Workplace Wellness Programs: The Ones To Avoid & The Ones to Practice

Workplace Wellness Programs: The Ones To Avoid & The Ones to Practice

Workplace wellness programs are on the rise, and that’s great. But when structuring wellness options for employees, be mindful of your choices. Are you supporting your employees by offering pathways to wellness at work, or are you accidentally undermining your team by creating unnecessary additional stress?

According to Forbes magazine, “Poorly-designed wellness programs can violate the very essence of good management.” By overreaching into your employee’s personal lives, and acting more as gestapo than support system, bad workplace wellness programs can actually undermine your employees’ self-confidence and chip away at the positive workplace culture you’ve worked so hard to build.

Read about some typical “swing-and-a-miss” wellness ideas for work, that just don’t work at all.


Common Pitfalls of Health and Wellness Programs

  1.     Competition – Maybe Not So Healthy

Sure, Karen in marketing loves the idea of a fitness challenge that showcases her three-minute plank, but for Ali in engineering these types of wellness challenges are fraught – taking her right back to that shameful 19-minute mile in middle-school gym class.

Fitness challenges, diet challenges, or – worst of all – weight challenges: almost all wellness challenge ideas fall into the same trap: comparing employee’s physical attributes against each other. Do we really need to explain why that is NOT a good idea?

Avoid shaming your employees for their physical wellbeing and keep the healthy competition to your their work performance. I mean, that’s great you can do 50 burpees Karen, but where are those production reports??

  1.     Health Screenings – A Bit Personal, Maybe?

Remember that recurring nightmare you used to have, about showing up at school naked? For employees struggling with body image or other wellbeing issues, health screenings are kind of like that. Recounting intimate details about weight, diet, and even emotional wellbeing, in a work setting… knowing their data will be compared against  other employees’, and sometimes even shared with a third party? That can feel pretty invasive.

These screenings are attractive in our “prove it” culture, because they promise data to back up our choices and measure our progress, but the truth is they are often pretty inaccurate.

It’s human nature to bend the facts a bit, either as a self-protective measure or completely by accident. We’ve simply blocked out the fact that we ate an entire bag of Cheetos while watching House Hunters last night, or we haven’t really come to terms with the fact that we only get to the gym twice a week these days. Misreporting is why so much research is blind or even double-blind. Humans are unreliable sources when it comes to describing our own behavior.

  1.     Culture Mismatch

Sure, an onsite halfpipe may sound amazing and cool. But before you go pouring the concrete, consider the makeup of your company. Is your office full of skateboarding 20-somethings? Great! Pour away! But if you’ve got a more diverse mix of ages and athletic interests, a traditional gym may be a better way to go. Or you might consider onsite yoga classes, or weekly desk massages. Start with your employee makeup, consider what would truly benefit them (and appeal to them), and go from there.

Food offerings are important to consider as well… do your employees have great work-life balance and the time to do a lot of cooking at home? Then offering farm shares with plenty of fresh produce and other local ingredients may be a big hit. Is your office culture more intense? Don’t send them home with veggies that are going to rot in a drawer, cruelly reminding them of the fleeting nature of life. Offer healthy stuff they can eat right at work.

It’s all about knowing yourself. Or, in this case, your business and the people that comprise it.


The Best Health and Wellness Programs Provide Support, Not Judgement

Smart organizations are focusing less on offering information, and more on removing barriers to healthy choices.


Offering Tasty, Healthy Food Onsite Keeps Employees Happy and Healthy wellness-programs-at-work

Look, we all know we should set down the M&Ms and meditate more. It’s not like we’re confused. We know we ought to eat better, so why don’t we? It’s not from ignorance or a lack of pressure. It really comes down to convenience and taste.

That’s why smart companies are offering delicious, healthy lunch meal plans right onsite. Sometimes that means simply stocking the shared kitchen with fruits and veggies for snacking. Other businesses offer micro markets and healthy vending machines stocked with nutritious grab-and-go options every day.

Expense can be another barrier when it comes to eating well. Carbohydrates tend to be an affordable filler, and a lot of us might be tempted to fill up on chips or crackers rather than shell out for a chicken salad. Companies can remove this last barrier by offsetting the cost of healthy options offered onsite.


Make it Easy for Your Team to Stay Active

Exercise, like food, is personal, so it’s good to offer a variety of ways to help your people keep moving. Onsite options like a gym, pool, or fitness classes are all popular choices. But not everyone wants to mix exercise with work, or their activities just don’t mess well with the work day. It can be tough to kayak in the lap pool.

A lot of organizations are reaching out and offering to help their employees keep fit in whatever way works for them, by providing a “wellness benefit” or money that can be spent on qualifying fitness expenses – from roller skates to gym memberships and beyond. It’s yet another way to say, “Hey – we respect you to make your own health choices; we just want to make it easier for you to do.”


Reach Out And Ask Your Team

The best way to give your employees health and wellness offerings that they’re actually going to use is to find out what they want. So ask!

If you’re looking for guidance building your own workplace wellness program, get in touch.

Get started with a free CustomFresh consultation.