A few years ago, I wrote that improving health is a lot like raising a child. Preparing a child to be a productive, responsible adult takes a whole village.

The village metaphor still works today – perhaps even more so. Creating a culture of health in your workplace requires being intentional about creating a work climate that encourages all the people in the “village” to become engaged in their health and well-being.

StayWell has long followed a whole-person approach to helping people as they seek to live their best lives. We offer innovative programs that support people’s physical, emotional, social and financial health – their total well-being. And we help employers understand and realize the bottom-line value of a happier, healthier, more productive workforce.

So far, so good. But the real challenge in creating a culture of health and well-being in your workplace is to engage everyone in the process, regardless of their current readiness to engage in their health. That includes people not even willing to consider changes in their current lifestyle, those just starting to think about making changes, those ready to take the plunge, and those who have already made progress and need some support to keep moving forward in a healthy direction.

The science of behavior change backs up this approach. If we support and encourage change only with those who say “I’m ready” to make a particular lifestyle change or who are already on their way - the so-called “low-hanging fruit” – we make the strategic error of leaving up to 70 percent of the village out in the cold. We miss the opportunity to build out a culture of well-being across the entire organization.

Steps to building a culture of well-being
Our experience confirms the importance of having a multi-pronged strategy to engage everyone in the workforce in long-lasting change – and having a keen understanding of what motivates people to take action.

  • Match the plan to the current culture. Understanding the starting point is key, so StayWell works with our clients to complete an upfront workplace culture assessment that identifies gaps and opportunities. We follow up with a three-year plan that maps out strategies such as onsite staff for dedicated support, and a Wellness Champion Network to leverage and recognize people who are already passionate role models for health and well-being.
  • Tailor options to the individual. Customized online experiences are today’s norm. Our StayWell CONNEXT portal uses data gathered as we interact with users to serve up a tailored online experience and toolset that matches each individual’s unique needs and interests. Their online experience also makes it easy for them to see their step-by-step progress towards better health and well-being.
  • Find the balance between technology and human interaction. Meeting people where they are means integrating with devices, apps and social platforms. But, while digital coaching may be a great fit for many people, many others respond far better to the human touch of telephonic or even face-to-face coaching support. Offering a range of health coaching options helps employers reach and engage many more of their employees.
  • Reward the small steps. The science of behavior change tells us to make tasks fun and doable and recognize progress quickly and frequently. For example, participants in StayWell’s highly successful Million Steps challenge earn fun rewards for completing milestones along the way: a daily “badge” for walking 10,000 steps and badges for achieving monthly goals.

When we make it easy for people to use wellness and well-being programs, when we customize personal, social and technological interactions, and when we build in motivators for both small and big achievements, we set the stage for success. Not just for 30 percent who are already engaged, but for your entire workforce village.