Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

How to Encourage Employee Wellness Without Being a Jerk


When weighing wellness programs at your company, it often comes down to a question of carrots or sticks. The carrot approach is looking a lot more attractive these days.

Pennsylvania State University came under fire this week, as employees publicly protested against the 158 year-old university's new wellness program. Among other things, the school levied a $100 monthly fee against employees who refused to answer a questionnaire administered by WebMD Health Services. Employees also bristled over the questionnaire's request for personal details about their relationships, finances and pregnancy plans.

After several faculty members objected to both the invasive questions and the financial penalty, Penn State president Rodney A. Erickson announced yesterday that the university would suspend the penalty.

Clearly asking sensitive questions and penalizing employees isn't an effective way to encourage your staff to adopt healthier behaviors. But many companies do offer wellness programs that both bring down their health-care costs and are viewed as a workplace perk for employees.

Here's a look at three companies we've previously featured on that are taking steps to improve employee health -- without drawing ire from workers:

Related: What 3 Companies Are Doing to Keep Employees Healthy

Progressive Insurance

How to Encourage Employee Wellness Without Being a Jerk

Headquartered in Cleveland, this national insurance company helps their 25,000 employees stay healthy with an onsite Fitness Centre, Weight Watchers reimbursement program, yoga and boot camp classes, personal training and a smoking cessation program. Customer Representative Carla Minichello lost 150 pounds after 18 months using Progressive’s Fitness Center.

"These amenities show Progressive's commitment to employees and their daily desire to be productive both in work and life," says Pamela Sraeel, senior manager of Benefit Services. Sraeel says making a healthy lifestyle more convenient and affordable for employees has resulted in a more motivated and less stressed staff. "When employees are healthy, they feel good. They innovate, solve problems and take initiative, which is imperative in a tough global marketplace," she says.


How to Encourage Employee Wellness Without Being a Jerk

The social media giant encourages its 1,000 employees at the San Francisco Headquarters to stay healthy by offering onsite yoga, Pilates, Wing Chun Kung Fu and CrossFit classes. Onsite massages and acupuncture sessions are also available for a fee.
"The attitude and energy we all bring to work is so important to our culture," says Amy Obana, HR and Wellness program manager.

"But such energy can make us susceptible to fatigue and burnout. Twitter aims to avoid this by offering diverse fitness and wellness programs to encourage renewal so that as employees we can manage our energy better and get more done in a sustainable way."

Related: How Treadmill Desks Can Improve Your Health and Productivity


How to Encourage Employee Wellness Without Being a Jerk

The Canadian phone company has approximately 26,000 employees in 13 locations across the country and offers internal fitness facilities with cardio equipment, weight rooms and group fitness classes, on-site and reflexology practitioners, active living challenges and mental health support.

Janet Crowe, director of wellness and work-life solutions, says encouraging employees to adopt healthy lifestyle habits is part of the culture of TELUS. "It's the overall strategy of TELUS to have a healthy work environment," she says.

Don't worry if these kinds of programs seem out of reach for your business. You don't have to build a gymnasium to encourage a healthy workforce. Crowe says wellness initiatives are possible no matter how big or small a company is and says having a healthy workforce begins with making health a priority in the workplace.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks