During our research phase we spoke to many employers and employees to find out what they both wanted from workplace health initiatives, especially when it came to the promotion of physical activity, and more importantly didn’t want, here we give you the top 8 points uncovered in our research.

Can you identify with any of these points in your organisation?

As we embarked on creating KudosHealth we engaged with many different types of organisations, in our quest to find out what organisations wanted from a corporate health programme, and how we could develop a system to meet their needs.

The companies interviewed ranged for small domestic business to large scale international companies employing close to one hundred thousand employees. What was clear from the outset was that organisations were aware of the benefits of implementing an employee health engagement programme, but some found it very had to connect it that back to any sort of return on investment.

One of the main reasons why they weren’t able to calculate a ROI is the fact that they didn’t have a defined wellness programme, and the makeup of their employee health programme consisted of once yearly health screening, a nutrition seminar and some ad-hoc physical activity initiatives such as walking groups, a company fun run for charity and an company cycle outing, all very good but hard to pin down a ROI from those efforts.

But it was refreshing to find a large number of employers looking beyond the ROI, which was driven by the finance guys, some organisations had reversed themselves to the fact that it’s not all about ROI when it comes to the employee health programmes, as it very hard to put a figure on it, happy smiling faces about the office and a boost in morale across an organisation is a good indicator of results, but again is difficult to evaluate, and put a figure on, therefore organisations are looking at VOI (Value of Investment).

It’s the employee positivity factor, if the employee interacts with customers this can lead to a greater customer experience for your customers and an increase in sales, if your employees’ customer are your own internal departments, and interaction between departments is vital to your success , the employee positivity factor will lead to greater interactions, innovations and produce new ideas and solutions to business challenges, creating a more positive environment where employees feel move valued, and in turn create more value for the business.

We’re happy to share some of the points raised in our conversations with HR manager’s, direct line managers, employee engagement managers, occupational health professionals, comp’s & benefit’s managers, Ceo’s and employees, which we felt we can address in the product we bring to market.

One of the most common points that came up across all interview’s was that fact that still today most health initiatives that involved physical activity revolved around events that were all time and location based events, and these didn’t always suit everyone, people are busier than they ever were before. There normally is a great turnout for the first running of an event because it’s something new, but as time went on and in was into the second or third running of an event the number of participants would dwindle considerably, all because its timing just didn’t suit everyone. The suggestions we received, were of events that could be running for a month at a time with the ability for the employee to participate in their own time, pace and leisure.

Organisations that had multiple locations, not only in the same country but across the globe, found that what their were doing was just duplicating events in different locations with one person being tasked to run the event in their location which takes up a considerable amount of time and money in the organisation of such events, where surly it would be more efficient to have one organiser across multiple locations.

One Ceo of an unnamed large employer, was happy to point out that percentage of their employees that participated in health initiatives throughout the year was over 75%, a great number if you’re looking at the high level overview, but when you break in down it doesn’t really add up to much, he advised that they are relatively new to workplace health promotion and run an number of different initiatives throughout the year, such as a walking group that take lunchtime walks, and participation in two charity fun run’s during the year, a health eating week, with health talks once every six months, with a focus on different topics.

And with all of these different events and initiatives laid on, at some stage of another 75% of the employees have engaged in one of these events during the year, but in reality what’s happening is 10% are participating in the walking group, another 10%-15% are taking part in the fun run’s, 25% engage in the health talks (probably because their seen as time out of the working day), and in our healthy eating week there is another 25% participating, and although there is some crossover, it feels as if it’s not enough, almost all of the initiatives have a very short focus, and probably do very little to change the long term behaviours of the employees, it seems like a bit of a ‘tick box exercise’ to be seen an organisation who care about the health of employees.

What actually would be a better long term result, would be if there was an engagement level of between 30% – 40% but this was consistent throughout the year, and 30% of employees were really engaged year round and were actually committed to really improving their health, and forget about the vanity figures such as 75%, which is not a true reflection of the engagement levels. Ideally we’d need to be connecting all these ad-hoc events, and create a more tangible programme that engages, and supports them all year round.

Another interesting point raised by another company Ceo was, we do our bit for looking after the health of our employees, we support employees with various health initiatives and we always felt were doing a good job at it, we would have more initiatives and more money spend on employee health compared to our corporate peers, but are we actually doing a good job of it, or are we just kidding ourselves in believing we are, we have no benchmark, or way to compare ourselves to others in the industry. It was this one point that has lead us to develop a feature which enables organisations to get a sense of how their doing anonymously against other companies.

