Wednesday, 01 January 2014 19:47

Workplace Wellness Leadership

Written by Jennifer Hoert, M.Ed., PHR

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. –John C. Maxwell

All employers, no matter their size, are confronted with the burden of chronic disease. In 2010, there were almost 28 million small businesses in the United States, and 18,500 businesses with 500 or more employees according to the Small Business Association Office of Advocacy. Most people between ages 25 to 54 spend an average of 8.8 hours per day at work according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010). One in two adults has at least one chronic disease (heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis) according to the Center for Disease Control (2009), and according to the American Heart Association (2014), one in three adults has high blood pressure which contributes to more than half of all heart attaches, strokes, and heart failure cases each year.

In response to increased costs and decreased productivity, 92 percent of employers with 200 or more employees have implemented wellness programs per a survey done in 2009 by Rand for the United States Department of Labor and the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Many HR professionals are being called upon to implement or improve a wellness program, and many have a limited budget or no budget at all. This scenario leaves many wondering how can I make a difference in wellness in my workplace. The good news is that it all starts with you, with or without a budget; you can create and support wellness at your workplace through your leadership.

"You can make a difference, with or without a budget, and your leadership can inspire others to make healthy lifestyle changes."

Recognize your Personal Influence

Tell your wellness story. Be sure to include the difficult parts that make you human. Most people attempt to make a lifestyle change and fail. New Year’s resolutions remind us of how difficult it is make sustainable change in our lives. Share your vision and relate to others by including your struggles or difficulties along the way. Your humanness will do more to inspire others than your perceived “perfection”.

Live out your personal convictions and values. Don’t just say eating a balanced healthy diet is important. Eat a balanced healthy diet. You have to live by what you believe to be credible. That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect; it simply means that each day you commit (or re-commit) to your wellness goals.

Be a role model of support. This may seem contrary to our cultural norms (and maybe your workplace norms), but research supports the need for support in order to sustain behavior change. Be sure to take advantage of opportunities to share how support has helped you with your lifestyle changes. When you model for others how to seek and accept support, you are teaching them that asking for and giving support is ok. When you enlist support be sure to find ways to acknowledge the support you receive.

Practice patience and acceptance. We all have struggles in our lives. As wellness leaders it is not our place to criticize or judge others. For example, it is harder to quit smoking than it is to quit taking drugs. That doesn’t mean change or don’t implement a tobacco free policy. Recognize that smoking is an addiction and offer programs that provide support for those trying to stop. We must accept the person, but we do not have to embrace their actions. Remember that for most people change is hard. Change is also a process. Allow others to create their own path to successful lifestyle change. Just because something worked for you, it may not work for someone else.

Practice gratitude and kindness. Your attitude is more powerful than you think. People look to you to set the tone. Be sure to show appreciation for what others have accomplished. Acknowledge those who support wellness.

Take a positive and affirming approach to wellness. It doesn’t matter if your wellness program does not exist, is just starting, or has been around for years, or if your company is small or large. You can make a difference, with our without a budget, and your leadership can inspire others to make healthy lifestyle changes.

*Note: Some of the strategies above have been adopted from the work of Dr. Judd Allen (2008) Wellness Leadership: Creating supportive environments for healthier and more productive employees.

Jennifer Hoert, M.Ed., PHR serves with Angie Bailey, SPHR, CCP as the Co-Chair for Wellness on the Kentucky State SHRM Council. Jennifer is president of Present Moment Health, a consulting firm specializing in coaching and training for the purpose of creating effective cultures of wellbeing. She is completing her doctorate in Human Resources and Organizational Development with an emphasis on Leadership and Organizational Development anticipated in May 2014. Jennifer’s personal journey to wellness continues and along the way she seeks to inspire others to create healthier, happier, and more satisfied lives, by reducing stress, increasing energy and making lasting lifestyle changes that allow them to reach their health and life goals. She can be reached at 502-396-4869 or at


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