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Want to maximize results? Ask what employees want
After a disappointing turnout at a wellness event, the saying "we threw a party and no one came" may come to mind. As for why employees didn't attend, you'll never know unless you ask.
You may learn that an employee might hate the idea of sitting and listening to a lecture on diabetes prevention. They might love the idea of spending their lunch hour finding out how to make a low-cost healthy dinner for that night, however. On the other hand, they might be very interested in attending the lecture, but must attend during evening hours because they always work through lunch.
Jodi Prohofsky, PhD, LMFT, senior vice president of health management operations at Bloomfield, CT-based Cigna, says to keep it simple when you are surveying employees. Use three or four questions that are targeted carefully to what you want to know.
"The most efficient way to do this is online," says Prohofsky. "To generate a 'wow' reaction among employees, responses can be published in real time. Right after the employee clicks on the 'submit' button, the computer can respond with the survey results up to that point."
"Involving employees is key to building physical activity participation rates," says Susan A. Randolph, MSN, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN, clinical assistant professor of the Occupational Health Nursing Program at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She recommends keeping surveys short so they are no longer than ten minutes to complete. Ask for comments and ideas in one open-ended question at the end, and be clear that answers are confidential.
Randolph suggests providing a list of programs or activities for employees to indicate their level of interest. "These can be ranked 1 to 5 in order of interest, or just checkboxes to indicate the programs they'd be interested in attending," she says.
Your list might include exercise, weight management, walking club, smoking cessation, nutrition or cooking class, sleep disorders, spiritual wellness, stress reduction, medical self-care, elder care issues, parenting tips, back care, heart disease prevention, and defensive driving.
Be careful that the choices you list are realistic, however, "If you're including a list of possible programs or environmental changes, see that your workplace has the facilities and resources to offer them," says Randolph. She also suggests:
Ask workers questions that let you assess key characteristics such as age, sex, social relationships, family responsibilities and current physical exercise participation.
Once you learn what workers want, then implement changes that fit with their needs and working conditions. For example, workers may not wish to do activities that make them sweat, because they do not want to shower at work, or shower facilities may not be available.
Find out when employees would be willing to attend: While at work, during breaks, during lunch hours, or after work. "The more specific, the better. This data will be extremely important in planning programs," says Randolph.
For more information about the occupational health role in compliance, contact:
Susan A. Randolph, MSN, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN, Clinical Assistant Professor, Occupational Health Nursing Program, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Phone: (919) 966-0979. Fax: (919) 966-8999. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.