Quick Summary: “A wellness committee is one of the core elements of a model comprehensive wellness program,” explains Ken Holtyn, president of Holtyn & Associates, Health Promotion Consultants. A committee composed of employees gives workers a sense of ownership. What’s more, employees can be more effective than management in understanding what’s needed to change a culture and convince fellow employees to give wellness a try.
Creating the right culture is the first step
The long-term success of any wellness program depends on the corporate culture. The workplace culture includes shared values and heartfelt beliefs about what is important. It includes social standards of expected and accepted behavior called “cultural norms.”
The committee needs to know what those cultural norms are and ask, “How well does our worksite support healthy behavior?” The answer needs to look at both the environment and policies:
- Do the vending machines and cafeteria include healthy options?
- Are stairwells clean, safe, and inviting for individuals to use instead of elevators?
- Are walking paths, either inside or out, available and use encouraged?
- Is the health and well-being of employees included in the company mission statement?
- Are there flexible schedule policies that allow employees to participate in physical activity?
Signs of a healthy corporate culture are these:
Employees communicate openly.
Leaders support diversity of opinion.
Employees have fun.
Policies support wellness.
Employees are encouraged to grow.
Employees work together as a team.
Employees’ skills and talents are matched to their jobs.
Flexible work schedules are available.
Employers consider employees their most valuable asset.
The wellness committee should include a broad representation of employees in the company. “It shouldn’t be too top heavy,” Holtyn said. “The members should come from the rank and file, including union members if the company is unionized.”
A common mistake is filling the committee with the most health/fitness-conscious people in the company. Holtyn said it is more important to identify employees who are well respected by their peers (informal leaders). Company execs should personally invite those individuals to the committee and ask them who else they want to be on their team.
In terms of committee size, it depends on the organization’s size. Here is a general guideline:
300 or fewer employees: 5 to 8 committee members
300 to 1,000 employees: 8 to 12 committee members
More than 1,000 employees: more than 12 committee members (make sure all departments are represented)
The committee has three primary duties:
Planning: Finding space for activities, planning and organizing worksite-wide events such as contests, reviewing reports prepared by program staff and making recommendations, and designing a year-long plan of wellness events
Promoting: Recruiting employees to take part in screening, health improvement programs, and events; encouraging workers to participate in follow-up counseling; and organizing promotional strategies using newsletters, signs, bulletin boards, computers, and other media available within the workplace
Helping to run programs: Setting up equipment for various activities, helping to conduct worksite-wide activities, monitoring all activities and reviewing the performance of the professional staff, and acting as wellness mentors to fellow employees
“Committee members go around planting the seeds,” Holtyn said. “They also get management on board to fertilize the ideas so the program can grow. It’s not a program so much as it is a process. It takes time to build a culture.”
For more information on creating a wellness program, go to HopeHealth.com and download a free copy of “The Step-by-Step Guide to Successful Workplace Wellness Programs.”
Identify committee members: Good candidates are employees who are well-respected and liked by fellow employees. They do not necessarily need to have a background in health and wellness, just a desire to serve.
Ask vendors for help: Reputable worksite wellness program providers will have consultants who can offer training and/or ongoing support for the committee.
Recognize efforts: Committee members are volunteering their time and should be thanked by management at least annually through a company-wide celebration. (Terms of service might be a year or two with members rotating off and being replaced by equally enthusiastic members.)
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