Businesses that adopt a workplace wellness program recognize the inherent value of such an initiative. Typically defined as a strategic investment in employees’ physical and mental health, wellness programs often focus on helping employees meet health goals such as quitting smoking, lowering blood pressure, eating healthier, and incorporating more exercise into their daily routines.
As beneficial as such a program can be, a lack of enthusiasm, particularly among remote employees, can inhibit participation in these activities.
The good news is that there can be ways to generate engagement among remote workers; as with onsite employees, an effective wellness program can result in greater productivity, less time off due to sickness, and an overall happier workplace culture.
Here are five ways to help you engage remote employees in wellness programs:
1. Make wellness activities available to everyone across the board. Nothing breeds disengagement more than remote workers seeing wellness activities offered to onsite workers, with no offsite option included for them. Does your wellness program offer cardio or biometric screenings? Expand this health-focused opportunity so remote employees can be screened by their own physician or at a community clinic. If your employees participate in onsite fitness and exercise classes, consider streaming those sessions online to provide offsite participation as well.
2. Harness digital technology to boost engagement. Streaming is just one digital tool that can get remote workers more engaged. FaceTime, Skype, and other video resources are excellent tools for sharing wellness-focused webinars and fitness presentations with workers located remotely. Social media feeds can also keep these employees up to date on new in-house wellness initiatives, pep talks, and related activities.
Wearable technology also provides a useful way to link remote employees to a supportive online community. Remote workers can get inspired and encouraged through team challenges, leaderboards, buddy/friend links, and other social options.
3. Provide friendly social incentives to get involved. Employees may be more likely to respond favorably to wellness initiatives if they're part of a team. Incorporating elements like friendly competition (e.g., a mini-marathon or contests with fun prizes) can boost interest among larger groups of onsite and remote employees, and encourage them to adopt healthier habits in their everyday lives.
Lisa O'Farrell, Paychex senior HR generalist, suggests motivating remote employees (as well as those based onsite) through contests and raffles.
"Give employees a timeframe to participate in a specific wellness activity, and those who complete the activity on time are entered in a drawing with prizes," she offers. "Hold a raffle at the end of the company/team competition and offer individual and/or team raffle prizes. As long as you promote the contest beforehand and get buy-in from managers, this can be highly effective."
4. Pay attention to messaging. Employee engagement depends upon frequent, motivational communications from those in charge of wellness programs. Pay attention to the wording of your messages so remote workers don't feel excluded from news and updates.
5. Publicize onsite and remote employee wellness achievements. Recognizing and rewarding employee participation in wellness programs can move the needle toward greater engagement. Make note of remote employee participation at all-staff meetings. In your wellness communications, highlight employee achievements (number of pounds lost, how long since the last cigarette, etc.), to keep awareness and excitement high.
Of course, some employees don't want to share every bit of personal information, so another approach is collecting data on remote teams' accomplishments in these areas, and promoting this news in general weekly updates instead.
Communicating and encouraging participation from all employees, regardless of location, can help turn your existing wellness program into a great program. Taking the time to implement these key elements can help you ensure the time and money you invest in a wellness program helps your employees near and far.