What Are You Doing For Employees During National Wellness Month?

June is National Employee Wellness Month, an annual recognition of the importance of employee well-being that Virgin HealthMiles initiated in 2009.

One might ask why we need a month dedicated to employee wellness. I did. After all, I advise my clients to make wellness a year-round way of being, not an event.

We don’t want people checking the wellness box each June and then tuning out for the remaining 11 months. Virgin underscores this dilemma with the findings from their 2012 National Employee Wellness Month Employer/Employee Survey, and then responds to it via companies participating in the national event.

A failure to communicate

Vrgin’s survey asked employers how well they felt they communicated their available wellness resources to employees and then asked employees for their opinion. unsurprisingly, there’s a disconnect between the two.

More than 57 percent of employers believe employees know about their program and how to take advantage of it. Employees, on the other hand, responded:

I don’t know’ when asked whether their employer offered a number of health and wellness benefits, such as: disease management programs (39 percent), smoking cessation programs (29 percent) or programs including stress management and mental health/depression management programs (27 percent), for example.”

Another opportunity to engage employees

This breakdown is one reason companies participate in National Employee Wellness Month (or NEWM). They see it as an additional opportunity to grab employees’ attention and show them all the wellness resources the company offers, often adding tempting NEWM-specific activities.

I spoke with Jodi Fuller, director of global benefits at MeadWestvaco corporation (MWV), and Linnie Brown, fitness director, by email.

“We are trying to build a culture of health,” Jodi explained, “and supporting this month assists us with visibly showing our employees that we support wellness.” For the entire month of June, MeadWestvaco has scheduled activities to keep the focus on wellness, with such highlights as yoga, an adult-oriented field day, a scavenger hunt with built-in exercise stations and a boot camp. MWV is joining their neighbors at the federal reserve and dominion power, expanding their circle of wellness.

Another company, Sanofi US, has participated in NEWM for two years, according to this press release. Similar to MeadWestvaco, this year Sanofi created a NEWM series of activities and branded it under their overarching wellness program, health in action.

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Could there be more to wellness month?

You can see that Virgin aims to continue growing this national event, which has already substantially expanded in size and scale since its first year. Started in 2009 with one partner — STOP, the Strategies to Overcome & Prevent Obesity Alliance — the event has since grown to four partners and more than 140 participating companies.

Since its first year, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease and WorldatWork have joined Virgin and STOP as sponsors. The NEWM website offers companies resources, research and tips to get smart and get going. Last year NEWM created a “healthies” award that highlights individuals who’ve made successful strides, and this year is the first year for the NEWM-related survey.

Keeping employees’ attention on healthy choices and available resources is an ongoing challenge we’re all facing. National Employee Wellness Month presents an opportunity that some companies are latching onto to kick it up a notch and cleverly renew, refresh or expand their approach.

I see an opportunity for Virgin to inspire participating companies and their employees with a NEWM competitive challenge. It would form a nice tie-in to the growth in social wellness over the past few years. Perhaps that’s what we’ll see for NEWM 2013.

What say you? Does your company participate in NEWM?

This was originally published on Fran Melmed’s free-range communication blog.