If You Really Want it to Work, Stop Calling it a Wellness Program

From the HR blog on TLNT: workplace wellness
From the HR blog on TLNT: workplace wellness. Photo illustration by Dreamstime.

When I was on HR Happy Hour recently talking about workplace wellness, the first point I wanted to make was that we need to stop calling efforts to improve employee health a “program.”

Why? Because doing so narrows the scope and usefulness of what companies are trying to achieve and how successful they are –and creating a culture of wellness is the big-game hunting.

I could go all professorial on you about the difference between programs and cultures (finally putting my M.Ed. to some use), but that’s a tired approach. Suffice it to say, calling something a program is the kiss of death, especially when launched by HR.

Why? Because it’s the flavor of the month, ignored from the get-go. When a program does scrape out an existence, it lives a solitary life, segregated from its brethren programs. And like most programs, it’s very lock-step, very uniform, and certainly not very deeply felt.

Contrast that with attaining personal wellness. Wellness isn’t lock-step. It’s not uniform, and it’s definitely deeply felt. Wellness is challenging. It’s fitful and wobbly. It can be annoying (and so, too, can the people who preach it…I know).

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Wellness needs to be an integral part of a company’s culture, not just a program, if it’s to stand a chance. That’s because a culture is pervasive, deeply ingrained, and unshakable. It’s shared, valued, and ritualized by all.

And when companies start thinking about wellness as part of their culture rather than as a one-off program, they’ll start examining their other values and rituals, and yes, the programs, that run roughshod over this cultural norm.

This was originally published on Fran Melmed’s Free-Range Communication blog.

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2 Comments on “If You Really Want it to Work, Stop Calling it a Wellness Program

  1. I love this Fran, and forwarded to our health and safety coordinator.

    I also just participated in a national survey of municipal health and wellness programs, and told the surveyor outright that H&W isn’t an employer’s responsibility since we’re all (supposed to be) adults here!

    1. thanks, stephanie. send your health and safety coordinator my blog (http://freerangecomm.com) for more 😉 and please invite him or her to join our monthly @co_health workplace wellness twitter chats. in the past we’ve talked about building volunteer wellness champions. this coming month (dec 15) we’re talking about mental health and workplace wellness.

      i do think that H&W is an employer’s responsibility, though. how a company is run, from the hours expected to the training people get to do their jobs well to the communication they receive to lessen fear in bad economic times — that’s all wellness to me. and that all comes from an employer. when you throw in health care benefits and the tie to wellness incentives, then you get even more employer involvement! but your message is heard — employees are adults. they should have a voice and a say. and they should also be respected, something that often seems to be missing in wellness approaches.

      btw, love the vintage etsy dress.

      f

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