Six Leadership Tips for Thriving Wellness Programs

When corporate wellness works well, it starts from the top-down. Leadership buy-in of corporate wellness programming can make a big difference in the success of the program. In fact, research shows that sincere interest in the well-being of employees is considered a top driver of sustainable engagement.

At HealthFitness, we’ve learned that visible support from a company’s executives sets the tone for employees—communicating that it’s acceptable to fit in a workout during the workday, take part in a weight loss challenge with co-workers or take advantage of healthy food options.

Here are six approaches we use at clients’ sites to engage leadership—and encourage employees—to participate in corporate wellness programs.

Be a wellness role model

At one of our technology client sites, participants in a focus group we conducted shared that a key barrier to participating in wellness programs was an underlying perception that if they were seen working out, leadership might assume they did not have enough work to do. We helped change that perception by recruiting C-suite leadership to work out while on the clock, opening the door for employees to see that health and fitness was a priority all of the way up the ladder. We positioned leaders as wellness role models by ensuring they were visible during onsite biometrics screening events – waiting in line for their appointment along with the rest of the employees.

Beat the boss

When leadership walks the walk, everyone benefits. Senior executives at this health plan lead weekly walks with employees to support a walking program that encourages employees to walk up to 10,000 steps each day. Participants track their total steps daily and those that “beat the boss” for the week are entered into a raffle to win a prize. This interactive program adds friendly competition and allows employees to get to know senior management better. 

Take a tour

Senior executives at this large manufacturing company each serve as wellness tour guides for their respective departments, leading employees through a tour of the company’s new corporate fitness facility. Not only does this get the word out about the facility, employees learn more about the additional wellness resources including stress relief, sleep tips, how to relieve stiff joints and more.

Get dunked

Leaders at this leading financial services company receive special recognition during “Fitness Field Day,” where employees compete in fitness challenges. Senior managers serve as “judges” for the fitness events and were also invited to get dunked in a dunk tank.

Energy in and out

At several client sites, HealthFitness staff move beyond the four walls of the corporate fitness center, asking managers to invite them to one of their meetings to lead an energy break with their employees. In return for the on-site energy break, the manager receives a personal training session.

Screen time stories

HealthFitness staff asks senior leadership at this large technology company to describe what being healthy means to them. The interviews are displayed on video monitors throughout the company’s large corporate campus as well as shared with remote employees. Senior executives provide information about the company’s health and wellness services, including its corporate fitness centers, health coaching and more.

Implementing these six approaches will promote leadership buy-in and encourage employees to participate in your wellness programs. Visible support from leadership can make an enormous difference in the success of your company’s wellness program.

About the Author:
Ann Wyatt (@AnnMWyatt) is vice president, account management at HealthFitness. In her role Ann oversees a national account management team, provides leadership support and guides strategy development for new health management and corporate fitness programs, the transition of existing programs, employee recruiting and training, program quality assurance and operations management. 

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