Wellness programs can provide a two-way benefit for both employers and employees when designed properly, and benefit managers need to evaluate their approach to engaging employees in the programs.

“The whole concept of one-size-fits-all is ridiculous,” says Brad Cooper, CEO of US Corporate Wellness. “It has to be one-size-fits-one or it simply doesn’t work.”

[Image: Bloomberg]
[Image: Bloomberg]

Take Facebook for example, he says. The reason it’s so popular is because “it’s all about me,” and wellness programs need to be the same.

And wellness programs cannot be about overnight change, he cautions. “You’re trying to help them take one step at a time.”

For wellness programs to work, he adds, it’s important that the programs are engaging. Offering lunch and learns and gym memberships are great, but the six employees who show up just want a free lunch, and the gym memberships will only be an incentive for those already using it.

“Participation is checking a box, engaging is changing lives,” he said at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

And a well-designed and engaging program will provide benefits twofold: improved productivity and lower healthcare costs for employers and healthier and more financially secure employees.

And focus on keystone habits, he adds – those things that influence other unintended habits. The most powerful, he says, is exercise.

He says studies have shown that people who weren’t previously exercising and started to – even just a little bit – noticed improvements in relationships and eating habits and reported lower stress levels and a decrease in credit card use. “When we start these keystone habits they influence all these other habits,” he said.

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