The internet wasn’t a thing (at least not for workplace wellness) in 1993 when HES released our first campaign: 12 Days of Fitness, a holiday-themed program heavy on reindeer and Christmas stockings. Still in the company’s bootstrapping phase, my living room doubled as production facility for stockings with the wellness coordinator’s first name. Jane, Neal, Vicki, Caryn, Charlie, Sue, and dozens of others covered every surface, waiting for the hand-written puffy paint to dry so they could be packed along with more than 100 turnkey 12 Days campaigns sold that first season.
Fast-forward to today — HES’s well-being programs inspire hundreds of thousands each year to boost energy and vitality in sync with the seasons. Spring Into Motion, Walktober, and Health for the Holidays are perennial favorites. Soon, Summertime will be added to the lineup.
Seasonal campaigns work because they represent new beginnings, align with fond, sentimental memories, and offer a sense of immediacy: “Walktober comes around only once a year… I better step it up.”
We’ve learned a thing or 5 about successful seasonal programs in the 25+ years of serving organizations from Minneapolis to Manila.
If the program goals are such that everyone wins with minimal effort, no one wins. Big — yet achievable — objectives are inspiring, motivating, rewarding in themselves (no gift cards needed). And the testimonials they generate when participants reach them are gold. They burnish your reputation through word of mouth and become automatic headlines for your next seasonal campaign.
A single email that gets buried in an employee’s daily deluge isn’t enough. A blanket-the-earth strategy limited to 2-3 weeks could include:
- Drop cards
- Wellness champion talking points/department presentations
- In-house video
- Individual signup and team formation incentives (see Reward Strategies for HES Well-Being Campaigns)
- Text messages, push notifications, banner ads, and calling trees
- Piggy-back promotions with other events and publications.
A note of caution: Whatever you’re promoting should be top shelf. There’s nothing more deflating — to participants and future signups — than a campaign that doesn’t live up to the hype.
Your organization is filled with helpers: people who want the best for their colleagues/friends and are willing to support behavior change efforts. Look for opportunities like these where everyone can flourish:
- Buddy features. Employees exchange wellness experiences with 2 or more work friends or family members.
- Friendly teams. Groups of 4-5 “compete” against other teams, adding a dimension of camaraderie that can spread across the workplace.
- Sharing options. Health tips, recipes, wall posts, and testimonials communicate and connect.
- Robust wellness champion network. As much as anything you’ll do, champions can shift the culture in a healthier direction, draw in support from leadership, and create a face for your program.
Continuous, Conspicuous Communication
Err on the side of too much talk — from program announcements through wrap-up. An engaged program manager helps pull people along who might balk at participating or otherwise drift out. Some instances to speak up:
- Registration updates. Day 1, week 1, and last call push notifications or emails sharing total registrants, signup goal, and invitations to recruit friends, colleagues, and family members (if applicable).
- Weekly updates. Highlighting wall posts, logging milestones, team stats, testimonials as well as reinforcing progress and a reminder to enjoy the journey.
- Team leader recognition. A shoutout to all captains, reminding everyone that participants on a team experience greater success than those who go it alone.
- Program end. A celebration to touch on overall success, showcase individual and team accomplishments, and thank all for participating.
More Fun Than Should Be Allowed at Work
A lot about work can be unfun, so wellness campaigns are a chance for everyone to let their hair down and enjoy the program together. Some ways to facilitate fun in seasonal campaigns:
- Play up the reason for the season. Give it a name that highlights the time of year: Spring to Life, Summer Sports Challenge, WonderFall, Winter Wanderland, etc.
- Leverage nostalgia. Use images and content that evoke memories of seasons past and invite participants to relive those moments in a challenging, fun-filled journey to better health.
- Keep it voluntary. Nothing saps the fun out of a wellness program faster than having some of your healthcare benefits or compensation held captive until you complete X, Y, and Z. Engagement beats compliance, always.
- Include a chance to win. Quality programs don’t require incentives for each employee. Just as effective — and more affordable — are weekly random prize drawings for achieving milestones.
The sky’s the limit for seasonal and event-driven campaigns. They give employees a reason to get started when they weren’t necessarily looking for one. We recommend 1-2/year interspersed with another that’s not tied to the season but fits your wellness program’s strategic objectives.
For suggestions on program timing, check out our Wellness Campaign Planning Calendar.
Chief collaborator, nudger, tinkerer; leads the most inventive team creating well-being and sustainable living programs. Reach out if you’d like to talk about employee well-being, emotional fitness, or eco-friendly living.