Wellness is serious business. Doing it right means your employees live happier, healthier lives and are more productive at work. It also means companies get the return on investment that they expect from their wellness programs, and their bottom lines improve accordingly.
But does it really need to be that serious? After all, one of the major reasons why wellness programs suffer from low engagement is the harsh reality that many employees have come to view “wellness” as a corporate chore — something to simply check off rather than get excited about.
Infusing fun into your wellness program can be a highly effective way to boost engagement. Studies have also suggested that a fun work environment contributes to increased productivity and job satisfaction, which leads to happier and healthier employees.
“An increasing body of research demonstrates that when leaders lighten up and create a fun workplace, there is a significant increase in the level of employee trust, creativity, and communication — leading to lower turnover, higher morale and a stronger bottom line,” according to The Levity Effect: Why It Pays to Lighten Up.
Better yet, it doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. Here are some ways to make your wellness programs more fun.
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune
Sure, you can do what Google has done in the past and rent out all of Disneyland for three nights in a row for its West Coast staffers. But you don’t need Google money to have fun. You can tease out the child in all of us by bringing back physical activities like Twister, hopscotch, roller-skating, pogo sticks, trampolines, hula hoops, tug of war, dodge ball and more. Have fresh fruit delivered or offer a healthy happy hour at work. Set up a Ping Pong table and organize an all-company tournament; you might be surprised at the near-Olympic-level intensity of play.
It’s not all about exercise and nutrition
Wellness programs can sometimes seem like a chore because companies make the mistake of focusing exclusively on trying to get employees to exercise more. No one wants to be constantly hounded to get off their behinds or to eat better. Consider ways to improve other areas of employee concerns, including their mental, emotional, and financial well-being.
You might organize meditation sessions, a lunch-and-learn about getting out of debt, allowing for half-Fridays during the summer, arranging for chair massages or manicures in the office, or putting on a talent show to showcase your most gifted employees.
The fun comes in the variety of programs and perks you’re offering to employees — rather than incessantly hitting them over the head with the exercise or nutrition stick.
It is all about the culture
Planning a fun activity here and there is all well and good. But the bigger impact comes as a result of building a corporate culture that truly values a positive and healthful workplace. That way, coming up with a silly game to play in the middle of the workday doesn’t seem so, well, silly.
The Motley Fool has long been admired for its highly engaged wellness program (86 percent of employees take part). But it all starts with a culture that prioritizes employee trust and happiness. Add to that free spinning classes, in-house subsidized massages, discounted gym memberships, 50 percent reimbursements for participating in a race of any kind, flexible work schedules, no-limit vacations, and free healthy snacks, among other amazing benefits. Talk about a fun place to work!
It’s about your community, too
Feeling good about yourself is a lot of fun. That’s why organizing a group volunteering effort can be an excellent morale booster. A 2013 UnitedHealth Group study found that 76 percent of participants said volunteering made them feel healthier, 78 percent said it lowered their stress levels, and 94 percent said it improved their mood.
“Volunteers are more likely than non-volunteers to consider themselves in excellent or very good health,” according to the study, “and they are more likely to say that their health has improved over the past 12 months.”
No wonder some companies go even further and offer paid time off just for volunteering.
Fun can mean a lot of different things to different people. The key is to make it an essential and continuing part of your culture. Try various experiments and pay attention to how your employees respond. The goal is to always be innovative on your benefit offerings, in big and small ways, to keep workers engaged.
Eric Mann heads up marketing efforts for our key partners. He has more than 20 years of technology and health care marketing experience, leading browser marketing for Netscape and product marketing for Oracle Health Science.