Are you thinking about starting a weight-loss program at your workplace? Or, perhaps you just wrapped up a weight-loss challenge and you’re wondering what to do next. Before you take the next step, check out these tips for running a successful weight-loss program at work:
Designate a wellness/weight-management champion. This does not necessarily have to be someone in HR and could simply be a passionate and motivated employee. It’s important to have someone who can oversee smooth operation of the program and provide encouragement and support for employees.
Have employees pay something. It’s wonderful when employers are able to foot the bill for wellness offerings. However, keep in mind that a monetary commitment by the participant may make him or her more likely to…well…participate. One option is to offer reimbursement for sticking to a program for a set amount of time.
Offer incentives. It would be great if better health was a gift in and of itself. Realistically, this is not always the case. Items such as gift cards, sporting event tickets, or even paid time off are a great way to keep the program fun and keep employees enthused and engaged.
Do not base incentives on weight loss. This may sound a bit strange, but incentivizing based on weight loss can discourage employees from the start. Instead, offer incentives based on participation or achieving goals, such as exercising x number of times in a week. Hopefully, weight loss will be a wonderful byproduct.
Focus on sustainability. The trouble with weight-loss challenges is that they have an endpoint. This leaves employees wondering “Okay, that was fun. Now what?” This may even encourage employees to take unhealthy measures, such as drastically cutting calories, to achieve weight loss in a short amount of time. All too often weight that is lost during a challenge is found again shortly thereafter, making these challenges a temporary fix to a long-term problem. A generally accepted safe rate of weight loss is one-half to two pounds a week. Introduce programs and activities that support this healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss such as lunch and learns on portion control, cooking demonstrations, and brief physical activity breaks employees can do right at their desk or work station.
As one of the biggest drivers of healthcare costs, obesity cannot be ignored at the workplace. In the same way that the average dieter cannot maintain weight loss with quick fixes, companies cannot manage obesity—and its associated costs—in the workplace with short-term solutions. Beyond cost savings, it’s important to also think about the less-quantifiable benefits of a successful weight-management program—employees who are healthier and enjoying a better quality of life.