So you’ve designed your medical plan to offer a wellness discount for an annual physical and believe this represents a wellness program.  Think again.

Wellness, when done effectively, is pervasive throughout the organization.  It is ingrained in your culture.  It is a peer to safety and quality and a key driver of engagement and hence profitability.  It is compelling, and it demonstrates to your people that you truly care about the whole human.

First, the construct.

I think of wellness in three dimensions: physical, mental, and financial.  All three dimensions of wellness must be addressed for a human being to thrive.  

Second, the execution. 

Simply putting out a wellness program will not engender success. How is this then achieved? I recommend continuously promoting wellness from both the top down and the bottom up, with your employees as your primary ambassadors.

Top Down:

Does your C-suite manifest wellness? Are they able to convincingly model a healthy lifestyle? Or are they largely silent, delegating wellness to the HR department?

Here are some ways in which to develop a wellness mindset from the top down:

 • Provide insightful training for your people leaders so that they can fluently discuss mental, physical, and financial wellness. Ongoing, not a ‘one and done.

 • Our world has been through a lot these last two years. Train your people leaders to spot mental health issues among their team members and competently provide a warm connection to support.  

 • Host a ‘Wellness Week’ each year. Each day provide engaging activities and information. Make this something that everyone looks forward to.

Offer monthly lunchtime webinars, alternating physical, mental, and financial wellness topics. 

 • Keep it to an hour or less. Bring in REALLY GOOD presenters with consumable information that can help your people. Record them and host them in your LMS for on-demand access.

 • Provide significant education on financial benefits afforded through your company: 401k, ESOP, etc. Illustrations of how pre-tax investments can grow over time. Provide debt reduction programs and other financial tools at no cost to every employee and their spouse/partner. An employee that is stressed out about their finances simply cannot perform at a peak level.

 • Dump the box lunches with the white bread sandwich, chips, and cookies. While they are cheap, diabetes isn’t. Provide healthier options from which employees can choose: nutritious sandwiches/wraps with healthy sides (fruit, nuts, veggies, etc.). In addition to the birthday cake, have healthier options available so that healthy eaters can partake in the celebration. Provide options for your lacto-vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free employees. Provide healthy meal service for your home-based workers.

Provide group discounts for gym memberships/exercise classes/eating programs. Use your buying power to work with health and wellness vendors. 

 • Offer monthly stipends.

 • Have a senior leader commit to losing weight – chronicle their journey, the joys, and the struggles. It will humanize your leader and motivate your employees.  

 • Ensure that wellness offerings are available, as best as possible, to both remote and office-based employees.

Bottom Up:

Your employees must be interested and engaged in wellness for it to become ingrained in your culture. 

Some great ways to engage your employees include the following:

Encourage wellness advocates across your footprint to gin up a Wellness ERG (Employee Resource Group). Have them define their mission, goals and solicit membership. Encourage them to provide persistent feedback to your wellness/benefits department and ensure it is acted upon. Provide a senior leader to support them and help them overcome obstacles, but don’t allow that leader to direct the vision, activities, or membership. 

 • The Wellness ERG must truly be by the people, for the people.

 • Spotlight wellness activities across the company. Highlight runs, walks, and tournaments. Celebrate activities that occur both inside work hours as well as during employee’s personal time. Wellness transcends every aspect of an employee’s life. Highlight it all.

 • Encourage athletic and other teams among your workforce. Pay for the league fees/tournaments and buy the shirts. Take pictures. Run the stories.   

 • Welcome self-identification of wellness champions in your offices. Let them beat the drum among their colleagues.  

 • Invite your people to share testimonials regarding their physical, mental, and financial wellness journeys. The brave will. Stories of weight loss, smoking cessation, struggles with anxiety and depression, budgeting, saving for retirement, and getting out of debt. It will inspire some of their peers to begin the journey themselves.

In summary, wellness should not be an afterthought. Your care and concern for your employees’ physical, mental, and financial wellness should be manifested from the top and the bottom, be as important as safety and quality, be understood as a key driver to profitability, and be pervasive throughout your culture. It is an ongoing and everlasting journey, not a program to be delivered. Your employees’ well-being, and lives, depend upon it.