Corporate wellness programs may increase employees’ energy, stress resistance, and improve their health. But good results will only come if companies succeed to master the key HR challenge: “How do we reach everyone and not just the ones who already live a healthy life?”
Writer: Mikael Bredberg.
Read: 5 min.
Mikael Bredberg is one of the founders of We +. He is passionate about wellness programs that boosts team spirit and engages everyone in the company.
Sure, it is a good thing to get the physically active employees to join too. But the most favorable results with corporate wellness programs are reached when you include the ones who do not usually participate in the company’s health initiatives – when you reach the ones that often get stuck at home on the couch instead of working out.
So in this article, we will focus on that. The results come from our health challenges, which include tens of thousands of employees over several years.
We have split this article into two parts. First, we talk about how many of our participants are physically inactive at the start of the program, and the results they get during the program. Then we share our best tips on how to get the ones who don’t usually join activities like this to join the program.
Reaching out to everyone and get them to join – even the physically inactive
Every third to every fifth employee participating in an activity with us is physically inactive* before the program. Sure, there are differences between different industries, but the vast majority of companies are in the range of 20% – 35% of inactive employees.
Among those who have signed up for a program with us and state themselves as “physically inactive” at the start, as many as 92% begin to exercise and are no longer considered as “physically inactive” when the program ends. They also get excellent results when we measure the number of active minutes per week. More on that below.
* Physically inactive = exercise less than once a week. This is what they state when they start the program with us.
Percentage of inactive participants at start: 26% (less than 1 workout / week)
Percentage of inactive activated: 92%
Average minutes of physical activity per week for the group that started as physically inactive: 224 min.
New exercise habits – through the power of the group
Can you tell that the physically inactive employees are starting new, more active exercise habits?
– We can. We follow up on the risk group, i.e. those who stated that they are physically inactive because they exercise less than once a week. We can see that, on average, 92% of these have left this group during the program and started exercising more. If we look at this group in isolation, we see that on average, they have been physically active 224 minutes per week during the weeks of the program, says Mikael Bredberg at We+.
224 minutes of exercise per week during the program is close to the average for all our participants (269 min/week) and well above the WHO’s recommendations of 150 minutes of physical activity per week for a healthy life.
– The participants’ results mean that during the 6-8 week challenge they have experienced all the positive effects of regular exercise. It’s a pretty long time. The positive effects of regular exercise can be felt in both mind and body and is the best advertisement for a continued active life, says Mikael.
“We can see that more than 90% of our participants who previously were inactive, get started and exercise during the challenge. That makes us very proud and happy.”
/Mikael Bredberg, We+
In other words, the most important work is done before the program starts, getting as many people as possible to register. If we can get the employees to sign up, we are confident that we will activate the vast majority of them, as the results shows. Our best tips for getting your employees to sign up for corporate wellness programs are:
Tip 1. Do one thing at a time and do it properly – don’t try to do everything at once
It is much more difficult to identify and reach a group if you focus on several different things and goals. It is tempting to choose a solution that addresses all aspects, such as stress, diet, exercise, mindfulness, and work/life balance etc. Unfortunately, this won’t work. The focus will be lost, and the results will be poor. Do one thing at a time and do it properly.
Tip 2. Adapt the communication based on the target group
Many of our customers have an expressed desire to reach those who are not physically active; those who have not participated in previous wellness programs. When you want to reach them, there are some important things to keep in mind:
- Use a positive approach. Highlight team spirit and social aspects.
- Involve the company leaders and managers. Make sure they receive information about the purpose of the program and ask them to be ambassadors and inspire employees to sign up. The focus here is that everyone can join regardless of current fitness level or exercise habits.
- Get through the noise. Use several different channels to inform and remind employees to sign up, such as emails, posters, intranet, Monday meetings, etc. At least two reminders are usually needed.
By creating a warm and positive atmosphere and team spirit with cheering, encouragement and a touch of positive peer pressure it will get the participants exercising. And once you get started, it’s much easier to continue. That’s our secret.
A wellness program like this gives the desired effect, for both the individual and the organization.