How to make your wellbeing program more effective

You set up a wellbeing program at your company. You paid for education and skills training and invited motivational speakers to share their expertise. Great! You are now trying to tackle a top 5 management problem worldwide – reducing presenteeism loss. But are wellbeing behaviours changing? How can you make your wellbeing program more effective?

It has been proven that looking after the wellbeing of your employees helps them be their best and most productive selves, personally and professionally. With presenteeism costing the Australian economy $34 billion a year and posing a top 5 management problem globally, you need a healthy workforce.

Here’s the problem. Traditional wellbeing programs generally have very low participation rates (20%) and do not measure behaviour change, which is crucial for the assessment of any program. So how can you increase wellness program participation, maximise the benefits for both your employees and your business and create real change?

At HealthChase, we spent the last 2 years building an online platform based entirely on user feedback, key metrics, evidence-based gamification techniques and wellbeing outcomes to focus on improving workplace wellness and productivity.

Here are some of the key findings…

The top reasons people participate in wellbeing programs are:

To improve their general health. People want to be healthy. They are looking for achievable and sustainable wellbeing choices that fit with their chosen lifestyle, not necessarily to fix a specific health problem. In other words, people are looking at overall health, not a specifically-targeted health issue.

To be part of a team. This is another well-known employee engagement metric. People want to feel that they are part of a team and community. A sense of belonging increases both motivation and accountability for individual choices. This is good news, as employees who want to work together help build great businesses. Our key finding is that wellbeing programs should be team-oriented to encourage participation.

How can employers motivate people to change?

Most people would agree that eating more fruits and vegetables is a good thing. So is exercising, sleeping more and learning to manage stress, to name a few health-conscious choices. They also know that poor lifestyle decisions impact how they feel and look, not to mention significantly increase the risk of chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But why are we not seeing the necessary changes being made?

Participation in, and awareness of, healthy lifestyle choices are not strong enough factors for individuals to act. We need to address unconscious behaviours, habits, routines and comfort zones to encourage participants to practise new behaviours.

Top reasons people improve wellbeing behaviours:

The primary reason people reported for participating in our gamified programs was to improve health, but when it came to the factors actually driving behaviour change, the strongest motivators were being part of a team and seeing immediate rewards for healthy lifestyle choices.

Here’s a breakdown of the most significant factors reported for driving lifestyle changes:

  1. Being in a team (socialisation, motivation and accountability)
  2. A simple points system (promoting conscious choice)
  3. Health improvements (quality of life and longevity)
  4. A live scoreboard (competition and instant rewards)

Having a team-based wellness program provides support to employees, helps increase motivation and makes individuals accountable. This provides the incentive for employees to practice healthy lifestyle choices and break their current habits and routines, to see what fits into their lifestyle and what is sustainable. It also makes things more fun and interesting.

In addition, a team-oriented program helps modify the entire workplace mentality. If everyone around you is making healthy choices, the office environment can change. If employees are eating more vegetables as snacks rather than filling up the chocolate jar, it becomes a lot easier to eat less chocolate instead of individuals trying to make changes on their own.

Getting employees to make conscious choices and to think about their lifestyle decisions is crucial. We have found that a simple points system is a great way to promote conscious choice, as players receive an immediate reward encouraging them to consider choices based on nutrition, exercise and activity, sleep, stress relief, and other factors.

An element of healthy competition can also motivate employees to make the needed changes and again break current habits and behaviours, provided everyone has an equal chance of winning. Seeing your own progress and the whole team’s is immediately satisfying and adds a fun, social aspect to improving wellness. For some employees, starting to look at a change in lifestyle can be daunting and easy to put off to some time in the future. But once a game or competition has begun, there is motivation to start immediately.

Education, awareness and skill development are important but finding ways to encourage employees to take action, make healthy changes and modify their behaviour is essential. And, are you measuring it?