From 1776 until the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with typical festivities ranging from fireworks, parades, concerts, casual barbecues with family and friends, and for most employees a day off from work.

At this holiday we celebrate not only liberty but also autonomy, self-determination, independence and choice.  Interestingly, these are also things employees’ want from a work site wellness program.  No one likes being told what to do especially when it comes to eating and physical activities, which are generally done on their own time.  Yet this is often exactly what work site wellness program tend to do.  Employees are told eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise more, do this, don’t do that.

While giving direction can’t be avoided, employees should be given as much freedom to reach the goal as possible.  How can they be dictated to and given freedom at the same time?  Here are a few suggestions.

Educate.  Use facts and data.  As I plan a fruit and vegetable campaign for a client I want to start by telling them less than 5% of their employees are eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. I am hoping that number will have an impact on them, at least more so than just saying eat more fruits and vegetables.   And education on the benefits of fruits and vegetables will also be an important part of the campaign.

Make it fun:  Yes for an exercise challenge it is important to log the exercise one is doing. But I think it gets more ingrained when employees are given the freedom to plan what the active work activity should be.  Some wonderful examples my own clients have come up with include; having a volleyball tournament against a rival company or an internal whiffle ball game that just wouldn’t stop even when that poor whiffle ball was more duct tape than plastic.

Make it easy:  While they may be doing this as part of their job, it is not their job.  Whatever you are asking them to do needs to be simple, simple, simple with realistic deadlines and assistance available if needed.

Perhaps George S. Patten said it best,

Never tell people how to do things.

Tell then what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.

Valorie Bender CWPC