Stronger as a team

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Your workplace’s wellness initiative starts with assembling the right committee

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When it comes to creating a comprehensive workplace wellness initiative, building a wellness committee is an essential component. Forming a wellness team can take your organization’s health improvement efforts to the next level by establishing a system for assessing, planning, implementing, maintaining and evaluating wellness programs, policies, benefits and incentives for your employees. Wellness teams are a critical part of creating a culture of wellness for several reasons.

First and foremost, teams create synergy. A team approach encourages unity, ownership, and cohesion by inviting input and involvement from employees with different skills and perspectives. A team can go further faster than any individual can alone.

Secondly, wellness committees spread the responsibility of implementing programs and activities among a group, so that the weight of the initiative does not fall solely on one token “wellness person.”

Thirdly, wellness committees serve as a vehicle to develop and execute a clear plan of action.

Lastly, wellness teams create sustainability. By establishing a permanent, active, prominent committee to keep things moving forward, wellness initiatives are much more likely to survive things like leadership changes, staff turnover, and budget cuts.

Now that we have established the “why,” let’s discuss the “who.” Wellness committees should be diverse and representative, meaning that they include employees at all levels and from different areas of the organization, including front-line workers, middle management and senior leadership. This is critical in order to gain buy-in from key players in the organization and ensure that employees at all levels feel included in the decision-making process.

The team should be large enough to be truly diverse and representative, but small enough to be productive. Key stakeholders including staff from human resources, communications and marketing, food services, health and wellness, occupational health and safety, finance, as well as general workers from across the organization, should be formally appointed to the committee. Ideally, a member of senior leadership should also serve on the committee or have close communication with the team to ensure they are involved in the planning and communication of wellness efforts.

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Also, as counterintuitive as it sounds, it is beneficial to include employees who don’t have a particular interest in wellness – or even the naysayers. It is dangerous to include only health enthusiasts in your committee because you will miss out on gaining input and support from those who need wellness the most.

Most importantly, you should look for influencers in your organizations. Who are the individuals in your organization, regardless of their title, that other employees will listen to and follow? Identify the folks who have strong relationships and influence in your company and ensure that they have a seat at the table. This is critical to creating momentum and changing culture.

Once committee members are identified and formally appointed, their roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and communicated. Creating clarity is essential for motivating action.

Member roles can include: serving as role models for health in the organization and community; serving as advocates for wellness programs and policies throughout the organization; and empowering others to engage in health improvement to reach their fullest potential personally and professionally.

Member responsibilities can include: assessing employee needs and interests on a regular basis; planning and implementing initiatives, communicating activities; and evaluating efforts.

Finally, let’s discuss the qualities that make a wellness team great. First, they should meet on a regular basis, meaning at least monthly or bimonthly, to keep team members motivated and wellness efforts moving forward. Additionally, team members should have wellness formally written into their job descriptions. This ensures that a portion of their time is allocated to health and wellness and ensures that it remains a fundamental priority for the individual and the organization.

It is also imperative that the wellness committee has a clear leader – someone with vision, passion and a desire to help and bring out the best in others. Each and every wellness team meeting should have a formal agenda to focus meetings, provide organization and create clarity.

Strong wellness teams also align with the activities of other committees and groups in the organization, such as Health and Safety or Employee Relations, and combine efforts when appropriate. This promotes inclusion and collaboration and helps to weave wellness into the fabric of the organization.

Lastly, the wellness team should be promoted throughout the organization to demonstrate that employee health and wellness is a top priority. An update from the wellness committee could be included as a standing agenda item at every full staff meeting, or the leader of the wellness committee could play a part in every new hire orientation.

At the SC Hospital Association, our credo is “we are stronger together than apart.” I think this speaks beautifully to the value of teams, specifically wellness teams, and the powerful difference they can make in promoting health in your organization.

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