How To Create Activity Programs That Fight The Post Holiday Blues

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A new year, a new cycle, a new start. Yet halfway through January, many people's intentions to be more active and to eat healthier have already gotten pushed aside by work deadlines. But the impact from inactivity and an unhealthy lifestyle doesn't take a break. Sitting for example, is the "most underrated health-threat of modern time." Researchers have found that inactivity now kills more people than smoking, and sitting for more than six hours per day will greatly increase your risk of early death.

Corporate wellness initiatives can face a similar trajectory as resolutions as initial enthusiasm wanes. That is, unless they're tailored to fit individual needs.

Brett Miller knows the importance of designing plans people can stick to first hand. Today, he's a nine-time Ironman athlete who manages sales and operations for movecoach, a corporate wellness platform that has successfully implemented programs in companies such as LinkedIn, Oracle, Salesforce, and more.

Yet not so long ago, his inactive lifestyle saw him tipping the scales at 250 pounds. Miller credits his successful transformation to a process of gradual changes. For example, in his first month, Miller simply replaced his usual Starbucks pastry for steel cut oatmeal. In month two, he swapped his fast-food lunch for a sandwich, fruit, and carrot sticks. In month three, Miller added running two or three times per week and an additional workout class.

These incremental changes helped Miller establish a routine that wasn't overwhelming that he felt he needed to quit.

And since establishing this routine, Miller has stuck with it. Even though he now has a newborn child and a full-time job, Miller gets up at 4:45am every day to get his workout done.

Benefits of Tailored Training Plans

The ability to tailor training plans to people's individual goals is built into movecoach, whether those goals are to walk 30 minutes every day or to run a marathon.

An interactive platform keeps people engaged and motivated. The program uses feedback, analysis, social recognition and rewards to get employees to move more. Salesforce, for example, set the goal for employees to move 1 million miles in one year "“ and surpassed the goal in eight months. This initiative also increased employee engagement, workplace productivity, and overall, created a healthier company.

Salesforce employees recorded over 90,000 workouts and over 10,000 goals, race results and milestones, and lost a total of 40,000 pounds. On average, participants were three times more active than non-participants and exceeded weekly the recommended level of activity.

Not only did this program help Salesforce employees become more active, it also created strong camaraderie for teams. The Salesforce Canada Halifax office, for example, started going on lunchtime walks together every day.

Engagement Comes From Activity

Wellness programs are extremely effective in increasing productivity and engagement. Research from Gallup shows that better employee health is correlated with increased productivity, and the more engaged employees are at work, the less likely they are to be obese and have chronic conditions.

Not only does engagement improve, but so does the quality of applicants in the hiring process. Nine out of 10 employees say they consider wellness benefits when considering an employer. Having wellness programs will increase the number and quality of applicants.

Miller speaks with many HR professionals about implementing such a program and knows the difficulties of implementing programs that don't directly impact the bottom line. But as Miller says, "free comes with a cost."

Why HR Should Buy In

Whether HR departments decide to build and implement wellness programs on their own or pay for a program, Miller offers these three tips to help increase employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.

1. Avoid building your programs around smart devices or pedometers. Employees who don't have the equipment can't participate in step count competitions or similar challenges. To Miller, the benefit of wellness programs comes from making the program as accessible as possible.

2. Customize the program. Organizations have a large spread in activity level. Some employees will be longtime runners, while others may not have ever have run a mile. Look for ways to customize plans with achievable goals.

3. Get Executive Buy In. When leadership is onboard with the program, it builds credibility to the wellness program. It also shows that they are willing to make health a personal priority, which means more employees are likely to participate.

Making a New Year's resolution stick is hard. Supporting efforts to move more is a win-win. So for 2016, consider some wellness programs you can do to engage employees of all levels to make employees happier and more productive, and to save your organization on health care costs and retain top talent.

Do you have a wellness program in place? How do you get employees involved? Let us know @goodhiretweets #BuildGreatTeams


Lauren Small

Lauren Small


Lauren Small is a content and social media expert who writes about hiring, onboarding, and HR best practices. Lauren comes by her HR insight honestly, having observed the culture at diverse employers Amazon, HubSpot, and GoodHire’s parent company Inflection.

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