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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.

Cisco takes a different approach with its wellbeing program's social component, which includes giving employees a week of paid time off (PTO) every year for volunteer work. That volunteer time isn't subtracted from their total PTO, according to Johnson. This type of giving back is especially important to millennials, she says, and the volunteer PTO both helps Cisco attract new workers and benefits the organizations its employees choose to assist.

Japanese electronics company Tokyo Electron, which in 2010 was one of the first organizations to rollout an employee Fitbit program, also tied its fitness challenges to charity goals, according to Vickie Lee, the company's senior vice president of HR. "For every step participants took in our Walk into Spring program, we made a contribution to a Japanese earthquake relief fund," she says. "The contributions increased participation, because employees knew that just by walking, they were contributing to the recovery efforts of their coworkers who were affected."

4. Emphasize team activities

As illustrated by the successes at Target and Tokyo Electron, many companies "are moving more towards the team aspect of fitness and wellness," says John Mills, executive vice president of business development at Rideau Recognition Solutions, which provides recognition and reward systems for employers. "Individual accomplishments are still very important and need to be recognized. But being part of a team and working towards a common goal of reporting wellness activities is increasing the participation rates in companies."

Employees are often motivated when they feel like they're part of a team, according to Mills, and a desire to help teammates can increase engagement levels in wellness programs. 

5. Tap social media to promote wellness

Indiana University Health encourages its employees to post photos of themselves on Twitter and other social networks using the hashtag #healthyselfie, according to Marci Cooper, its manager of employee wellness. The organization wants its staff to post photos of themselves exercising or being healthy this summer, for example. The #healthyselfie hashtag "gives other employees ideas, it makes a big organization smaller, and it makes wellness fun and fresh," she says.

Connecting social media with wellness at work can also payoff afterhours, according to Cooper. To help increase her daily steps, for instance, Cooper used the social network Nextdoor to find people on her block who were available to walk after putting their kids to bed. "My boss is really competitive and is an early bird," she says. "I needed a way to get in extra steps after work." Cooper's group consists of neighbors she didn't previously know, and they now walk frequently walk together, she says.


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