Wellness is an individualized experience

I remember starting at this company and I was so excited about the opportunities that lay ahead. I had started at "the right time" where I could impact a lot of change. One of the things I was going to do was implement a wellness program. So, I built my team and met with them one day to take on this task. I'd admit that it didn't seem like a HUGE task at the time. How hard can wellness be? I've got this!

So, I met with my HR team at the time and we started to brainstorm what we could do to create a culture of wellness in the organization. When problem solving, we love looking at "low hanging fruit," so that's what we did; literally. We decided to bring in fruit for all employees. We worked with a local produce company that could supply us with all the in-season, local fruits each week. We felt like we had done a great thing and it was a big hit with employees.

Then, we decided to remove the chocolate and candies at reception. Now that we have FREE fruit, we surmised, we don't need the sugar laden candies at reception. So, we put an end to the candies and chocolates at reception. If people were going to visit us, they were going to be given a healthy option! Sounds like a great plan, right? Eliminate the bad stuff for the good stuff. That's what every diet plan says. We're going to have HEALTHY employees!

Well....not so much. Guess what happened? We had a total revolt. The employees completely forgot about the awesome fruit in the kitchen and focused on what we had taken away. The CEO came to me one day pleading for us to put the chocolate and candies back at reception.

Here's what we missed. First of all, a healthy lifestyle is individualized. While for one person, removing the temptation and bringing in healthy alternatives works, for others it does not. So, creating a blanket approach is what failed us. This is the challenge with many wellness programs. Secondly, we misunderstood the value of having chocolate at reception had on our culture. Reception became the meeting place and the opportunity to have conversations that sparked an amazing idea.

I'm not advocating that you have chocolate at your welcome desks, but when thinking about wellness programs, I want you to think of my mistakes. I didn't have all the data and made a misstep in thinking everyone will buy into the new way.

The same is true for our overall wellness programs. If, what I need to heal is very different than what you need to heal, why are we throwing out a one size fits all approach? UGH! We can't do this anymore in our employee experience programs and we can't do it anymore in our wellness programs. One size fits all doesn't FIT anymore.

Let's talk about what does work. First, you need to understand what your employees are looking for out of wellness. We can work with employers to benchmark these different areas. With a benchmark, you can see the areas that you're strong in and what areas you need development in. This will help you customize a program that works for you, your culture and your team. A walking challenge or any other blanket approach is only going to attract a small number of employees. You need to individualize the experience and meet all employees where they're at. With a benchmark, you can understand what employees are looking for and move beyond a blanket approach to wellness.

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