I admit it: I used to be a health information junkie. I first realized my thirst for knowledge during undergraduate school when I began researching and writing term papers on nutrition. My appetite for information grew stronger when I was finishing graduate school, writing big research papers on worksite wellness. I prided myself on reading every nutrition and health journal as soon as it was released, and I visited the top health websites on a daily basis.
When I entered the workforce armed with statistics and facts, I began implementing what I thought to be “best practices.” I ran my wellness programs by the book. Employees were incentivized to complete their annual HRA, I coordinated onsite health screening programs, and I implemented fitness challenges and nutrition seminars. On paper, it was evident that I was improving the health of my employee population and lowering healthcare costs. I was very satisfied, until all that changed.
Not long ago, I was asked by a client to conduct an employee interest survey because she felt the employees were unengaged with the wellness program. By asking a few questions, I was amazed at what I learned about the employee population. Employees were interested in programs that I had never thought to implement! They wanted to participate in seasonal kayaking, have a holiday choir, start a women’s group, reserve a quiet room for meditation, and the list goes on. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; none of this was in the research. At that moment I realized that while I was over concerned with research, data, and lowering healthcare costs, I was missing out on the whole employee—mind, body, and spirit. In fact, as I began to implement these new wellness offerings, the wellness program participation increased, and my client was ecstatic.
These days, I pride myself on implementing health and wellness programs that take this “whole employee” approach; programs that not only lower healthcare costs, but satisfy the well-being of employees.