Unique Wellness Programs

Large companies have widely believed that technology is an important component of employee wellness. From biometric screening to incentive design employers have purchased cutting-edge technology to help improve wellness. Today, however, many employers are getting back to basics and focusing on improving the workplace environment, ultimately advancing the company’s culture of health to change unhealthy behavior.

More than ever, large companies are interested in environmental strategies ( for exmaple changes to cafeterias or establishing smoke-free campuses) that can influence healthy behaviors at work.

According to Seth A. Serxner, chief health officer and senior vice president of population health at Optum, “We can use some external [motivators] but we eventually want people to be intrinsically accountable. We need to balance how we invest in resources.”

Many thought leaders believe that incentives don’t drive change, they only drive compliance. The best way to encourage healthy decisions is to make cultural adjustments that affect the entire population. Below are unique examples:

CMO Cardboard Cut-Out
One employer placed 50 cardboard cut-outs of its chief medical officer holding a dry erase board in high traffic areas. Different wellness messages were written on each board. The highly targeted and visible messaging increased wellness participation all by simply getting the word out.

Musical Stairs
One employer made the stairs musical (think Tom Hanks dancing on a floor piano in the movie Big). Employees began running up and down the stairs as the steps would light up and play musical notes. The new musical staircase was adjacent to an escalator which immediately became unused.

Conference Call Jingle 
It’s safe to bet that nearly everyone has dialed into a conference call. One company changed the smooth jazz that typically plays to timely wellness messages such as, “Come get a biometric screening today in conference room A.” The messaging can be changed and delivered to a targeted audience who is forced to listen until the call starts. Slightly annoying? Possibly. Effective? You bet.

Screen Savers
One employer replaced screen savers with wellness messages. After only six months the company had a 30% increase in the use of preventive care benefits. Employers pointed to their laptops when asked where they heard about the benefits available to them. IT was probably able to set this up before finishing their morning cup of coffee.

Understandably, revamping a staircase to play musical notes is not in every company’s wellness budget, but most companies can get their marketing personnel involved with internal wellness messages.  

Lesson learned: small cultural changes can lead to big steps forward for employee wellness.