For 11 years, FIT2order has provided corporate wellness programs that engage employees in healthy behaviors—fitness classes, nutrition seminars, weight loss challenges. Participation rates are the standard measure of success for these programs. Over the years, FIT2order has, unwittingly, developed an additional, “bigger picture” metric. Meet Betty. Betty is our internal, subjective and toughest standard by which we evaluate our programs, and she generates quite a bit of discussion. The metric looks like this, “Is Betty participating? Is she engaged? Is Betty bored?”
Betty represents the quintessential seasoned Desk Jockey. Perhaps she is the receptionist or call center representative, or maybe she is the Executive VP of Human Resources. Whatever her title, Betty sits most hours of her work day and, aside from bathroom breaks, finds it difficult to peel away from her desk. Because of her sedentary work-lifestyle, like most desk jockeys, Betty has creeping weight gain and her latest blood work reveals that she is pre-diabetic. Her insurance company would call her a yellow light—someone who is in the moderate health risk category--and is quickly approaching the red light, or high-risk category. Red lighters are employees with one or more chronic condition. Their conditions dig deep not only into the employee’s pockets, but to those of the company’s.
And the kicker, at least for FIT2order—Betty does NOT want to engage in onsite wellness activities. This is exactly why Betty makes a great metric for us. We know that if the Bettys—the yellow lights--of your company are participating, the elusive Behavior Change gets set into motion, or, as we like to call it, the Ripple of Effect of Change begins, elevating both Betty’s health and your work culture.
[LESSONS FROM BETTY]
Eleven years in, and here’s what we’ve learned about corporate wellness programs from Betty:
No matter how clever the internal marketing, no matter how buff the onsite trainer, no matter how many emails she receives:
-Ok, this was a rookie lesson—boot camps aren’t for everyone. In fact, most who participate in these types of programs are already healthy. Research shows that “less healthy employees” are least likely to participate in wellness activities. (U of Ill, 2018 cited in Bloomberg).
-Like 70% of the employees who do not participate in wellness programs, Betty would like to call her own shots for healthy behavior.
-Ah, the wellness point system of rewards. A recent study concluded that while monetary incentives can increase participation, they do so by only 9-13% (U of Ill). Despite dressing these programs up as carrots—non-participatory employees often see them as sticks.
-Despite Betty’s concerns, according Harvard Business Review, most employers would support short, purposeful work breaks. But when the CEO’s encouragement is not communicated, the culture can feel unsupportive.
[What WILL Betty Do?]
This is also what we know about Betty: Betty wants to lose weight. She doesn’t want the back pain that’s developing from too much sitting. She knows she needs to move more. And though she might not be front and center in the lunchtime yoga class, she will do stretches at her desk; she won’t touch that boot camp class, but she will use a resistance band and do one move per hour; and while she probably can’t be talked into a walking challenge, she would take a daily ten-minute walk around the parking lot with a co-worker who shares similar interests. Betty will take those short, fitness breaks and can begin to develop her own fit work-lifestyle.
[THE BOTTOM LINE]
Our subjective and beloved metric, Betty, continually motivates FIT2order to think differently about onsite wellness programs. Instead of attempting to convert offices into gyms, we can repurpose fitness to FIT into an office’s lifestyle, offering fitness-based work breaks. While fitness classes, nutrition seminars and weight loss challenges all have their place within a company’s wellness strategy, Betty has taught us that to engage herwe need to think small—and doable. Betty’s small steps towards a healthy work-lifestyle can create that ripple of positive change both in her life and in your work culture.
EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey. EBRI Issue Brief(2013).
Jones, D. et al.What do workplace wellness programs do? Evidence from the Illinois workplace wellness study. NBER Working Paper No. 24229(2018).
McManamy, S. Why people do—and don’t—participate. Harvard Business Review(2016).