How Big Is Your Wellness Team?

Who is entrusted with the responsibilities of running your company’s wellness programs?

If you don’t know the answer right off the top of your head, is it any surprise that your company doesn’t have at least a functioning wellness program? (Even if it’s minimally-functioning.)

A strong wellness program not only has great programs, great incentives, and great participation, it also is run by an outstanding wellness team.

Yes, you need a team to run your program, not just one person. You have redundancies to deal with employees in other functions leaving, don’t you? What happens when a mid-level manager in IT leaves? You have other people in your IT department with the information and knowledge to do the job until you find a replacement.

The same must be said for your wellness program if you hope for it to be a success. It can’t ride on the shoulders of one person in human resources. It just can’t. If your company wellness initiatives are run by one person, you have a few things to worry about.

Losing the Program Entirely

First is the danger of completely losing your program when that person leaves. While you think you might have a well-entrenched program, what would happen to the energy and direction of the program if that spot is left vacant for six weeks? Two months? Three? Six months?

It’s like a car on cruise control. Everything goes along smoothly, but then you switch off the cruise. At first the car keeps going at its original speed. Everything’s still good, yeah? But then it starts slowing down. The car no longer has a driving force, and comes to a stop.

You no longer have a driving force in your wellness program if the only person driving it takes his/her foot off the gas and jumps out of the car. (Even if the person did set the cruise control, the car would still crash due to a lack of steering control.)

Employee Resentment

The second thing to be concerned about is the unfortunate likelihood of that one person being seen as a nag. If one person hectors after everyone about their health, eating habits, exercise frequency, participation in company wellness activities… it can get annoying real fast.

What good is a wellness program if everyone views the person running it as an irksome presence, endlessly chiding them to take part? You’ll be lucky to get minimal participation rates, and I’d be shocked if you attained any measure of real, enduring participation.

Introducing multiple people into the equation not only alleviates the responsibility of one person, it sharply reduces the animosity directed at any one person.

You Against Us

The third problem is the likelihood of the program being pigeon-holed by employees as an “HR thing”, a “safety department thing”, or a “because the CFO said so” thing. Having one person on your team guarantees the person being from only one level/department of the company, which does little for permeating a culture of wellness throughout the company.

Making your wellness team a many-membered effort, incorporating different departments and levels, widens the sphere of influence.

One Dominant Perspective

Having one person running the program — even two — can cause friction. Virtually everybody has a different opinion about wellness. Health, nutrition, and exercise have such wide ranges of philosophies. Everyone is different and different things work for different people. That’s why you need more voices in the discussion.

The 5’2″, 100-pounds-soaking-wet vegan yogi is entirely different from the 6′, 185-pound guy who endorses strength training, sprints, and steak-and-potatoes eating. These differences aren’t bad. They improve on the variety of initiatives your program can offer, which brings more people into the fold when they find something they like.

One Level Represented

If one person’s running your wellness initiatives, you only have one level of the company with any real investment in it. Front-line workers won’t have respect of higher-ups, middle managers won’t influence anyone except those in their department (at best), and senior executives are likely to come off as a domineering presence or simply push wellness to the back burner when “more important” projects arise.

Ultimately, your company size should dictate the size of your wellness team. You can customize it based on need, but here are some ballpark numbers:

  • Fewer than 50 employees: 3-5 wellness team members
  • 50-100 employees: 4-8 team members
  • 101-500 employees: 7-12 team members
  • 501-1000 employees: 10-15 team members
  • 1,001+ employees: as many as 20 team members

Note that I completely rule out having one or two people running your wellness program, even among the smallest of companies. I touched a bit on the makeup of your company’s wellness teams, but that’s a different story for a different day.

How many people make up your company’s wellness team?

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