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5 easy ways to keep employees engaged in wellness

James A. Martin | July 15, 2016
Employee wellness programs are no longer a novelty, and in many organizations the initial excitement has died down. Corporate wellness experts and HR reps share real-world examples of how to keep staff engaged with simple enhancements and incentives.

During the past few years, many organizations received this memo: Healthy employees are good for the bottom line. Employee wellness benefits and fitness challenges that use technologies such as Fitbit trackers and mobile apps are the new normal.

Giving away or subsidizing activity trackers has proven to effectively engage employees, and the trend should continue. By 2018, as much as 80 percent of wellness programs in the United States could involve fitness trackers, and they'll motivate up to a third of U.S. workers to obtain a wristband or other tracker, according to Angela McIntyre, a research director for wearables at Gartner.

How can organizations encourage and even grow employee engagement in these programs? Speakers at Fitbit's recent Captivate conference and additional corporate wellness experts share insights.

1. Turn wellness into wellbeing

Plain old wellness programs, devoted to encouraging employees to improve their physical health, are so 2015. Today, such programs are evolving into wellbeing programs that encompass physical, emotional, social and even financial health. 

"The wellness program conversation has changed as organizations recognize and acknowledge that holistic health and wellness extend far beyond one's physical health," says Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, which provides a suite of employee health and wellbeing products. "No longer is healthcare cost reduction the primary reason for helping employees stay mentally, physically and emotionally healthy. Wellbeing is now becoming strategic for many leading organizations."

Boyce expects the trend to continue as organizations expand their definitions of wellbeing and understand the business value associated with getting employees engaged in programs that help them be successful in other areas of their lives.  

Cisco is a good example of a global firm that recently evolved from offering simple wellness programs to a more rounded wellbeing platform. The networking company's traditional wellness benefits include access to seven high tech U.S. fitness centers, where employees can use cloud-based software to record their workouts, talk to trainers, or watch TV during workouts, according to Katelyn Johnson, Cisco's manager of integrated health. Cisco also takes a BYOD approach to employee activity trackers, and the company lets staff connect their Fitbits, Garmins, Apple Watches and other devices to the "wellness cloud," she says.

Today, Cisco's wellbeing platform consists of four pillars of health: physical, emotional, social and financial health, according to Johnson. Health-focused cloud software, apps and technologies developed by Cisco partners enable each pillar. As a technology company, Cisco's pillars have high-tech components, though the goal is to make sure Cisco "uses the right technology at the right time to drive the right behaviors," she says.

As part of the emotional pillar, for example, Cisco offers on-site mindfulness workshops and lets employees practice mindfulness using mobile apps and games. The company also hopes to eventually deliver virtual mindfulness workshops, according to Johnson.

 

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