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We’re constantly being told to look after ourselves better. To sleep more. To eat less crap. To do more exercise. You would have thought with all this chatter we’d be reversing years of bad habits.

Wrong.

Despite it being in the news every day, despite more government efforts to educate, and despite companies buying up lots of orchards to provide free fruit, the latest studies point to a further decline in the nations health.

Sigh.

Government policy isn’t something I know enough about to meaningfully comment. So I’m not going to. There are far cleverer people trying to get to the bottom of this right now. Anyway, we’re 9toLife, not a bloody protest party. However, an area where we do have some experience is the role of companies in improving the vitality of their workforce.

Clearly, some companies don’t think this is their role. Which is fine. Ignorant – given the real commercial benefits on offer – but fine nonetheless. (Those same companies are likely still running Windows 95 and allocate a parking space for the MD too).

Thankfully, an increasing number of organisations do recognise the correlation between performance and vitality and are doing something about it. This is positive news for all. Unfortunately, despite very good intentions, the way many approach this is often way less effective than it should be.

And that’s because businesses have become too focussed on the things they offer and have ignored the execution. They think the job is done when they’ve hosted a wellbeing day, bought a dozen Nutri-Bullets, persuaded Dave from Accounts to coordinate a running club or stopped Daisy on her way back from Woodstock to host some yoga classes.

These initiatives might look great to the board, on employment contracts and on their twitter feed, but how many are actually participating? How many people can HR point to who are performing better at work because of them?

Going forward, businesses must obsess more about the execution as the mechanism to get more people on their programme and create lasting behaviour change.

4 thoughts.

1. Can the real coaches please stand up.

Simplifying things a little, there are two types of people. Those who make good choices and those who don’t.

That group of guys who come to work in Lycra and spend their waking moments analysing their STRAVA data – well, they need little encouragement.  We see a lot of health & fitness initiatives being offered to those who are already healthy and fit. But what about those who aren’t on top of their regime? They are the ones with the lowest motivation and who are less likely to participate. Yet ironically they are also the ones more likely to be signed off sick, suffer stress or are identifying as not consistently performing to their potential.

Keeping up a new regime requires side-by-side, regular one2one coaching. In the same way you wouldn’t attempt to fix the printer yourself, don’t attempt to fix people’s bad habits yourself either. It’s the job for a on-site coach.

2. Lead through action.

Instilling a healthy culture requires good leaders. There is zero point inspiring good behaviour if you aren’t enabling it too.

Burning people 12 hrs a day while simultaneously offering them free gym access gives off mixed signals at best. At worst, it dis-enfranchises. And then all of a sudden they’re a flight risk.

Giving people the chance to get healthy on their terms but on work time requires explicit permission and the endorsement of key people within the business. Not hollow words, but action.

Having vitality as a company KPI, seeing the boss running at lunch and providing free kit are all demonstrable actions than fuel a healthy culture.

3. Personalise your plan.

Everyone has different vital stats, different genetics, different goals. We’re all weird and wonderful in our own way.

Think about your own company. You will probably have anxious new grads, returning Mums, stressed new Dads, those who suffer diabetes, those who find solace at the bottom of a pint glass, those who live close by and others who have a horrendous commute. All working under the same roof.

And yet, despite everyone being different, corporate wellbeing initiatives are usually off-the-shelf affairs. After work 5-a-side anyone?

For a health strategy to work every single person needs to be acknowledged as being unique. Everyone must know their vital stats. And everyone must have a plan on how to manage their life in accordance with these.

4. Hear me now.

We’ve all seen it. The poster in the office kitchen drawing your attention to Maxine’s Mobile Massage Company. It’s probably blu-tacked next to the one promoting Big Barry’s Boot Camp.

Promoting your programmes has to be more considered and done more strategically. Your brand marketing teams wouldn’t throw out campaign adverts with different messages and branding. Same goes.

If you want to engage employees and drive positive sentiment toward the company, you must be more creative, more impactful and find novel new ways of getting your message out to employees. That round-robin email entitled ‘Wednesday Yoga Class’ aint working.

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