A common theme that kept coming up amongst the HR manger’s and executives was, the time, cost and effort that went into organising health initiatives, sometimes they could nearly justify a new hire just to deal with this task, depending on the size of the organisation, but found it difficult to push through finance as it had always been an ad-hoc task for one of the HR team, but it has more recently taking on a life of its own with all that needs to be organised to implement a few simple health initiatives throughout the year, and this was most common in organisations with a centralised HR team supporting multiple locations.

The most important factor and person we focused on in our research was to understand what the employee thought about health promotion in the workplace. And what we uncovered, and what we were shocked about was all the negativity that surrounded the subject, yes there was an awful lot of good positive thoughts around what the employees thought of their employers efforts to get employees focused on their own health, but we did find out something’s that gets over looked, and sometimes not always reported back to the employer.

There were three main themes that kept coming up, first was, that employees felt like health promotion was just another corporate PR stunt, and all it was for was for companies to pat themselves on the back, and say to the outside world “look how great we are” and what we do for our employees to boost their corporate image, many felt like their health promotion efforts was just a box ticking exercise for the HR team, because it now was the in thing to do over that last few decade’s, with every company looking to have an employee health programme, or initiatives.

Employees seemed very clear on what they considered to be “just for show” health promotion efforts and what was a genuine attempt to get employees healthier for the benefit of the individual. Many thought there was a secret hidden agenda when health promotion was brought in to the organisation, in some cases some described it as “them trying to create the ultimate workforce”.

Here, some people just failed to see the bigger picture, where if health promotion in the workplace helped each individual to lead a healthier lifestyle in some small way, the collective result would be improved health across the organisation, and yes there would be benefits for the organisation, but it may not have been the primary goal. The improved health of an employee is not just while at work, it’s not something that switched on and off and there are other benefactors of improved health, they are the person’s direct family and friends who share interactions with the individual.

Some of these issues can be addressed in the communication that precedes the launch of a health initiative or programme, because there is no hidden agenda, all any organisation wants to achieve is happy, healthy staff, who like to come to work, and yes there will possibly be some knock on effects which impact the business in a positive way, but you should always make that clear at the outset. But yes they will always be a group that don’t want to go with the flow and they’ll always find ways to see the negative in every new process, or change implemented.

Secondly comfort, and uncomfortable were two words which seemed to ring through some of the more negative responses form employees, which would be of no shock to you, as long as you have candid employees who don’t fear providing negative feedback.

We found that a good number of employees felt uncomfortable about taking part in various health initiatives, especially those around physical activity, the concerns were, they were out of shape and didn’t feel comfortable in the attire required to participate around a group of work colleagues, others felt that the event was just a level above their current fitness levels and didn’t want to participate where their fitness level would be noticeably less than that of the other participants.

Then on the opposite end of the scale there were those that felt uncomfortable taking part because they felt they were a level above the other participants, and didn’t want to be seen as a “show-off” or they just felt that the type of event was just beneath them for their level of fitness, this leads to our third common theme that came up more than once, and more that probably doesn’t get much thought when implementing events.

The segregation of employees, the healthy and unhealthy, and the unintentional labelling of certain groups of employees. By their very nature most initiatives that are put in place throughout organisation’s where the focus is on physical activity, the activities are generally aimed at specific groups, it’s something aimed at those who are interested in fitness classes, running, walking and cycling, yes we know it’s hard to please everyone with the different types of events.

One group that that feels that it gets labelled, and which a lot of initiatives are solely aimed at is the sedentary, inactive group of employees, and by their very nature they’re the group that gets the most focus, yes we want to keep the active ones active, but there is the greater need to get the inactive ones moving.

A number of people in this group felt that there is an increasing amount of pressure being put on them to participate in healthy activities, and some of them felt that by participating, that they were actually acknowledging that, “yes, I’m unhealthy” and they’d rather not join in and been seen, or considered as part of that group, but they weren’t fit enough to be taking part in daily lunchtime walks, or 5k run’s. This issue is a very had one to solve, because yes most organisations will be aiming to get the inactive active, but it a very fine balancing act, and nearly impossible not to develop initiatives which solely focuses on the inactive.

Having given you an insight into how our research helped us uncover issues and concerns with health promotion in the workplace, that have helped us deliver a concept that goes along ways to address some if not all of these issues, we’d be delighted to give you the online demo.

Here are the top 8 key points were discovered in our customer research:

  1. Most events are time and location specific, and doesn’t suit everyone
  2. Groups of sedentary, at risk employees often feel isolated and ‘labeled risky’
  3. Some employees don’t feel comfortable participating in group events
  4. Employees felt that health initiatives, were just a ‘tick box’ exercises for employers
  5. The lack of programme’s that support year round engagement & support
  6. The diverse amount of healthy activities that employees can participate in
  7. The administration required to facilitate events is costly and time consuming
  8. No mechanism for peer comparison between companies