Corporate wellness offers enormous opportunities for fitness professionals. And the opportunities are not boilerplate.
Each business has a different culture with diverse employees – each of whom has distinct needs and faces unique challenges.
This means you can be creative and pioneering in your efforts to address those needs and challenges.
Necessary Corporate Changes
The early focus of worksite-wellness programs was on weight loss, disease management for high-risk employees, and/or meeting rudimentary criteria to receive discounts on health insurance premiums.
This means one of the primary goals was to control employer healthcare costs – not necessarily to bolster the health, productivity, and happiness of the labor pool.
Physical health and incentivizing programs to reduce costs to employers and employees are valid and valuable objectives. However, if these are the only objectives of a corporate wellness program, it is unlikely the larger goal of improving the well-being of employees will be met over the long-term.
Further, the return on investment (ROI) to the employer will not be significant. Wellness is a puzzle. All the pieces must be included or the picture won’t make sense.
Fortunately, corporate wellness is evolving and incorporating more comprehensive and robust program models with a holistic approach to personal health. Physical health is still important, but corporate wellness is beginning to understand the relationship between physical health, mental health, stress management, sleep, education, and workspace structures (ergonomics).
As more and more employers and organizations recognize the need to support the “whole person” and emphasize the value of all interrelated facets of wellness, the ROI grows along with the health of their staff.
Tapping into Corporate Wellness
The best place to begin with corporate wellness is by seeking additional training and education, consider additional credentialing to add to your Personal Trainer Certification, such as a Health Coach or Behavior Change Specialist certification from an accredited and respected organization. The more education you have and the deeper your knowledge of behavior change and workforce challenges you possess, the more fruitful your efforts.
Next, start researching the corporate wellness market.
- What is already in place?
- What is missing? Are there gaps?
- Are there aspects you wish to replicate or build upon?
You may find no programs (or no comprehensive programs) exist. Even if the businesses are small, most employers want a strong and satisfied workforce because it directly impacts the bottom line.
If employees are successful, the business will be, too (barring any major budgetary impacts or funding cuts – those are separate factors to a business’s longevity). Conducting this research will help you identify your value and what you can bring to the table.
As always, network continuously. Networking should be as much of a priority as continuing education. A strong network means links to businesses, employers, and referrals.
Qualities of Strong Corporate Wellness Programs
Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) uses a framework for evaluating and building quality worksite programs. Review the seven benchmarks to help guide you in developing a model of your own.
- Committed and Aligned Leadership
- Collaboration in Support of Wellness
- Collecting Meaningful Data to Evolve a Wellness Strategy
- Crafting an Operating Plan
- Choosing Initiatives that Support the Whole Employee
- Cultivate Supportive Health Promoting Environments, Policies, and Practices
- Conduct Evaluation, Communicate, Celebrate, and IterateEach of the seven benchmarks
Each of the seven benchmarks has a free toolkit to further guide your efforts.
Further, Forbes outlined eight trends to watch for that will ultimately impact employee wellness programs.
- A shift in the focus of wellness by employers (not just a physical health focus).
- An increase in personalized experiences (no one-size-fits-all approach).
- An emphasis on mental health
- Keep it simple approach (less is more)
- Focus on sleep (Finally! Tired employees are unproductive employees!)
- Artificial Intelligence software implementation to identify trends and future forecasts.
- Healthy vending machines (What? No more cheez-its and rolos or other food-like items?!)
- Wellness mergers (large wellness vendors merging with smaller vendors to provide more comprehensive services)
Action Steps into Corporate Wellness
If corporate wellness is an area you wish to explore, Shirley Archer, JD, MA (IDEA Fitness Journal, May 2018) offers six actionable steps any fitness professional can take to enter the industry and be successful.
- Get training. Learn all you can about human behavior and the process of change.
- Join organizations (see resources) and network.
- Contact businesses and employers. This will provide insight into what is missing, what is needed, and what already exists.
- Learn what is valuable to the company. What is the employer looking for? Which metrics do they want to improve? Do you have a valid and reliable plan?
- As you build programs, plan with the end in mind. This means you should include methods to assess and evaluate the programs so that you have data to present which speaks to the programs’ effectiveness.
- Craft a pitch. This is similar to a value statement or mission statement that addresses what you do, who you serve, and what sets you apart from other professionals. This statement should be brief but powerful.
To add a seventh and eighth action step: I highly recommend practicing motivational interviewing as it will become an invaluable conversational tool to use with future clients; it is especially helpful with those clients who are ambivalent to change.
Finally, hone in on what makes a program great. In the corporate wellness world, quality programs are affected by the culture of an organization. Making a wellness program practical, applicable, and accessible is separate from encouraging that employee wellness become a cornerstone and core value of the organization.
Successful programs are integrated into the culture and structure of a business. This means the work environment should support rather than detract from employee wellbeing (healthy snack options on-site vs. bowls of candy at the center of every conference room table).
This also means there should be a dedicated budget and resources to manage the program. You won’t single-handedly change the culture, but you can emphasize what a program needs to be successful before it is designed and implemented.
The Take Home
Corporate wellness is a continually evolving area of the fitness industry, which makes it exciting and dynamic. Furthering your education and training will allow you to be a part of the future of corporate wellness. Businesses need (and ultimately want) a well workforce. Happy and thriving employees attract consumers who will support the business. Everyone wins.
Health Enhancement Research Organization
International Association for Worksite Health Promotion