A Sweet Start to a Wellness Program

dairy-queen-logoMy first job was at a Dairy Queen. I worked there for two summers and a winter – we were one of the stores with an indoor eating area and drive-through. Looking back, I ate way too much ice cream, way too many coney dogs… and a lot of lunch break Taco Bell.

I can’t eat Dairy Queen anymore. Side effect of having worked there, I guess.

Still, I stumbled across this article when I checked my Yahoo! mail this morning.

Dairy Queen’s headquarters in Edina, MN, has a wellness program and treadmill desks are part of the formula. The headquarters appears to have just two of the desks right now, but that’s not much of a surprise for a fledgling wellness program.

Their future plans include yoga classes, lockers and showers for people who exercise at the workplace, and healthier food options.

It’s a good example of how a wellness program can, and should, make progress in steps: start with a couple treadmill desks and a few little bells and whistles, and build from there.

Yours doesn’t have to be anything grandiose, either. In fact, it’s preferable. How frustrating would it be to invest in a dozen treadmill desks, budget a chunk of money for gift cards and cash incentives for being active, set up infrastructure for at-work fitness…

…and have a handful of people use them with any regularity?

Listen, you can have the best wellness program strategy on the planet. You may have gotten outstanding employee input on the initiatives they’d like to see. You can drum up all the fervor and excitement you want. You might have a wellness team ready and raring to go. Your senior executives might be fully behind the program. You could have ten top-of-the-line treadmill desks set up and fully functional.

What happens when your wellness program stumbles out of the gate.

This is your wellness program falling all over itself.

And your program still might fall flat on its face out of the gate.

You don’t know why, at first. You had all this awesome stuff lined up, you knew it would cater to your employees, and it still blew up in your face.

Well, surprise of surprises, things don’t always work out the way you want.

Remember, companies really are just a collection of individuals.

Starting an ambitious personal nutrition and exercise plan might be too grueling for someone who hasn’t eaten right or exercised in over a decade. An ambitious wellness program in a company unaccustomed to lunch-and-learns, treadmill desks, or health challenges can also prove to be too grueling.

You wouldn’t ask a new weight lifter to squat 315. Why ask a new wellness program to get 65% participation rates right away?

Just like personal goals, the goals for a wellness program ought to be challenging, doable, but shouldn’t be expected to happen immediately.

That’s where getting the pulse of your employees comes in. If it really is an unfit workplace, you’re going to have to start small. Toss around a couple treadmill desks to get your employees moving. Have nutrition education seminars to get them learning how food affects their minds, bodies, and health.

Once they have the basics, then you can move on to the bigger things: fitness challenges and store receipt contests (“who buys the most produce?”) and a meeting room filled with treadmill desks and yoga classes…

The sky’s the limit, but get off the ground first.

How did your company’s wellness program get off the ground?

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