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5 Ways to Reboot Your Wellness Program

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Got wellness? Chances are, your wellness program is likely in need of a serious reboot. According to a recent survey conducted by Towers Watson and National Business Group on Health, most workplace wellness programs simply aren't making the grade. Half of eligible employees aren't participating in a single wellness offering, and less that a quarter are choosing to engage with diet and exercise programs.

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How can your organization do better? Here are five ways to revitalize your company's wellness program:

1. Make health easy and "normal."

Design an environment that makes the healthy choice easy and visible with "nudges," or prompts. Small changes can lead to big results over time. El Camino Hospital, a healthcare provider based in the San Francisco Bay area, nudges employees toward enhanced well-being with a walking path that features art exhibits. Google's "Project M&M" had the company switch to smaller plates in their famous gourmet (and free) company cafes. The search giant also now stores candy in opaque containers to reduce temptation.

Related: Employee Wellness Programs Are Due for an Overhaul

2. Carrots and sticks don't work.

Health incentives now average a whopping $880 per employee. Yet, most employees are still opting out. Instead of getting caught up in a losing battle of trying to lure employees into participating with rewards and penalties, follow the lead of companies like Dow Chemical to avoid incentives altogether. According to well-established research lasting motivation does not happen with incentives, but rather when employees (1) feel a sense of achievement, (2) have choice and the ability to participate on their own terms, (3) have opportunities to interact with others, (4) feel connected to a higher purpose, and (5) have fun.

3. Swap out fear-based wellness.

Workplace wellness is filled with clinical terms like "health risk appraisals," "disease management" programs and invasive, clinical assessments. Instead of trying to "scare" people into adopting healthy habits, focus on generating positive energy. According to research by leading positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson with the University of North Carolina, a positive outlook generates creative thinking, builds self-confidence and promotes overall resilience – all qualities necessary for lasting lifestyle changes. Fear, on the other hand, saps motivation.

Related: All About Wellness: 5 Steps That Will Make Your Company More Productive

4. Go stealth.

Seek out opportunities to embed wellness concepts into non-wellness initiatives that already receive organizational attention. Some top stealth opportunities include management training, leadership development, onboarding, community outreach, or even regular staff meetings. Virgin America sneaks wellness into new its hire orientations by issuing pedometers to incoming employees.

5. Keep your eye on the pulse.

Just like with any company initiative, you need to continually measure, evaluate and make adjustments. JetBlue checks in with employees regularly to garner feedback on their company wellness programs. The key is to embrace a "launch and iterate" approach. Don't be afraid to experiment. Start small, see what works and what doesn't, iterate and then try again.

Wellness that works requires tenacity, big picture thinking and a willingness to learn through doing. Ultimately, though, transforming the health and well-being of your company's employees begins with a mind-shift. Rather than starting yet another program, start a movement. Design programs that empower employees to become agents of change catalyzing better health for themselves, their coworkers, family and friends. Once that happens, the benefits of improved health will be felt across the company and at your bottom line.

Related: 27 Insights for Creating and Sustaining Workplace Happiness

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