when i was on HR happy hour 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.” doing so narrows the scope and usefulness of what companies are trying to achieve and how successful they are. 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 to say, calling something a program is the kiss of death, especially when launched by HR. it’s the flavor of the month, ignored from the get-go. where 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. (so, too, can the people who preach it…i know.)
wellness needs to be an integral part of a company’s culture, not a program, if it’s to stand a chance. 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 the other values and rituals, and yes, the programs, that run roughshod over this cultural norm.