Your organization has gone to great lengths to put in a thoughtful and comprehensive wellness program for your employees. You’ve chosen elements of your program based on an analysis of your data, advertised the components, included wellness in your corporate goals, and communicated the breadth of your programming using a variety of methods with consistent messaging. You had terrific take up with lots of activity and engagement at the beginning of January!

However, people seem to be returning to old habits. Fitness activities are seeing a noticeable drop in participation, and enthusiasm for the elements of your wellness program has dropped off. What went wrong?

Well, potentially nothing. Your employees had the very best of intentions going in to a new year. They made resolutions, visited your intranet site and signed up for fitness classes. They were drinking water and making healthy food choices and counting their steps. But it’s winter, and couches are cozy, and Netflix just released the entire 10 seasons of Friends. So how can employers help their employees stay motivated and on track with their wellness goals?

Read: 3 factors to consider before launching a wellness program

Engage their families – Often, workplace wellness programs are specifically targeted at employees, and leave out a critical support piece—the family. When employees are accountable at home for their well behaviours as well as at work, they are much more likely to stay on track, and continue to succeed. Encourage employees to share health risk assessment tools or health coaching services with their family members. Consider the creation of a “wellness kit” that employees can take home, which includes ideas for physical activities and games, healthy recipes and shopping lists, smoking cessation information, and tips on stress management can help your employees to take wellness home.

Come up with a theme – Creating a health challenge around a theme like an Amazing Race, Walk Across Canada, or Passport to Health with events throughout the year and frequent progress updates creates buzz for your organization and helps keep up momentum. You can also leverage the seasonality, specially targeting seasons like winter when people are less likely to be active and tailoring your programming accordingly.

Read: Making wellness more meaningful

Help them keep track – Create a space where employees can log their activities, get ideas for activities (or compete) with their coworkers, lean on others for support and to keep them accountable. Include in your plan celebrations for successes, like when employees achieve milestones. This sort of a “wellness hub” can also have the side effect of increasing morale and camaraderie in the workplace as employees work toward their goals together.

Commitment contracts – Encourage participation by having your employees have skin in the game. One organization I worked with had employees commit their fitness goals to writing in an informal commitment contract. They incented these employees’ participation by giving them $10 every time they exercised up to three times per week for one month. When the month was done, the money earned was set aside. At the end of the next month, if the employees were still meeting their fitness goals, they received their reward. If they did not, their reward was given to charity. To paraphrase tennis great Jimmy Connors, we hate to lose more than we love to win.

Mix it up – Flagging motivation can be a by-product of boredom. Make sure your wellness programming includes a variety of programs that your employee can engage in in a variety of ways. Adding diversity into the elements of your program can keep things fresh for participants.

Read: A broader view of wellness

Take stock – Measure the participation rates and results of your programs against the goals of your wellness program at regular intervals throughout the year. Communicate the results of the program with your employee group and tweak your offerings and messaging to meet the evolving needs of your group.

And don’t fret! A dip in participation can be an opportunity for an organization to revisit your program and make adjustments to both the elements you’ve chosen to include, and the way you’ve chosen to communicate about it.

Kim Siddall is a vice-president and local practice leader at Aon. She has more than 20 years of experience in the health and benefits industry. These are the views of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.
Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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