Promoting employee wellness — for example, helping employees stop smoking or lose weight — isn’t just about pointing people to some health goals and then telling people they’ll be rewarded for reaching them (or penalized for not reaching them!). It’s a matter of learning and behavior change, and those aren’t easy.
One tool for driving this kind of change is reminders. Once you’ve helped employees set goals, you need to gently nudge them every so often to remember what they’re aiming at, and take the kinds of actions that will promote achievement of these aims.
Obviously it’s impractical for managers, or whoever’s in charge of wellness in the organization, to go around tapping people on the shoulder and asking them whether they’re on course toward their particular wellness goals. But you can get that tap-on-the-shoulder effect through technology.
The folks at Employee Benefit News recently listed four virtual techniques/apps that can help:
1. Get up and get moving. Smart phone apps like HotSeat and UtiliFit prompt people to take breaks from desk work and engage in short (2-minute) exercises at various points during the day. In a pilot program at the American Heart Association, 33% of employees participated in HotSeat and 62% of those said doing so made them take more breaks from sitting and get more active. Or if you don’t want to spring for apps from outside providers, perhaps you can get your IT people to program periodic reminders that stream on employees’ screens and prompt them to get up and stretch.
2. Don’t help those jerks! The StickK app and website signs up users to support a charity or other organization that they hate if they don’t accomplish their wellness goals. If you hit your goal, you get your money back, or you can donate it to an organization you like.
3. They are what they eat. If you have a company cafeteria or cafe, you can install a smart-receipt program like Nutricate that informs people of the calorie counts and nutritional value of the food they’re ordering.
4. Meeting a trainer on-line. Sites like FitOrbit and Hitch Fit offer on-line “personal” training that includes a customized fitness and nutrition program plus actual coaching, via texts or e-mail. You might consider contributing to employee memberships with these kinds of programs as part of your benefits package.
Of course, tools like these are only part of a successful wellness program. Frequent communication, feedback and encouragement all play critically important roles. But why not take advantage of technology if it can help?
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