5 Ways to Engage Remote Employees in Wellness Programs

5 Ways to Engage Remote Employees in Wellness Programs

From nap pods and on-site chefs to life coaches and gym memberships, corporate wellness programs run the gamut. The popularity of Wellness programs has risen significantly over the past few years. Today, over 70 percent of U.S. employers currently offer a general wellness program, up from 58 percent in 2008, according to SHRM’s “2015 Employee Benefits” research report.

In an office environment, getting employees engaged in a wellness program is relatively straightforward. Motivational signs and images can be put up on walls. Team members can see colleagues joining the lunchtime bike ride group or notice when someone is no longer taking breaks to smoke.

But what about when all those employees work remotely from their home office?

At our company, Acceleration Partners, all of our team members work from home (or a co-working space or coffee shop if they feel like getting out of their house). While our team members see each other via video calls and regularly communicate with one another via Slack, email and Skype calls, they aren’t able to see their colleague in Chicago selecting a healthy salad over a greasy burger for lunch in an effort to reduce their LDL cholesterol levels; or that their teammate in Denver went on a hike during their lunch break.

While remote employees may not have all the motivational cues and in-house perks that a wellness program in an office environment might offer, it certainly doesn’t mean that they won’t reap the same rewards.

Here are five ways to help remote employees stay motivated and enthusiastic about taking advantage of all the benefits a wellness program has to offer:

Offer benefits that look at the whole person, not just their physical needs. When most people think of a wellness program, they tend think of on-site yoga instructors, gym memberships and activity trackers. However, “wellness” relates to a person’s mental, emotional and financial health as well.

Whether they’re in San Francisco or San Antonio, employees can benefit from financial and retirement planning, legal assistance (e.g. getting a will done) and stress management strategies, so it’s important to include those types of services too.

Walk the talk. As a client-focused service company, our team members are on a lot of calls. One thing we encourage our team members to do is to schedule internal calls as “walking” calls when they can. Not only does it get them up and moving, but walking and talking also tends to stimulate innovative ideas.

In fact, a person’s creative output increases by an average of 60 percent when walking, according to a Stanford research study.

If the weather is nice, the team members head outside with their phone. If it’s inclement, they simply walk around their house or on their treadmill (if they have one). Nilofer Merchant’s Ted Talk on this walking meeting concept is definitely worth a watch and is something that could be implemented in any organization’s wellness program.

Keep It Fun! One of our employees spearheaded a fun activity where our remote team members were divided into teams and each team used a free online platform to track their steps over a period of a few months. Progress on each teams’ activity was shared on our monthly company calls and the team that walked the most steps over that time period won a prize.

Expanding on this idea, your remote team could all share a common goal (e.g. walking around the world). Using an activity tracker, each team member would be able to contribute to one company walking goal. When it’s reached, everyone celebrates together.

To keep these kinds of challenges fresh, try and change them up every quarter.

Make it employee-driven. Wellness programs that are driven by employees are more successful than those directed by the company’s leadership.

Consider sending out a short wellness survey or holding a company-wide brainstorming call asking team members what wellness benefits they’d use the most and build it around that. Even better, start a wellness committee to drive initiatives and allow anyone to join – not everything needs to be top down.

Share successes. Whether you create a dedicated communication channel (e.g. via Slack) or build-in time on company calls, it’s essential to consistently communicate wellness successes – and even challenges – throughout your remote organization.

One thing we do on smaller team calls is to share personal and professional bests from the previous week. Using the first 5 minutes of team calls to share personal stories not only builds comradery and trust, but it can also be motivational for other employees and hold them accountable to be bringing their A-game each week.

Use this time to have each team member share what they are doing to improve their physical, mental, emotional or financial health (e.g. I finally got my will done!).

Learn more about Acceleration Partners on our Company page.