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Lead Your Team Managing

Manager Buy-In Keeps Wellness Programs Healthy

Manager Buy-In Keeps Wellness Programs Healthy
Credit: Evgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

The prospect of getting healthier and losing weight often fails to convince employees to participate in their company's wellness programs.

The key to getting employees in better shape lies in how invested managers are in the process, suggests a new study from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Rather than instituting company-wide programs and seeing how things go, the study's authors propose incentivizing managers to promote specific employee-wellness changes.

"Instead of focusing on individual wellness outcomes, we propose that it would be more effective if managers were incentivized to create healthier overall work environments with simple, easy-to-implement actions such as installing a water cooler, providing healthy snacks at meetings and encouraging work-life balance," Rebecca Robbins, the study's lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at the NYU Langone Medical Center, said in a statement.

The study discovered that creating a policy that ties at least 10 percent of a manager's salary to what that leader does to promote employee wellness could do a lot to create a healthier culture in the workplace.

Brian Wansink, the director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, said this type of policy wouldn't require managers to become healthier, just make it easier for their workers to do so.

Having salary, bonus or promotion opportunities tied into such a program gives bosses more of an incentive to get actively involved in the process, Wansink said. [Being Bored at Work Might Be Bad for Your Health ]

"That's where you're putting teeth into a program," he said.

The study found that most managers would buy into such a policy. Nearly 70 percent of the 270 managers surveyed said they supported the idea of being evaluated by their employee-wellness actions. Women, younger managers and managers with fewer than 10 direct reports were most likely favor tying their compensation to an employee-wellness initiative.

"Leadership support is essential in any workplace change, including wellness," Wansink said. "Most employee-wellness initiatives don't utilize the power of manager leadership. This strategy is unique in that it really taps into the manager's ability to lead their team to wellness."

The study was recently published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.