Low Engagement? Maybe your wellbeing program is too focused on health?

Ever wondered why people don’t look after their health like you do? Why employees aren’t as passionate about their health as the ‘wellness champion’ within the workplace? Wondered why your engagement levels in your workplace wellness program are low?

Maybe your wellness program is too focused on health?

Unfortunately we see too many health professionals and workplace wellness providers promoting the unlimited health benefits of participating in their wellness program without achieving high engagement levels. Why? Because they promote it in a way that motivates them and not what would motivate a broad range of people.

Simply promoting ‘health improvement’ is not enough to motivate most people to engage in health related behaviour. I am aware some health professionals struggle with accepting this but the reality is if people were motivated by ‘health improvement’ alone we wouldn’t have our health system under as much pressure as it is today.

In my experience the people that respond best to the message of ‘health improvement’ alone are those that have experienced a serious health condition e.g. heart attack, stroke. Ambulance at
the bottom of the cliff?

We know that most people do not prioritise their ‘health’ as their most important value. This does not mean they do not value it! It means they may have other values they prioritise before the value of ‘health’. For example, recognition, security, success, achievement – the list can go on and can be quite varied.

Typically ‘workaholics’ get a high degree of value fulfilment from their job so when faced with the decision to work or ‘promote health’, work often wins out. Unfortunately health can suffer in the long term.
So what’s the answer? Give people the opportunity to promote their prioritised values when implementing healthy behaviours. We are more likely to capture a greater range of people when we don’t focus too much on health and can promote a greater range of values through the participation in our programs.

Consider these examples:

  • An incentive program whereby participation resulted in the individual being able to purchase their choice of health related goods (and hence providing the opportunity to promote a diverse range of values) resulted in a 98% participation rate across a workforce of 550 employees.
  • The addition of leader-boards in Health Challenges promotes values like ‘competition’, ‘achievement’ and ‘success’. In a walking challenge average step count goes from 3,000 steps per day up to 13,500 steps per day.
  • Team based Health Challenges and a messaging system promote values like ‘teamwork’ and ‘fun’ and can result in the reduction in sugar consumption resulting in an average waist reduction of close to 2.5cm in 2 weeks.

At Synergy Health we have developed the system to be able to turn these value promoting elements on (and off) to promote health related behaviours. The outcome is greater engagement and more successful health related outcomes.

I remember working with an individual that wanted to lose 10kg’s but he was never able to achieve it. He would lose 6kg’s but then would put all the weight back on. After identifying his values I found his most important value was ‘recognition’. He was a very successful sales person and was driven by targets so this was no surprise. I questioned him on the number of people that knew he wanted to lose 10kg’s and after long consideration he told me “2” – his personal trainer and me! I asked him to go and tell 10 people he wanted to lose 10kg’s. He came back the week following telling me he had told 10 people. When I asked him for the list he questioned why? I told him I was going to call them to ensure he did it. He sheepishly stood up and said he would see me next week with the list having not told anyone. Two weeks later he returned with the list (and phone numbers!). Six weeks later he lost 10kg’s. What had changed? To achieve the greatest degree of value fulfilment (the key value driving his behaviour) he needed to lose the weight to achieve the recognition. Not achieving it would have compromised his most important value hence the motivation had increased.

I often find myself questioning why we have so many health experts researching the intricacies on what it means to be healthy yet the majority of people would benefit greatly from simply implementing the ’10 Healthy Habits’.

I think we would benefit more from less research on ‘what to do’ and more on how to ‘motivate people’ to do the basics.

I guess it comes down to what the health experts’ value?

Source: Synergy Health Research Unit

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