Create an Inclusive Culture for a Successful Wellness Program

Inclusive Culture creates successful wellness program
Last month, we published a blog devoted to building a successful employee wellness program and about a Harvard Business School finding that a major factor holding back wellness incentive programs may be simply a lack of effective communication.


Lack of inclusion is another key factor that can limit a wellness program’s participation and overall success.


Laura Putnam is the founder and CEO of Motion Infusion. She is also the author of “Wellness that Works,” a book that shares a fresh perspective on workplace wellness.


Putnam writes about the fundamental problem that has plagued corporate wellness programs for ages and has contributed to their failure. When employers treat all employees the same and provide them with the same set of wellness offerings, the programs will yield sub-par outcomes.


“We have not paid enough attention to those external factors that relate to the world of DE&I, things like gender, race, age, and religion, that really shape our capacity as individuals to be able to make healthy choices,” Putnam says. “What wellness looks to each of us is different; so everyone gets to choose what their best self looks like for them”


Putnam describes this barrier as “wellness privilege,” where employers presume that employees already have more than the bare minimum social or other determinants of health. Blanket wellness advice such as spending more time close to nature to factor out the different access employees have to these health determinants.


According to Putnam, employees may be at more risk of chronic disease because of where they live, their level of education, working life conditions, childhood development, or the presence of social inclusion or discrimination. These social determinants of health, or “currents” as Putnam calls them, influence our health risks significantly, and without factoring these into the wellness program design, employers are literally wasting their time.


Putnam suggests that the first step to incorporating inclusion into wellness is starting from the top. It would be ridiculous, she writes, to want to drive inclusivity in wellness programs when your corporate culture does not reflect inclusivity. Putting up that facade will disengage employees further.


Inclusive wellness, Putnam summarizes, takes a lot of work. It is beyond involving people of different races, religions, or sexual orientations; it is more about providing an environment that accommodates their differences and building a culture that supports each of them. Without rethinking this fundamental framework, employers may find it difficult to create inclusion in wellness or drive the desired level of employee engagement with wellness programs.


Employers must also take into consideration the types of incentives to reward participants along their journey to better health, with inclusivity at the forefront. My advice has always been to keep reviewing the incentives you offer and consider offering a variety of rewards tailored to a participant’s personal interests, making for a meaningful experience.


At All Star Incentive Marketing, we believe a corporate wellness program with strong incentives can go a long way towards supporting your employees in adopting new habits and managing their health. 


It’s been our experience that employee wellness programs, as well as other incentive programs, are four times more effective when paired with a variety of tangible and experiential awards. Unfortunately, at many companies, wellness programs are not incentivized, or worse, rewards consisting of cash or gift cards are ineffective as motivators in promoting long-term changes in health-related behaviors. 


By offering incremental and memorable incentives, participants stay focused and adopt healthy habits – to their benefit as well as their employer. 


We’ll work with you to set goals and develop an inclusive strategy to promote wellness throughout your organization— from healthy eating, weight loss, and physical fitness to smoking cessation programs and disease management.


Brian Galonek


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