What You Need to Do to Boost Motivation in Workplace Wellness

by Henry Albrecht July 20, 2016
July 20, 2016

More employers are investing in workplace wellness, but many employees aren’t participating. And when employees don’t participate, the programs have no value.


According to The State of Workplace Well-Being survey by my company, Limeade, 53 percent of organizations said participation is the biggest challenge to successful wellness programs. Other problem areas? Sustaining active involvement in the program and developing long-term health habits.


These results suggest that programs don’t motivate employees to make healthy changes. To help solve this problem, some employers take away incentives or make employees pay a fee if they don’t meet their goals. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that this method improved incentives and goal achievement.


Although loss incentives may work in the short-term, this punitive strategy won’t work in the long-term. It focuses on extrinsic motivation and makes health initiatives a chore. Here are some better ways to motivate employees to reach health goals:


Hand over control


Employees don’t want their employers to tell them what to do, let alone how to take care of their health.


In a 2015 International Journal of Psychophysiology study, one group of employees was assigned a task, and another group was given a choice of equally difficult tasks. Not surprisingly, the second group felt a greater sense of intrinsic motivation to complete the task.


Offer activities that touch on all areas of well-being ─ from stress and financial health to better sleep. Let employees focus their efforts where they want to make the most change. When they have control over their health and well-being, they’ll feel more motivated.


Break it down


We know that staying on top of health screenings, getting more sleep and exercising takes serious effort.


A 2013 study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that the harder a goal appeared, the less likely participants were to pursue it. When a goal looks big and scary, we’re not as motivated to even try. But when we think we can succeed, we’re much more motivated to put in the work to reach the goal.


Break workplace wellness down into small, attainable goals. Losing 10 pounds or exercising an hour every day sounds difficult, but anyone can take the stairs, swap out potato chips for carrot sticks or take a few minutes away from technology each day. Small steps in the right direction will lead to healthier habits. The easier the change, the more likely employees will stick with it.


Reward efforts


Rewards are a big part of the motivation equation. After all, 68 percent of the employers surveyed in the Limeade survey said they use incentives for participation, and 65 percent see them as the most important factor to a successful wellness program.


Don’t reserve rewards for those who achieve their goals – give them to those who try. Continually encourage employees to stick with their healthy changes by recognizing and rewarding their efforts. Remind them that every little bit counts.


You don’t need to give out money or some big ticket item ─ simple rewards (like social recognition) also motivate and boost confidence.


Offer insights with value


What motivates employees to keep going after they earn their incentives?


Progress and value. Employees want to know their work is worth it. When they see their hard work paying off, they’re motivated to keep at it.


Help employees track their progress. But don’t stop with numbers. Ask employees to reflect on how these results have changed their everyday lives. Do they feel better at work? Has their performance improved since they’ve committed to getting more sleep? Do they feel more energized since they started exercising? Have they played with their kids at the park more? Taken the dog for longer walks?


When employees attach their own value to workplace wellness, they find intrinsic motivation. The big picture of their progress and what it means becomes clearer – and they’re more likely to stay involved in the program.


How do you motivate employees to participate in workplace wellness? Share your strategies in the comments below!

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