by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Despite the proliferation of social media within wellness services, health promoters in some organizations are becoming more distant to participants (and participants to each other). The tools can create a faux impression of connectedness, when in fact the link is tenuous at best. While the move toward e-everything has created enormous economy of scale, allowing you to reach more people more easily, it’s come at a price: a wellness program that has lost its heart.


If you don’t think your wellness program needs a heart, you’re living on borrowed time. It won’t matter how wonderful your health portal, how generous your health incentive plan, how polished your online health modules, how impressive your health coaching ROI. When times get tough, if your management and population don’t perceive wellness as part of the organization’s very fabric, you lose.


One of the best ways to make sure your program is integral and has heart is through wellness program rituals. Some suggestions:

  • Launch every program in person. Make it an event, where you’re looking people in the eye and pressing the flesh. That doesn’t mean you can’t do an email broadcast, but don’t do it first. Figure out a way to blitz the organization with face-to-face program kickoffs that have flare. Make your non-virtual promotions as memorable as possible, then leverage the buzz created through digital marketing.
  • Celebrate every program wrap-up. A T-shirt in the mail is nice and appreciated. A $500 contribution to your HSA gives a momentary bump in morale. But a well-executed, thought-through celebration (even if it’s simple) that conveys heartfelt appreciation for individual and team contributions creates a sense of ownership, belonging, and pride in your wellness program.
  • Get on the agenda. Get in front of each department at least once a year. Teach them something new, challenge them, show them how they’re doing in relation to the rest of the organization. Bring your message as close to home as possible, so you demonstrate that your wellness program is taking the department’s specific priorities into account in your planning and programs.
  • Make a big deal out of an annual health charity event. Look for something your participants can rally around in the community, such as a heart or breast cancer walk. Limit it to 1 event so you can put everything behind it each year.
  • Shut down your wellness program for 2-3 weeks every year. This is especially effective if you have a fitness facility, but the principle applies in any case. The last 2 weeks in December or August are good times to close the doors, then re-launch in January or September with great fanfare, new programs, a kickoff event, door prizes, etc. Enlist a respected executive to introduce the new year by highlighting past accomplishments and future challenges. Lay out some big goals for individuals and groups.

You get the idea. Look for every opportunity to create rituals with meaning and substance so your wellness program goes beyond your digital dashboard and has a heart that keeps beating — no matter what the state of the economy.

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