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Wellness Vs. Well-being: Is Your Program Designed for Everyone?

The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.
– Thomas Edison

What does wellness mean to you? My perception of wellness is being active and having the energy to do so. So if you asked me, I’d say I’m healthy. I work out, I eat healthy (most of the time), and I take time for myself and my family—if you count running from dance practice to baseball to soccer. Of course, everyone has their own idea of what it means to be in good physical and mental health, so everyone’s journey to wellness might be slightly or radically different from mine. But when it comes to our approach to wellness programs, we may have more in common.

Why employees avoid wellness programs

I recently read an article by Dan Cook on the 5 reasons employees avoid wellness programs. In it, he states that when asked why employees don’t take advantage of the full range of incentives offered by their company wellness program, the overwhelming response was that “the plan isn’t designed for me.” Interestingly, people feel that they are already doing what they need to do to be healthy, independently of incentives.

I can relate. I already do many of the things incorporated into our WebMD wellness program. Walking challenge? I run. Exercise 30 minutes per day? I do 60 minutes. And when it comes to the incentive—well, the extra effort to track my activities isn’t always worth the incentive for me. Apparently I’m not alone. According to the article:

  • 36% of those who are disengaged with their company wellness program feel they are already making good choices.
  • 24% feel the incentive isn’t meaningful to them.

Is your wellness program addressing everyone?

If your wellness program participation isn’t strong, maybe it’s due to lack of flexibility. Think about whether you’re effectively addressing everyone—those who need it as well as those who need something that takes it up a notch. Maybe you need to consider some new approaches. Are you segmenting your population? Can you tailor your program by those population segments?

Some may think that a health risk assessment is so “yesterday” but it truly can help people understand where they are on their journey to wellness so that you can more effectively tailor the right programs at the right time for everyone. Even healthy individuals can set goals for maintaining their health—maybe it’s running a half marathon, separating work and family time, or knowing when it’s okay to calorie splurge on a great dinner out. I take our Health Assessment every year because it’s quick (remember, I’m super busy), engaging, and most importantly, it helps me rethink areas where I can improve and stay on my own defined path of wellness.

Does your wellness program consider individuals’ well-being?

On the flip side of the coin, well-being takes a holistic approach to health by including the presence of positive emotions and moods (e.g., contentment, happiness), the absence of negative

emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety), and satisfaction with life, fulfillment, and positive functioning. In simple terms, well-being can be described as judging life positively and feeling good.[1. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL))]

This is an important concept because we’ve come to a pivotal time in healthcare—shifting to a new paradigm where health is more than physical but also incorporates people’s emotional outlook on life and strategies related to life. As we think about the broad range of individuals’ health, there are those people who are healthy because they exercise and eat well, but they may not be in a state of well-being. This is where stress, happiness, and our mental health come into play.

Hmmm, this is where I might be a little unhealthy. I’m always stressed because of my job, children’s schedules, and my desire to be a perfectionist.

So how do we expand programs to consider well-being in addition to physical wellness?

In addition to segmenting your population, once you get someone engaged, you have to work just as hard, if not harder, to keep them engaged. Communications and reminders are key—in fact, the lack of reminders is another stated reason why employees avoid wellness programs.

I know how busy I am, so when I get a reminder that it’s time for a meeting, baseball practice, or to refill a prescription, I’m so grateful. Let’s face it—with everything on our plates these days, something has to drop. If you want your employees’ or members’ health to be a priority in their daily lives, then you have to keep it front and center. Regular reminders, encouragement, and consistent messaging are essential to turn program avoidance into program engagement. But to be valuable and successful, those reminders have to be relevant to me. Which of your individuals prefer smartphone reminders? Which want emails? Maybe some need both for that extra nudge?

So now that you’ve shifted your thinking to well-being, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get 100% engagement in you program. However, an essential first step to ensuring higher levels of engagement is to think through your population needs to ensure you are designing a program that everyone can benefit from.

When designing your wellness program, consider the following:

  • Are we able to segment our population so that we can tailor program features to all individuals—the healthy and the not-so-healthy?
  • What kinds of incentives will appeal to each of our population segments and do we have the flexibility to tailor those incentives?
  • What is the preferred communication/reminder methods for each of our population segments?
  • How will we measure success? And will those success factors vary by population segment?
  • Are we expanding our program to encompass a state of well-being?

Well-being or wellness programs are not just for the unhealthy, less-active, or sick. Well-being is not just something that happens once. Sometimes we need that extra incentive or insight to help push us to the next level. Well-being is for everyone so let’s give everyone the incentive to take advantage of it.

Want to talk about well-being and incentives? Drop us a line at whsinfo@webmd.net

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