employers renew, refresh and expand with national employee wellness month

June 19, 2012

in wellness

june is national employee wellness month, an annual recognition of the importance of employee well-being that virgin healthmiles initiated in 2009.

one might ask why we need a month dedicated to employee wellness. i did. after all, i advise my clients to make wellness a year-round way of being, not an event. we don’t want people checking the wellness box each june and then tuning out for the remaining 11 months. virgin underscores this dilemma with the findings from their 2012 national employee wellness month employer/employee survey and then responds to it via companies participating in the national event.

a failure to communicate

virgin’s survey asked employers how well they felt they communicated their available wellness resources to employees and then asked employees for their opinion. unsurprisingly, there’s a disconnect between the two.

more than 57% of employers believe employees know about their program and how to take advantage of it. employees, on the other hand, responded:

“‘I don’t know’ when asked whether their employer offered a number of health and wellness benefits, such as: disease management programs (39%), smoking cessation programs (29%) or programs including stress management and mental health/depression management programs (27%), for example.”

another opportunity to engage employees

this breakdown is one reason companies participate in NEWM. they see it as an additional opportunity to grab employees’ attention and show them all the wellness resources the company offers, often adding tempting NEWM-specific activities.

i spoke with jodi fuller, director of global benefits at meadwestvaco corporation (MWV), and linnie brown, fitness director, by email. “we are trying to build a culture of health,” jodi explained, “and supporting this month assists us with visibly showing our employees that we support wellness.” for the entire month of june, MWV has scheduled activities to keep the focus on wellness, with such highlights as yoga, an adult-oriented field day, a scavenger hunt with built-in exercise stations and a boot camp. MWV is joining their neighbors at the federal reserve and dominion power, expanding their circle of wellness.

another company, sanofi US, has participated in NEWM for two years, according to this press release. similar to MWV, this year sanofi created a NEWM series of activities and branded it under their overarching wellness program, health in action.

could there be more to NEWM?

you can see that virgin aims to continue growing this national event, which has already substantially expanded in size and scale since its first year. started in 2009 with one partner—the strategies to overcome and prevent (STOP) obesity alliance—the event has since grown to four partners and more than 140 participating companies. since its first year, the partnership to fight chronic disease and worldatwork have joined virgin and STOP as sponsors. their NEWM website offers companies resources, research and tips to get smart and get going.  last year NEWM created a “healthies” award that highlights individuals who’ve made successful strides, and this year is the first year for the NEWM-related survey.

keeping employees’ attention on healthy choices and available resources is an ongoing challenge we’re all facing. NEWM presents an opportunity that some companies are latching onto to kick it up a notch and cleverly renew, refresh or expand their approach. i see an opportunity for virgin to inspire participating companies and their employees with a NEWM competitive challenge. it’d form a nice tie-in to the growth in social wellness over the past few years. perhaps that’s what we’ll see for NEWM 2013.

what say you? does your company participate in NEWM? 

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Janet McNichol June 19, 2012 at 9:48 am

We focus on wellness 365 days a year. However, I don’t see any harm in having a month dedicated to wellness. Maybe it will inspire some employers to get a program started. I haven’t looked at the survey, but some of the statistics you pointed out are curious. Most employees won’t know or need to know their employer has a disease management program. Someone will reach out to them when a trigger is hit. That’s not the kind of thing we put our efforts into communicating.

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fran June 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm

hi janet. in my experience, employees are very unnerved by these calls. they’re concerned that their company knows about their health history/risks, and they react negatively and are less receptive to the call in response. knowing about the program, what it offers and why they as an individual are being called can reduce their anxiety and aggravation if one day they’re on the receiving end.

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Bethany Garrity June 23, 2012 at 7:18 am

I think one of the other benefits of a focused month like this is that it may allow for activities you couldn’t do all year long, but that really grab employee’s attention. Our staff use this type of promotion to do things like cook-offs, hula hoop challenges, recess (OK…this one SHOULD happen year-round!), etc. It provides an opportunity to get employee’s attention…kind of like open enrollment, only it’s more fun!

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fran June 25, 2012 at 7:00 am

bethany, you’re not alone. that’s what i consistently heard from others, too. sign me up for the hula classes!

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