Memory, Motivation & Wellness

We are forgetful creatures.

I’m not referring to the “senior moment” variety of forgetfulness.

I’m talking about the habitual forgetting that takes place in the midst of everyday life challenges and stresses, when we “forget” to make those choices that we know will keep our bodies, spirits and relationships healthy.

We forget that change can only happen today and not tomorrow. We forget what is most precious to us.

Corporate wellness programs, which aim to reduce healthcare costs and improve employee productivity, have to contend with the astonishing gap between what employees think about health and what they do about it.

That gap helps to explain why 70% of employees say that wellness is valuable but only 9% take advantage of the wellness programs their employers offer. The top reasons employees give for why they do not participate in wellness programs is that they’re too busy with their jobs and are not fully aware of what the company offers.

They don’t say that “forgetting” and insufficient motivation to make healthy choices are important factors but they are.

Most employees sincerely want to reap the benefits of being healthier but many are not sufficiently motivated to do something they perceive as definitely difficult now (exercise, eat a healthy meal, not smoke) in exchange for a possible future benefit (better health).

Organizations need to develop wellness communications that recognize this paradox and address the ambivalence many employees have toward making healthier choices and changing unhealthy habits.

We need to find new ways to continuously remind employees that there is a path to improving health and well-being, in a sustainable way, based on the cumulative result of many small changes that do not depend upon maintaining high levels of motivation .

Organizations also need to train managers to identify and correct supervisory “practices that increase employee stress and damage individual health and productivity.” You can’t credibly encourage employees to make behavioral changes that improve health while continuing management practices that harm it.

I have written previously about some innovative,and integrated, tactics organizations could use to regularly “remind” employees of the connections between individual health and organizational profitability.

A new initiative, developed by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), has introduced another strategy for reducing the isolation, and improving the outcomes, of employee health promotion programs: Total Worker Health.

Casey Chosewood, director of the Office for Total Worker Health at NIOSH emphasizes that: “it’s not about a rigid set of programs and policies but about creative thinking all around. He encourages siloed safety/wellness/work-life/HR departments to share ideas and take part in each other’s meetings on a regular basis.”

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be a vital contributor to this kind of creative and collaborative effort.

Full service EAPs have a front row seat when it comes to understanding the multiple stresses and health challenges employees face at home and at work and offer a variety of tools to help employers with their health and wellness initiatives.

Don’t forget to take advantage of this well-positioned resource for improving employee health and productivity.

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