By: Michigan Wellness Council
TRAINING – November 6, 2018:
Workplace Wellness That Works
(Day 1 Of Two-Day Conference)
Part 4 of a 10-Part Series
(This is Step 4, out of 10 Steps, derived from Laura’s book, Workplace Wellness That Works. She will be outlining 10 steps to improve upon how we’re designing and delivering workplace wellness.)
For a deeper dive, join Laura Putnam on November 6th in Troy, MI for a day-long Workplace Wellness That Works training session. In the meantime, share your thoughts on promoting health and well-being in the workplace!
Health Risk Assessments.
Population Health Management.
The field of workplace wellness abounds with clinical, impersonal, negative, fear-inducing terms like these. And, we wonder why so many people opt out of employee wellness?
As the world of learning and development discovered long ago, led by the research of Donald Clifton with Gallup and popularized by speaker author movie-star-looking Marcus Buckingham, most people aren’t motivated when they’re told what’s wrong with them. The whole “identify your weaknesses” followed up by “here’s how you can correct them” is not only demotivating for most, it also doesn’t serve the best interests of their organization. Rather, people do better, and so do the organizations they work for, when they Start with What’s Right.
The world of workplace wellness could learn a lot from this strengths-first approach, especially if we’re serious about finding better solutions to engage people. And, considering that 80% of eligible employees are opting out, it’s high time we chose a different path.
Start with What’s Wrong
So, let’s step back and take a look at how we’ve been doing it. The classic model of workplace wellness, which borrows heavily from the medical model, usually goes something like this:
- Identify what’s wrong (e.g., identify “risk factors” and “health risk assessments”).
- Give feedback on what’s wrong.
- Give people the tools to “correct” what’s wrong.
- Hope that people will be inspired to engage with an array of well-being programs, whether it be lunch n’ learns, fitness challenges, or mindfulness programs.
In other words, most wellness programs are based on the outdated belief is that fear catalyzes action. Rationally, this fear-based, negative-first, here’s-what’s-wrong-with-you approach, makes sense. Why not notify people as to what’s wrong and then help them to correct it?
The problem is we’re not rational. Rather, we are emotional beings, especially when it comes to making a change.
You’d think, for example, that having a heart attack would be enough to “scare” someone into making lifestyle changes. Not so. Research shows that only 25% of post-cardiac patients elect to enroll in lifestyle management programs, after being advised by their well-meaning cardiologist to “Make these changes – or else you will die.” And of those, 90% drop out within a year.
Here’s just a short list of some of the disadvantages of taking this negative-first approach:
- Knowing your numbers (e.g. your “risk factors”) rarely translates into action;
- Most people already know that they’re overweight, stressed out, not getting enough exercise, the list goes on;
- Health risk assessments can feel mundane, stigmatizing and even threatening, especially when they’re tied to an incentive or penalty;
- Negative emotions narrow awareness, reduce flexible thinking and diminish our capacity to make change; and
A negative-first approach erodes self-confidence & self-efficacy.
Start with What’s Right
So, let’s go back to our post-cardiac patients. Bucking the usual “Make these changes or else you’ll die” mantra, Dean Ornish, leading cardiologist, instead uses positive messaging like “embrace life.” And, rather than shaming patients for making “bad” choices, he and his and team encourage patients to view setbacks as opportunities to learn. The difference? After one year, 90% of his patients are engaging in healthy lifestyle changes, and after three years, 77% are still going strong.
As we’ve learned in the learning and development space, employees who know their strengths and are applying these strengths everyday are seven times more likely to be highly engaged in their work (in comparison with those who are not), according to Gallup.
So, it’s time that we do the same in the world of workplace wellness and Start with What’s Right!
Here’s a short list of some of the advantages of a Start with What’s Right approach:
- Starting with What’s Right builds positive emotions and inspires higher levels of engagement;
- Positivity and “positivity resonance” (positivity in the context of others) sparks more creative and complex thinking;
- A positive-first approach is more likely to tap into intrinsic motivators;
- Starting with what’s right helps to sustain lifestyle changes over time.
Simply put, positive emotions and starting with strengths is likely to expand our thinking, and ultimately, accelerate engagement and performance.
If you want to move people – much like an agent of change – think less about starting a program, and more about starting a movement.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Putnam is the award-winning author of the #1 Amazon Hot New Release in HR & Personnel Management book, Workplace Wellness That Works, and founder of Motion Infusion, a leading provider of well-being and human performance speaking and training services. Her work has been covered by MSNBC, The New York Times, US News & World Report, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and NPR. Learn more about Laura at her website and follow her on LinkedIn.
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Contact: Rita Patel, Executive Director