Most companies have a few gregarious, rally-the-troops employees that bring everyone together. They’re the ones who organize the company softball team or inspire everyone to compete together in an obstacle race.
That informal volunteer job has existed for decades, inspiring employees to compete and get healthier together. The gig usually attracts the office health nut or weekend warrior athlete hoping to share a passion with others.
These days, it’s more common for a company’s “wellness champion network” to take a more defined role to improve the health and culture of a workplace. Acting within guidelines of an employer-sponsored wellness program, usually under the umbrella of the human resources department, the wellness champions educate co-workers about program offerings and inspire them to greater health.
Digital platforms play a role, not only providing social media and communications tools but also enabling employees to track progress, attend webinars, and stay current on research pertaining to the performance realm in regard to mindset, nutrition, physical activity, recovery, finances, spiritual growth, and more.
Employee buy-in, of course, determines the success of any wellness program.
Employee buy-in, of course, determines the success of any wellness program. In a study published by the American Journal of Health Behavior, employees participating in wellness champion activities increased their awareness of wellness opportunities, felt supported for having a healthy lifestyle, and rated their perceived health and wellness higher.
Wellness champions typically are those already motivated to inspire others to better health and performance. They could be the C-suite executive who competes in Ironman triathlons, the office manager who moonlights as a yoga instructor, or the entry-level marketing staffer who recently lost 30 pounds.
The common denominator for wellness champions is a desire to connect and inspire others to greater wellness.
The common denominator is a desire to connect and inspire others to greater wellness, along with an extroverted, team-building personality.
The key to sustaining a wellness champion network, says those who have worked with such programs, is to support the champions and not overload them since, after all, it’s a volunteer position. Keeping the gig fun and not making it seem like human resources-related work is also important.
“It can be done effectively in five to 10 hours a month,” says Lois Duke, a senior performance dietitian for EXOS who has worked with wellness champions. “For a lot of wellness champions, it might be something they’re doing informally already.”
Among the factors to consider when evaluating potential wellness champions:
The best potential wellness champions often self-identify since they’re likely the most outgoing employees already involved in a high-performance lifestyle. Send an office-wide e-blast to gauge interest.
Roles and responsibilities
Some companies have more established wellness programs than others. In some cases, the wellness champion is following a well-defined framework, while some companies might turn more to the wellness champion to help create programs and initiatives. In either case, let subsequent wellness champions build on the previous framework, tweaking as needed.
How will the wellness champion communicate both with the leaders of the wellness department itself and the employees? Empower wellness champions to share information. Ready-made templates for e-newsletters can help get a champion started.
It can be challenging to measure the success of any wellness program. Participation rates are the standard metric and whether they go up or down with any one champion is one way to quantify success, at least with that particular champion.
The wellness champion, like any good leader, is drawn to the role at least in part for altruistic reasons.
“What I’m finding in these people is that there’s a true passion for wellness and a desire to help others benefit in the workplace,” says Jaqueline Lee, an EXOS performance specialist who has worked with wellness champion programs. “Yes, it can take time on top of their regular job description, but when you can share this and help those you’re already working with on a number of levels, that’s powerful motivation.”
Looking to improve your workplace wellness? Find out how EXOS can help.
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