For some people — perhaps most people — the biggest obstacle to better employee wellness isn’t a lack of time but motivation. Exercising regularly, preparing healthy meals, and even meditation can feel tedious. With so many other and, frankly, more entertaining distractions vying for our attention, wellness can quickly fall by the wayside.
If you look forward to your morning run or enjoy a hearty bowl of whole grains this might seem strange. But the fact remains, for many, wellness is homework.
According to a 2021 poll, half of Americans don’t exercise as much as they would like because they find no pleasure in it. A British survey found that half of dieters give up on healthy eating because their new food choices are “boring.”
When designing and improving your company’s employee wellness program, it’s important to keep in mind that making it fun for your employees is not a nice-to-have; it’s essential. Simply put, if your wellness program is no fun, no one will participate.
Here are five tips for boosting your employee wellness program’s fun factor:
1. Launch With a Big Kickoff Celebration
Remember those high school pep rallies that got players and spectators alike pumped for the big game? There’s something about a high energy group gathering that gets people excited to take on a challenge.
You can apply the same idea to your employee wellness program. Set aside a day or at least a few hours where everyone is excused from work and invited to join in a wellness program kickoff celebration. Your kickoff can feature motivational speakers, music (maybe dancing?), healthy snacks, and games, along with biometric screening and information on wellness program features.
Free giveaways like t-shirts and mugs are highly encouraged.
2. Incorporate Friendly Competition Into Your Wellness Program
For some people, if there’s no score, there’s no fun. Ask them to run a mile and they’ll grumble. But put a soccer ball in front of them and they’ll happily run all day.
This isn’t to say you should encourage cutthroat competition in your wellness program, but a little friendly rivalry might be just the motivation some of your employees need to get moving. Try including some competitive sports among your wellness offerings, such as participation in corporate softball, basketball, or volleyball leagues, a pickleball tournament, or a 5k race. (Just be sure to be inclusive; less skilled athletes shouldn’t feel unwelcome.)
Keep in mind that the spirit of friendly competition can motivate people to participate in non-physical wellness activities, as well. For example, trivia leagues and board game groups are excellent ways to build camaraderie between team members and nurture supportive social connections.
3. Keep Mixing It Up
The Mayo Clinic reports that there is a strong link between boredom and workout-related injuries.
“As you get bored with a fitness routine, it is easier to skip workouts, take shortcuts with stretching or use poor form. Doing so can increase the risk of injury, which can delay or sideline your exercise goals,” says the prestigious health center.
But there is an antidote: keeping your exercise routine fresh. If you can’t stand the idea of another run, go for a swim. If you’re sick of the same old elliptical trainer, try out the stair climber.
The same goes for your employee wellness program. Your employees may have been excited to join in the steps challenge when it launched a few years ago, but now it’s lost some of its luster. Maybe it’s time to recapture your employees’ enthusiasm with some novel challenges. (For example, replace steps with distance. Can the team, as a whole, walk the length of your state in a month?)
4. Integrate Technology Into Your Employee Wellness Program
We often hear about how an overreliance on technology can harm our wellbeing. But digital tools can also spur us toward greater health and contentment. It’s simply a matter of choosing the right tools and using them responsibly.
For example, there are several high quality mindfulness apps that have shown promise helping people improve their mental health and focus. These apps use charming illustrations and soothing voice-overs to demystify mindfulness, making it accessible to all. You can offer free subscriptions to one of these apps through your employee wellness program.
Fitness trackers are another example. Who doesn’t get a kick out of watching their fitness stats improve over time? Basic fitness trackers make a relatively affordable employee giveaway. (And if you don’t have the budget, most smartphones also possess fitness tracking capabilities.)
5. Ask Employees for Their Ideas
Your company’s wellness program may feel to some employees like just another corporate mandate. This is because they have no ownership of it. It’s more fun to participate in activities you had a hand in planning.
Ask your employees what elements they would enjoy in the wellness program. You can reach out by email, text, schedule a voluntary meeting, or just ask around informally. Let employees know that nothing is off the table. You might be surprised by the unique — and fun — ideas they come up with.