by Beth Shepard   Beth's profile on LinkedIn  

If wellness leaders have learned anything over the past year, it’s this: The same old do this, get that approach to employee wellness isn’t going to fly in the New Year — or beyond. Workers are becoming far less tolerant of exhausting work schedules, psychologically unhealthy workplaces, and getting pressured into meeting the latest wellness criteria to earn a prize or avoid a penalty… and that’s a good thing.

Addressing a broader range of well-being factors is essential to helping people truly flourish, both on and off the job. We know, for example, that to thrive at work, people need to feel autonomy, believe their work matters, and be able to use their strengths daily. Most people want to get ahead — to grow professionally and advance their careers. They also want to leave work with enough energy to fully participate in and enjoy their families, communities, hobbies, and other things that make life rewarding.

Use your influence this year to drive a shift in the way wellness is defined, delivered, and perceived. Join forces with HR and other leaders across the organization to challenge the status quo and spur real change. Here are a few ways to start:

Recommended Resources

  • The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary  Workplace (Perigee Books, 2014) by Ron Friedman
  • Well Being: The Five Essential Elements (Gallup Press, 2010) by Tom Rath and Jim Harter
  • How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work, Featuring the 7 Points of Transformation (IHAC, Inc., 2014) by Rosie Ward and Jon Robison
  • Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives (Grand Central Publishing, 2014) by Kip Tindell and Casey Shilling
  • Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions (Portfolio/Penguin, 2011) by Guy Kawasaki.
  • Be a champion for better working conditions. Difficult bosses, rigid schedules, and heavy workloads are a recipe for employee burnout and poor health. Wellness initiatives are all just background noise when the work culture itself is oppressive. If a movement to make meaningful improvements in job design, management skills, and workplace culture isn’t already underway, start the conversation — and stay on it. The Container Store, Pixar, and Zappos became thriving workplaces by design, not by accident.
  • Foster career well-being. Do employees like what they do each day? Well Being: The Five Essential Elements makes a solid case for career well-being as the most influential element of overall well-being. Their research shows people with high levels of career well-being are more than twice as likely to be thriving overall. Identifying strengths and finding ways to use them every day are crucial to enhancing performance, job satisfaction, and career growth. To engage workers and leaders in boosting career well-being, promote collaborative conversations around strengths, department needs, and possibilities; help publicize in-house learning and advancement resources; initiate a mentoring program; organize an onsite Toastmasters® club.
  • Implement wellness opportunities — not requirements. The carrot and stick approach to behavior change doesn’t work, yet an alarmingly large number of programs still take this old-school approach. If yours is one of them, read our white paper — How Financial Incentives/Disincentives Undermine Wellness — to understand the science behind why a bribe or threat may get people to fill out a survey, but actually works against sustainable change. It’s time to ditch this outdated, manipulative strategy and adopt a science-based approach: offering resources and support to help people adopt a healthier lifestyle when they’re ready.
  • Sharpen your marketing skills. The most stellar workplace wellness program is useless if your audience doesn’t know about it. Marketing not your forte? Roll up your sleeves and learn the tricks of the trade. Read great marketing pros like Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, and Ann Handley; sign up for marketing e-publications and webinars. Work closely with internal/external communicators to create an integrated, year-round plan (include your vendors) to ensure consistent, engaging messages that hit their targets.

Workplace wellness continues to evolve in response to health and behavioral research, marketplace demands, and employee needs/preferences. Savvy wellness leaders keep up with new developments and are open to change, tossing out what doesn’t work and putting new knowledge into practice. This year, venture beyond the traditional reach of workplace wellness and push for meaningful change. You’ll enhance your own career well-being — and make a huge difference for the people you serve.


# Colleen Gilliam 2016-01-06 20:09
Can't get enough of the HES op-eds they're the best in the business!
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# Dean 2016-01-07 19:29
Awe, thanks (blushing)!
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# MJ Shaar 2016-01-06 20:04
YES! Very glad to read this post! We need to redirect more energy in the ways described here - absolutely! MJ
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# Jon Robison 2016-01-06 12:19
Well said!!! - Happy New Year - Dr. Jon
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