By Stefan Gingerich, M.S., senior research analyst at StayWell

History has shown how powerful a social or grassroots movement can be. Think about the multitude of social media challenges that arise—some good (Ice Bucket), some bad (eating detergent, really?). Or perhaps voting rights movements around the nation and the world, going back hundreds of years.

Grassroots efforts are about mobilizing a group of people who are passionate about a cause and harnessing the power of their conviction. This kind of movement relies on individuals who are willing to drive the change from the ground-up. So, it makes sense that well-being programs tap into this in the form of wellness champion networks.

A wellness champion network is a group of employees who work together to improve the health and culture of the workplace in conjunction with an employer-sponsored well-being program. Wellness champions accomplish this by connecting with others and helping to educate colleagues about program offerings.

It’s important to note that wellness champions are not medical experts or health insurance consultants. Rather, they are passionate and dedicated to making their workplaces healthier in whatever way they can.

This strategy has been around for a while, with some StayWell clients having a champion network in place for decades, while other employers, like Dominion Energy and Farm Credit, have adopted this strategy more recently. The beautiful thing about champion networks is that they can scale to an organization of any size.

As an employer, benefits professional, or health promotion practitioner, here are a few things you should know about wellness champions:

  • Employees generally volunteer for this role; it is not part of their paid position
  • The number of wellness champions at any one company can vary greatly—from a handful to hundreds—depending on the company size and number of work sites
  • Essential characteristics a wellness champion should possess include having a passion for good health and well-being and having the ability to follow through on initiatives and delegate tasks to others
  • A wellness champion network will be most successful when the workplace culture supports health and when leadership is actively involved
  • A dedicated well-being program manager can help support your network of champions by providing and coordinating resources (StayWell’s Dedicated Well-being Staff bolster effectiveness by supporting them at the work site level)

One common misconception is that wellness champions can only be those employees who are already running marathons or at their ideal weight. This is not the case. Wellness champions primarily need to understand the value of a healthy workforce, be willing to support the mission of corporate well-being programs, and share both their passion and experiences with others. These are individuals who truly embrace the notion of “walking the talk” and strive to be a positive health role model to their peers.

Learn more about how StayWell not only helps build company culture, but also becomes an active part of it.