5+ ideas to launch or expand your employee wellness program

Local spotlight: Indiana Health Information Exchange employee leads expansion of simple program

Shortly after Carrie Lane started working at Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE) in 2013, the company, located on Senate Avenue right along the downtown canal, began promoting a 30-minute “canal walk” twice a week. An email to all staff announced the time and meet-up location. It proved a great way for Carrie to get exercise, de-stress and meet co-workers. 

When the employee in charge of the canal walks left IHIE, Carrie not only volunteered to keep the walks going but also began looking for opportunities to expand the fledgling employee wellness program. 

Employees on the Canal Walk

Photo: Carrie Lane (front row, 2nd from right) with some co-workers at Indiana Health Information Exchange before a canal walk on a Colts Blue Friday. 

Last year Carrie discovered INShape Indiana’s summer fit challenge, an 8-week program that invites employees to earn points for engaging in healthy activities. She implemented the program at IHIE, inviting co-workers to participate for a chance to win 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes. She supported their efforts with weekly emails that announced employee rankings—even highlighting what someone did to bolster their rankings—and offered additional wellness tips.

Roughly 30% of IHIE employees officially participated in the first competition. Carrie knows a handful of others tried but didn’t want to track their points publicly.

“Even John Kansky, our CEO, participated and put points on the board. It was motivating to see that level of support from a CEO,” said Carrie.

IHIE IStrive tracking board in main hallway of their office

After the initial 8-week competition, Carrie worked with John and her human resources manager to develop IStrive, a more comprehensive long-term employee wellness program. They chose goals and activities that are attainable by everyone at all levels of fitness, created authentication procedures to document activities completed, and developed some follow-up plans to help employees sustain healthy lifestyle changes.

IStrive officially launched in 2016. IHIE offered an incentive to all employees who enrolled by a specific deadline—a free healthy lunch followed by a staff cornhole tournament and the remainder of their Friday afternoon off. Forty-three of IHIE’s 57 employees enrolled by the deadline, and others have joined since.

Now each participating employee has an IStrive tracking sheet. The goal is for all participants to complete at least six activities in the calendar year. Those who do win a company t-shirt. Those who complete 12 or more also get a $25 gift card.

Carrie took her rankings board to a new level as well in 2016, creating a giant scorecard on a wall inside the IHIE offices.

“The rankings board seems to be motivating,” she said. “It keeps our wellness goals top of mind and helps us support each other.”

5 Strategies to Adapt from IHIE:

  1. Identify an employee—or a small committee of employees—with a passion for healthy nutrition and/or physical activity. Invite them to take on the role of starting or growing an employee wellness program.
  2. Don’t get caught up in expensive incentives for participants. A few hours of paid time off, existing company-branded merchandise and opportunities to socialize with co-workers can go a long way.
  3. Support employees for long-term health benefits. Share tips for healthy eating and physical activity via email, employee newsletters, bulletin boards, intranet, bathroom/breakroom/hallway signage, paystub stuffers, benefit mailings, or whatever means you already have in place for company communications. You can get simple tips and strategies from the Jump IN Resource Hub, Jump IN’s social media channels, and your health insurance provider.
  4. Engage company executives in unexpected ways. Offer opportunities to play tennis, go on a long distance bike ride, run, walk, or enjoy a healthy meal prepared and served by the CEO or other leaders.
  5. Add “Wellness Program” as a category on timesheets, especially if your company requires employees to track hours by project. You can set goals and expectations for the amount of time employees allocate to this category throughout a pay period or year. It can include time spent participating in employer-sponsored wellness workshops, health screenings, company-organized fitness activities, use of on-site fitness equipment, or other activities that make sense for your organization.
3 Steps to a Healthy Workplace - Download the Guide