Actions speak louder than words. It’s something we all can agree on. And yet, when it comes to workplace well-being initiatives, few organizations fully realize the culture of health and experience the participation and engagement rates they anticipate. From my experience working with organizations of wide-ranging industries and sizes, there often is a disconnect between the program’s strategy and plan, and the follow-through.
Employees recognize the same—in a recent HealthFitness study , we found that 60 percent of employees who do not participate in well-being initiatives at their organization are willing to, but choose not to for a variety of reasons, including lack of information or awareness, an unsupportive company culture, and/or trust and privacy concerns.
While there are a number of ways to address these barriers, we must recognize that each of these issues traces directly back to leadership actions. If well-being programs are going to succeed and reach their true potential for lowering healthcare costs and reducing health risks and enhancing company culture, top leadership needs to be involved. Not through fiscal sponsorship and support alone, but through upfront participation. Actions speak louder than words—this applies to everyone, but especially those in leadership.
Changing employee perception and engagement in well-being takes time and requires coordination of an entire organization’s teams, tools and processes. But nothing can spark interest quite like a senior leader. That’s why I’ve rounded up some of the most creative ways I’ve seen company leaders at all levels of the company get involved in well-being programs within their organizations, and set the tone for the rest of the team to follow suit.
- Create a beat the boss competition. Senior leaders at one health plan are often called upon to lead health-related competitions. One is a weekly step competition—
employees track their total daily steps and those who beat the boss for the week are entered into a raffle to win a prize. And earn bragging rights.
- Take a tour. Leaders at one manufacturing company serve as well-being tour guides for their departments, taking employees on a tour of the company’s new corporate fitness facility. Not only does this spread the word about the facility; it also encourages them to participate in the full offerings of the company program.
- Walk (or run) it out. Stilettos are the running shoe of choice for this CEO to help raise awareness for the 5K charity race at a leading financial services company. Employees raise money and participate in the race just for the chance to see their CEO (who happens to be male) strut his stuff in red stiletto heels. This fun approach to well-being has a lasting impact on employees—they are already planning next year’s race with more leaders wearing heels!
- Be a walking billboard. Senior leaders at one leading technology company become walking billboards—they encourage healthy eating by dressing up in fruit-patterned leggings, wearing sandwich boards and walking around the campus to encourage employees to eat more fruits and vegetables. You can also lead the way by ordering healthy options for team meetings and off-sites.
- Make a splash. Sign up for the dunk tank—employees at one leading financial services company compete in fun fitness challenges and get the opportunity to dunk senior leaders at the annual “Fitness Field Day.”
- Integrate well-being into your meetings. Some managers lead walking meetings, and some have taken the next step to invite well-being practitioners into meetings to lead energy breaks with their employees.
- Let your voice be heard. At one technology firm, video interviews of company leaders describing what being healthy means to them play on video monitors throughout campus. The videos are also shared with remote employees as part of the company’s well-being communication initiatives. Using these videos in company emails and newsletters can also help engage remote or global employees.
- Share your moves and your tunes. A leading insurance company hosts weekly “flash mob”-style dance parties on Fridays, with leaders taking center stage for 15 minutes to help everyone get up and move around. And employees at one leading financial services company often take spin class in their onsite fitness center with their CEO—as the instructor. He breaks a sweat with employees and shares his favorite workout music throughout the class.