It takes a team to improve health. At least, in the workplace it does.
Exercising and dieting are hard. Most people need a lot more of both; minimally, everyone needs the right diet. That’s why Facebook teems with exercise and diet groups ready to cheer those undergoing the mental and physical hardships of getting lean and clean.
Studies confirm that co-workers and social media friends are watching. Your influence is greater than you think. So, if you’re posting your morning sweaty selfies after a good workout or sharing your late afternoon power shake photos on Instagram, chances are others will take notice.
Monkey See Monkey Do
Inspiration is the strength of your social connections. Smart employers exploit that resource at the workplace by creating a team of wellness champions to support wellness initiatives and the overall health and wellness program.
This network of health advocates do what everyone else does, healthwise: lose weight, quit smoking, manage diabetes, or get fit. They’re working toward their health goals, like anyone else in the company. Or maybe they’re managing pain or maintaining their fitness.
But they also disseminate information to educate workers about health and the company’s wellness program. They support those trying to better their lives. These leaders know the wellness pulse of the organization, what’s working and what’s not, because they’re in the fray with the rest of the employee fold, struggling and succeeding too.
Wellness champs typically volunteer for their roles as “cheerleaders,” coaches, educators, and liaisons with top wellness strategizers. They’re passionate people who have a good rapport with employees and management, so they make great role models. And that’s what you want.
In coordination with top management or the wellness vendor, your carefully-selected team will increase wellness program awareness and foster a culture of health. They often help provide leadership with critical feedback.
Most importantly, however, they are the mouthpieces of your program and what it offers employees. Therefore, leaders should be clear what they want to communicate and how they want it communicated. Health champions need to know their roles within the organization and how they’re empowered to represent the company’s goals.
They need training, guidance, and acknowledgement for their work too. While your champions probably have natural abilities to lead and love people, motivating others to reach their and the company’s health goals takes knowing what to do generally but specifically what and how the company wants to achieve those mutual goals.
Champion Networks Get Results
The wellness message gets through to employees via champion networks. Other employees are more open to receive information from successful peers. And informed employees are more likely to participate in a workplace wellness program. Increased participation yields global achievements, like more completed health risk assessments, for example.
The optimal number of champions for results is anywhere from 1 to 3 percent of the work population—enough people to be visible as they carry on the company’s wellness work of model health advocates.
Indeed, they must be passionate, communicative, and exemplary enthusiasts for healthy lifestyle changes. They must not be in it for their own game, i.e., pushing health products.
What They Do
Besides creating awareness of the program offerings and ensuring employees understand the company program, health heros provide support by encouraging people on their health journey, share stories of their own experiences, and head up specific informational events during lunch breaks or throughout the company.
They may lead the lunch walks, stair competitions, biggest loser competitions, zumba classes or charity run the company sponsors. Perhaps it’s the coordinated company effort to get employees to onsite screenings or community health fairs they organize. They’re in charge of the wellness business, vitality and fun.
But it’s not all fun and games. They must do all of the following:
- Prioritize: which company goals are the most important this year and the next.
- Plan: what is in their capacity to achieve and how to focus on those strategies.
- Understand: how success is measured, results reported, feedback given, budget available, and legal violations (such as confidentiality) avoided.
- Use: resources and time available to meet, collaborate, and communicate.
Who They Are
Network champions must be dedicated, investing time in their responsibilities. They must also be informed. If company leaders calculate specific metrics for goal achievement and program satisfaction, the champion team should be aware of those numbers to achieve the comprehensive aims of the program. So, program leaders are not just fitness buffs; they’re business minded too.
They see the big picture of what the company wants to achieve and how to get there holistically. Health is not a one way, one approach to a straight line. People not only have various challenges and starting points, they have different definitions of health. One person seeks to run a marathon, while another wants to work a day pain free.
Champions are organized leaders and have ties to the health industry or at least know how to find the right people. They know how to get things done and find solutions to problems, but most of all, they know how to connect with people and build trust. They have a genuine desire to make the workplace a less stressful, more fun environment.
Health heros are positive and social. But they’re also busy. They have their jobs to do in addition to volunteering. They need recognition from their peers and leaders to keep their engines running. Just as many wellness programs include incentives to motivate employees, the motivators’ accomplishments merit rewards too.