In 1905, John Eagan founded Birmingham, Alabama’s American Cast Iron Pipe Company. His vision was to build his business based on a very simple rule: Treat people as you would want to be treated. From the earliest days, Eagan’s company provided equal pay for all workers regardless of race or gender — something almost unheard of in those days. Because bathrooms were a luxury for many, he built a bathhouse with hot and cold running water behind the main building so employees could shower after work. The company offered onsite medical care and hosted frequent social activities. Eagan walked to and from work each day, frequently stopping at employees’ homes to ensure they and their families had everything needed to thrive.
Upon his death, he placed the company in a trust administered by members of management and elected workforce representatives. To this day they share in the profits as well as continue his vision of making employee well-being an integral part of operations.
We hear it every month: “We don’t have any problem getting the already active involved in fitness programs, but how do we get the couch sitters going?” Or “We see a lot of people who need to lose 10-15 pounds at our introductory weight management sessions, but not many who are 30-40 pounds overweight. How do we get them involved?” The answer — as is so often the case — lies with the target participant.
Here’s the usual programming approach: Identify the problem; develop or buy a service to educate, motivate, and support behaviors that would affect the problem; then promote the heck out of it and hope the right people show up. Most of them won’t.
Beyond focus groups and interest surveys, participant involvement in what they need comes down to a partnership mentality. Some characteristics of partnerships that contribute to success include:
I attended a conference recently where a vendor and their client discussed a year-long wellness campaign model that produced an overall (signup) rate of just under 50%. That’s a pretty impressive statistic for a voluntary program, particularly when talking about larger populations — in this case, approximately 12,000 eligible employees.
Halfway through the presentation, they got into the incentive model. Among other enticements, it included $1 to an Amazon gift card for each social connection participants made. The average number of connections? 53. For this portion of the program, the organization paid more than a quarter million dollars based on my quick calculations.
A big part of our calling as wellness professionals is to support employees in engineering a better quality of life — and living longer. Sitting less has the potential to do both — and your wellness program can equip workers to make this simple-yet-complex behavior change.
It’s Not About Exercising More
“Sitting is the new smoking.” We’ve all heard the sound bite. But spending more time working up a sweat isn’t the answer. Exercise and sitting less are distinct behaviors with different health outcomes; likewise, not exercising and sitting more present distinct sets of risks. While a 30-minute daily walk or run offers terrific mental and physical benefits, exercise doesn’t cancel out the risks of sitting too much.