The Case against Employee “Wellness” Challenges

Employee wellness challenges are very popular corporate programs – from walking challenges to weight loss challenges. But these challenges actually come with a number of issues which can make them more of a problem than a solution.

1. Change is temporary

One of the big drawbacks of these challenges is that they are not effective in creating any lasting changes in employee behaviors. Typically, employees will engage in a given healthy behavior for the duration of the challenge but fall off as soon as it’s over (if they make it that far). This is because the challenge is an extrinsic motivator rather than an intrinsic motivator. Extrinsic motivators are simply not as potent as internally-driven motivators. If one of the goals of your wellness program is to change employee behaviors, challenges will not achieve that.

2. Workplace wellness challenges don’t account for skills and strategies

Another reason why change does not last following these challenges is that they don’t provide employees with the skills and tools they need to implement the challenge objectives in a meaningful way. Instead, left to their own devices, employees will find a strategy that works for the time being, typically forcing the habit. Strategies are hodge-podge and not sustainable rather than accounting their day-to-day reality in the long-term.

3. Challenges can be triggering

For someone struggling with or in recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating, weight loss and fitness challenges can be triggering for them. This puts their recovery in jeopardy and can result in their sliding back into disordered behaviors. These challenges are also inherently fatphobic, equating weight with health and overlooking the fact that there is more to someone’s weight than eating and exercise habits. Employees in larger bodies may feel singled out or unduly pressured in the course of these challenges. If you want to foster a safe, inclusive work environment, then it is best to avoid these wellness challenges.

4. Success tactics may not be healthy

When there is the promise of a prize and the challenge is short-term, some employees may resort to tactics that are not healthful for the sake of winning. Obviously, employing unhealthy tactics undermines the intent of the challenge and can create other issues for employee health.

So what should you offer if employee wellness programs aren’t effective?

An effective employee wellness program must take into account the unique needs of your staff. When is your most difficult season? What are their major stressors? What are their biggest health concerns (if you know of any)? It must be educational as well as practical and motivational. It should teach appropriate skills and strategies and leave employees with doable action items. There should also be some variety in the program to appeal to different learning styles: some webinars, some demonstrations, some interactive and hands-on options. Above all, your employees need to feel that it is a program that truly has their best interests at heart.

Be sure to check out Well & Simple’s comprehensive employee wellness offerings

Deskercise!

This week, I’m happy to bring you a guest post from Concept Seating. We are a very sedentary society and that lifestyle takes its toll on our bodies and our health. Health risks of sitting too much include neck and spinal issues, muscle tightness, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist. These translate into conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Many of us think that our half hour on the treadmill in the morning means that sitting at work for the rest of the day doesn’t matter, but that simply isn’t enough.

For many of us, the modern work environment leaves us little option than to sit most of the day, so it’s important to try to counteract those effects as much as possible throughout the day. How? Well, getting up and taking regular walking breaks is one way – try setting a reminder to get up and walk around your floor or the building every half hour or hour (some fitness trackers do this for you by buzzing every so often). As an added bonus, taking these breaks can improve your focus and thinking when you get back to your desk. Stretching is also critical to counteracting the muscle contractions that happens from hunching in front of a computer screen for hours on end.  The following exercises from Concept Seating give you a great combination of stretching and strengthening that you can do at your desk at any time of the day.  They help improve your posture, loosen up those shrunken muscles from hunching, and get you moving. Give them a try and let us know what you think!

Deskercise

Infographic courtesy of Concept Seating