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How You Can Make Workplace Wellness Work

Although each workplace culture is unique, there are seven simple things all employers can do to lay a foundation of success upon which wellness, and CEOs at all levels, can thrive.

Start with what’s right. For decades, health improvement has used scare tactics to get people to adopt the basics of a healthy lifestyle: stop smoking, eat better and exercise more. Here’s the rub: Most people already know what they should and shouldn’t do, and yet over 97 percent of Americans fail to meet these minimum requirements, according to a recent study. Preaching and scare tactics rarely help change these behaviors for long. Therefore, rather than using fear to motivate change, try starting with what’s right. A positive-first approach has been shown to have lasting effects. For example, in one study of heart attack patients, a fear-based approach to compliance with post-event lifestyle guidelines was effective only in 10 percent of patients. Alternatively, when encouraged to embrace life and focus on the positives of their situation, over 85 percent of post-cardiac patients were compliant with guidelines one year after a heart attack and nearly 80 percent were compliant three years later.

Uncover the hidden factors. Transforming your workplace culture starts with understanding and uncovering its inherent challenges and opportunities. This can best be accomplished by utilizing a formal culture assessment tool along with conducting assessments that are more qualitative in nature. These include employee focus groups or visioning sessions to gain a better understanding of how your workplace culture is perceived and experienced by employees. 

Design nudges and cues. Use the findings from your quantitative and qualitative culture assessments to design and deploy cultural “nudges” and “cues” that reinforce the desired culture to employees on a daily basis. Nudges are environmental prompts that make it easy to stick to healthy habits, such as offering healthy snacks at meetings or establishing a safe walking path around the office, while cues are cultural prompts that make healthy behaviors the norm, such as conducting walking meetings or starting meetings by focusing on things that are going right with a project or work initiative.

Go stealth. Wellness works best when it’s not a standalone program, but rather when it’s embedded into the fabric of business as usual. A smart way to achieve this is by looking for ways to “go stealth,” incorporating well-being into other, non-wellness programs such as leadership development, safety training, and onboarding. Think also about the language you use when talking about wellness to employees. If you focus your communication around concepts like “energy management,” “resilience” or “human performance,” you may find that employees are more likely to engage and in more meaningful ways.

Create meaning. Financial incentives or devices may present an initial allure that gets employees on the dance floor, but meaningful stories and experiences will motive them to change and embrace well-being for the long term. Take, for example, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon who famously used his experience undergoing cancer treatment to encourage his employees to focus on their own health and family connections. Finding relatable examples from your own experience can help make well-being seem more attainable to employees.

Employee well-being is not a “one-and-done” proposition. It is a journey of many small steps made by numerous individuals—from corporate leadership to frontline managers and your entire workforce. Together, these individuals and the culture you allow them to create can take your workplace and your well-being efforts from good to great.


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    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

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    Golf Outing

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    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

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