Keeping workers engaged can be tough in a normal operating environment. Add a pandemic into the mix, and the challenges multiply. FSDs will likely need all of the tools in their staff development arsenals when business begins picking up again. And given the focus on health amid COVID-19, a staff wellness program could be a valuable piece of the puzzle.
Read on to see how the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) upped employee engagement with the simple wellness program it introduced late last year.
When Natalie Holzhauer joined UNCC in October, the dining team’s wellness program, like many, revolved around staff achieving a certain number of steps per day. While that program got strong engagement, Holzhauer, who is the campus dietitian, saw room for improvement. At a previous job, she and some co-workers had played around with a wellness initiative that was “mostly for fun” but was a bit more multifaceted.
“I really wanted to focus more on not just physical activity, because that’s usually what most people do with employee wellness,” she says. “I wanted to add nutrition and self-care in there as well.”
A balanced approach
To that end, Holzhauer introduced a new program with an easy starting point: a worksheet. Each week, participating staff fill out the sheet, which contains a column for each weekday and denotes the number of points employees can earn each day for a variety of activities that promote healthy eating, exercise and self-care.
One of the easier items on the list? Flossing, which earns participants 1 point, as does journaling or helping someone. Some activities, such as logging more than 30 minutes of cardio or drinking eight cups of water, are a bit more difficult and thus worth more points.
“The idea behind this is you’re not supposed to get all of the points every day,” Holzhauer says. “It’s really about finding your strengths and giving yourself those easy points and finding some things that you can kind of push yourself to work on.”
The staffer with the most points at the end of the week is deemed the winner. Before Holzhauer came on board, weekly wellness prizes included items such as a cookbook or yoga mat, but later, winners received $25 on Amazon so they could get something they’d be genuinely excited about. “Our first winner won two weeks in a row, so she had $50, and she bought herself weights on Amazon,” Holzhauer says. “She was wanting them so for so long, and I think that’s why she did so well [in the challenge].”
Though she was still fairly new to campus, Holzhauer rolled out the updated program to managers in early November during a weekly leadership meeting. “There were 40 people in the room, and they were all very, very excited,” she says.
And there was a notable shift in staff engagement in the months after, Holzhauer says: “Our sustainability and wellness specialist, who was the one in charge of this prior to me coming on board, said that the engagement has increased significantly since doing just [step tracking], so she was really excited to see people actually participating.”
Seeing a difference
It can get pretty competitive, too, Holzhauer says: “Everybody’s always looking at everyone’s sheets and seeing how many points they’re getting.” However, due to busy schedules and other reasons, not everyone participates each week.
Yet the results so far had been tangible, she says, noting that one employee had even been able to come off her cholesterol and blood pressure medication since participating in the wellness program. “She’ll give us all the credit” for her better health, Holzhauer says, “but we know it was more than just that.”