It’s no secret that workplace wellness programs are quickly becoming a staple in employee benefits packages.
According to Fidelity’s Employee Wellness Survey, last year saw 76 percent of companies with initiatives to improve employee physical and mental health, up from 58 percent in 2008.
Unfortunately, employees too often neglect these programs. Common workplace wellness initiatives, such as disease management, tobacco cessation and weight and lifestyle management floundered at an average of about 10 percent employee participation in 2016. And remained unchanged even after offers of cash incentives and other forms of encouragement.
Workplace wellness programs are more than an optional job perk. They provide employees with numerous resources to manage their health on the clock by combating a sedentary workweek.
The best way to take advantage of your company’s wellness initiative is by taking it beyond a corporate-led health kick and making it a true lifestyle change.
< MAKE IT PERSONAL
Health has a different definition for everyone, and achieving and maintaining your healthy lifestyle is not a one-size-fits-all process. Your workplace wellness program exists to help you interpret your personal definition of health by addressing your specific needs.
Addressing what those needs are may serve as a challenge in itself, as we’re often conditioned by our busy lifestyles to put our health on the back burner for the sake of productivity.
Inconsistent sleep cycles, poor diets and low energy levels all are of interest to your workplace wellness provider. Unfortunately, these common, yet persistent, health complaints tend to fall by the wayside.
Initially, it’s helpful to ask yourself which areas of your health need attention. Don’t be afraid to get up close and personal when planning the route to a lifestyle change that works for you.
Take the time to communicate with your wellness provider in terms of what results you expect from a workplace wellness program. This will help you create a plan best suited for your individual needs and hold yourself accountable from the get-go.
< SET THE RIGHT GOALS
Your workplace wellness program may provide the means and motivation for you to kick-start your lifestyle change, but the follow-through is ultimately up to you.
With that said, make sure you can visualize your success by setting realistically attainable health goals.
Can’t see yourself losing 10 pounds in a month or quitting smoking cold turkey? That’s an ambitious plan for anyone, and a common pitfall for people looking for results too quickly.
Save yourself the frustrating burnout down the road by remembering that your efforts to improve your health aren’t a race and shouldn’t come shackled with rigid deadlines and far-fetched goals. Even the smallest steps to improve your health are steps in the right direction.
< THE REAL REWARD
A cash prize for changing your lifestyle sounds pretty enticing from any angle. But should it be your sole incentive to jump on your company’s next workplace wellness initiative?
Not unless you’re only seeking a temporary fix.
Sure, the extra nudge may motivate you to reach a goal, but not necessarily to sustain the activities that earned the prize. This goes for any short-term goal, including dropping a dress size for your next company event or being beachwear-ready for your co-worker’s destination wedding in the Bahamas.
When embarking on a lifestyle change, big or small, the primary goal always should be to improve your health. This goal is not limited by an expiration date, and while not the most exciting or tempting option, the benefits of improved health extend far beyond increased energy and productivity on the clock.
Just because your lifestyle change begins in the workplace doesn’t mean it ends there. Changing your habits with a workplace wellness program will impact every aspect of your life and likely that of your children, spouse and other family members by reinforcing positive behaviors.
While there’s no instant fix for perfectly managing your physical, mental and emotional health, workplace wellness programs exist to help make serious improvements to your life.
Why not take the jump?
Dr. Pete Obeng is an occupational medicine specialist with Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono, East Stroudsburg. Occupational medicine includes pre-employment physical exams, Department of Transportation physicals, acute care, work injury treatment and management and immunization services. For information, call 866-762-3627.