Quick Summary: The office environment has never been more stressful. Financial pressure, spurred by the tough economy, trickles down from the boardroom to the break-room. Everyone feels the pain to some extent. Communicating information on wellness and benefits is crucial during times like this because the one thing employees can control is lifestyle choices.
During tough economic times, it’s even more critical to help employees understand their health benefits and use them strategically.
Start by introducing programs in a fun atmosphere to inspire employees to take advantage of the wellness extras that come with a plan. “Let employees see and get to know the people behind some of the insurance products. That way they feel more cared for,” says Karen Nixon, president, Nixon Benefits, Newport Beach, Calif.
Meanwhile, the healthy choices that employees make can save money on health insurance costs—more good news in spite of doom-and-gloom economic headlines. Here are ways to show employees how wellness programs can make a positive impact on their personal health and even their pocketbooks.
Lighten up. If you communicate information in a formal environment, be sure to engage employees and let them know in advance that the meeting is “all about them”—and nothing to be concerned about. (Their first impression may be that Big Company Meeting = Bad News.) “A casual setting is a great time for the company president or human resources professional to introduce an incentive,” says Kimberly Denny of MRCT Benefits Plus in O’Fallon, Missouri
Prompt participation. Use simple surveys to help employees realize what lifestyle improvements they can make to reduce stress and feel more positive. “Ask them to write down everything they ate that day,” Nixon suggests. “They don’t have to reveal that to the rest of the people in the room, but they can compare their lifestyle to the information provided in the presentation.” Follow up with a presentation about the company’s fitness or weight-loss programs.
Spark friendly competition. A “Biggest Loser” contest can inspire employees to rally together and reach weight-loss goals. Challenge workers to stop smoking, and share how much they can save on health insurance and benefits by adopting healthier habits. “A bonus is key because people are especially driven by competition and money in this economy,” Denny says.
Massage the message. Show employees you care about their well-being and set up a “no-stress-zone” for a day. Invite a massage therapist to the office and stock tables in the waiting area with health information, Nixon suggests. “Employees can walk away with information, but it’s all voluntary—it’s their decision to learn more,” she says.
Host a health fair. Make a wellness meeting more interesting by hosting a health fair at the same time. Offer several presentations during the day and set up booths featuring insurance-sponsored vendors.
• Explain to employees that a healthy lifestyle is their choice and the one thing they can control during uncertain times.
• Show them the de-stressing benefits your wellness program offers, whether through fitness programs or massage therapy.
• Incentives will inspire employees to learn about programs without you forcing the message in a formal meeting. Consider raffle prizes, bonuses for employees who quit smoking, or contests for weight loss (in groups or teams).
• Consider every company gathering an opportunity to get the word out about health benefits. Your message doesn’t need to be overwhelming; a simple handout may be enough to spark questions and interest.
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