Quick Summary: Social support through encouragement from colleagues, fostering a team environment, and setting group goals is an essential element of any workplace wellness program, according to a Health Enhancement Systems report, “Social Support: Impact on Health and the Bottom Line.” What are signs that your workplace needs a stronger support system to accomplish wellness goals?
“Lack of social support as part of the culture manifests itself by employees reporting dissatisfaction and lack of interest in work—the attitude that no one else seems to care, so why should I?” says Dean Witherspoon, President, Health Enhancement Systems. Team-themed wellness programs can put the “team” back into your workplace.
A bonus for employers: boosting participation in wellness activities and encouraging employees to meet health goals could decrease health care costs. As waistlines expand, health care costs go up 1.9% for each body mass index (BMI) unit increase, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled, “Relationship Between Modifiable Health Risks and Short-Term Health Care Charges.”
Ready to start working as a team? Here are 5 ways to cultivate a supportive work environment.
Remedy the burnout. Regardless of the services you provide—such as nurse lines and health coaching—if the social support component is missing, employees will eventually show apathy. Witherspoon suggests making sure that wellness initiatives incorporate teamwork, shared accountability, and individual recognition.
Promote team-oriented programs. “Enlist the full talents of employees through team activities, buddy programs, mentorships, family participation, peer-to-peer sharing and networking,” Witherspoon suggests. Look for programs—whether walking, weight loss, or smoking cessation—that emphasize collaboration and group activities so employees can motivate one another.
Form healthy groups. A lunchtime walking group can encourage employees to get some exercise and fresh air. Assemble a group for a cause, such as participating in a charity walk. Or launch a fitness challenge with teams of employees that compete toward a set goal. “Explore all of the ways to bring employees together to meet the challenges of the organization, whether it’s health and wellness, or marketing and sales,” Witherspoon says.
Appoint a wellness team. Social support helps a wellness program maintain its momentum. “Employers are more likely to achieve the goal of everyone pulling in the same direction when they achieve a sense of shared responsibility,” Witherspoon notes.
Recognize successes. Employees may work harder to achieve goals that earn individual rewards. Give them reason to work toward team goals by giving equal value to group successes. “Create an atmosphere where contributions to team goals are as valued as individual achievements,” Witherspoon advises.
• Investigate wellness opportunities with a team theme to provide employees with much-needed social support.
• Appoint a wellness committee with leaders that will hold team members accountable. Train wellness ambassadors to support and motivate their teams.
• Sponsor an onsite or virtual support group so employees and families can share successes and challenges.
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