The 5 Pillars of Employee Behavior Change: Pillar #5

November 8, 2017

You have high hopes for your employee wellbeing program—you’re going to motivate and inspire your employees to eat healthier, exercise more, quit smoking… well, the list goes on and on. And while you may have good intentions, if you’re like the majority of HR and benefits leaders, you’ve probably seen a bit of a gap between your hopes and reality. It can be hard to get the numbers you’d like to see for enrollment and participation—not to mention lasting engagement and long-term behavior change.

Part of the problem is that many programs neglect the science of behavior change, which minimizes their chances of long-term success.

In this series, we’ll explore the five pillars of behavior change that will help you design an effective employee wellbeing program. You can find the posts on Pillar #1 here, Pillar #2 here, Pillar #3 here, and Pillar #4 here.

The fifth pillar focuses on environment. How can you create an environment that makes it easier for employees to stick to healthy habits? Read on to find out!

Pillar #5: Create an environment where employees can make healthy decisions.

Even if you don’t realize it, your workspace has an impact on how your employees behave and feel. Everything from desk setup and office layout to food placement and breakout spaces can influence the working environment and your employees’ wellbeing.

Are you promoting movement and collaboration with standing desks and breakout areas? Do you provide a kitchen or common area where employees can gather and eat together? Are you encouraging breaks for activity and rest with games and quiet areas?

A well-designed environment can impact people’s habits and make them more (or less likely) to behave in certain ways. You can automate good decisions, facilitate flow, and remove negative influences with simple changes such as using smaller plates to encourage portion control or storing unhealthy food out of sight. Behavior change expert James Clear puts it this way, “People who seem to stick to good habits with ease are often benefitting from an environment that makes those behaviors easier. Meanwhile, people who struggle to succeed could be fighting an uphill battle against their environment.”

The environmental aspect of employee wellbeing can be quite broad; it’s generally a matter of employee health overall. Are employees focused and energetic? Do their managers help them flourish in their role? Are they resilient? Can they manage stress effectively? Do they have the skills, support, setup, coaching, and training to do their jobs well?

According to Josh Bersin, the focus of HR in 2017 and beyond is to move HR from the “personnel department” to a new role as the “consultants in human performance.” HR & Benefits have a big opportunity to impact business and the bottom line by designing programs that make “work-life better” and therefore business performance stronger than ever.

As organizations move from a “wellness” mindset to one of “wellbeing” as Bersin describes, employee behavior change becomes the critical aspect of overall performance and leadership. Health habits are not only about eating well, or exercising, they are also a matter of making the right kinds of decisions when it comes to problem solving, project management, or prioritization.

Creating a healthy environment helps ensure your employees can achieve the top range of productivity and performance—and stay there without succumbing to stress and burnout. This doesn’t mean that your employees will never feel stressed, but you can provide them with tools, techniques, and an environment that will help them better handle whatever life throws their way.

Want to read about all five pillars of employee behavior change in one place? Be sure to download a copy of The 5 Pillars of Employee Behavior Change eBook. Grab your copy here!

 Photo by Breather on Unsplash
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