Wellness: go beyond metrics and challenges to achieve success

Fran Melmed, a thought leader in the wellness industry, had an interesting blog about the Virgin Disruptors event this week. Over the three-hour discussion, she didn’t hear any talk of “how to engage employees in challenges, incent them to complete a health risk assessment or measure their biometrics.” Sure, the speakers’ organizations, including host Richard Branson and panelists from Facebook, Zappos, The Huffington Post and Yahoo, do those things. But the takeaway was that true well-being is promoted by giving employees “the freedom and responsibility to do amazing things, to bring one’s whole self to work and wonder at life, to have and tend to family, to understand that the customer experience and the employee experience align and the expectation that pay is not a gender issue.”

In case you think that’s “pie in the sky” talk and not practical, consider the article in US News & World Report, 8 Employee Wellness Ideas That Would Actually Work”. The article suggests that instead of putting the burden on employees to change their lifestyle (which they resent and resist), look at ways your organization can promote wellness, including:

  1. Provide easy access to healthy meals and snacks.
  2. Make it easier for people to exercise.
  3. Stop the weight-loss competitions.
  4. Offer great health insurance.
  5. Discourage people from coming to work sick.
  6. Stop requiring doctors’ notes for sick employees.
  7. Provide reasonable amounts of paid sick time.
  8. Encourage people to actually use their vacation time.

Considering the EEOC’s new proposed rules around wellness programs (summarized here), it might be time to take a step back and consider what your organization can do to promote wellness, rather than forcing lifestyle changes on employees. By moving beyond metrics and challenges, you may create a wellness program that truly succeeds.