackle stigma. First, get leaders to role model talking about their own struggles with mental health. We don’t want people suffering in silence. We want to get them the help they need. Many people are still embarrassed by mental struggles. If their leaders set the tone, by opening up, then employees will begin to feel more comfortable about following suit. Then the company’s culture will become open to having people ask for help when they need it.

The second way to confront stigma stems from a law enforcement slogan: See Something, Say Something.

If you, the team manager, notice that someone seems off at work, or sad, or just not herself or himself, and this goes on for several days, take them aside privately. One idea is to take them for a walk out of the office. Here’s a suggested conversation starter, “Hey Joe, I notice that you seem a little sad today, and it’s been like this for a few days. Is something going on that you want my help with? Is there anything I can do to help you? Would you like to talk to me or someone in HR, or EAP? We want to help if there’s something going on.”

Together, these ideas, manager role modelling and See something, Say something, will help to reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

#3: Start with Managers’ WHY for Wellness

My third idea for enhancing engagement in your wellness program is probably the easiest and yet, most powerful tip of all. Help your managers find their why for wellness, the purpose. Simon Sinek says to “Start With Why.”

Your managers are the conduit to the teams (your biggest asset), and when you help managers understand the why for wellness, they can communicate it to their teams.  

Here’s your why, at the corporate level: healthy people are happy. Happy people come to work and they like being there. They treat each other well, they treat customers well, and they’re more productive while they’re there. Moreover, the bottom line is very healthy. A happy workforce creates a health company.

I challenge you to try my three tips for engaging your employees in wellness:

1. Bring messaging to your teams, using the wellness champions and the managers

2. Remove mental health stigma by getting leadership to share their struggles and using See Something, Say Something

3. Get managers to find and communicate their why for wellness

Let me know how these ideas work for you.