Behavior Change Programs
Behavior change programs are another critical element of effective corporate wellness programs. Although a person may be sincere about needing to change their behavior, he/she might not be ready to make the necessary change. Attending a Lunchtime Learning Seminar / Brown-bagger, Wellness Seminars, or an exercise class a couple of times does not mean that they are committed to changing his/her behavior for the long-term.
Lifestyle changes such as weight control, exercise, and nutrition, can be difficult to change and maintain over a long period of time and require more intensive behavior change programs. In order to have a program that will produce long-term change you need to design behavior change programs with effective support systems such as concrete incentives and personal follow-up.
Past experience and current participation in healthy behaviors is a good indicator in predicting how likely people are to change. An employee’s past experiences can provide the skills that are necessary to change behaviors. Positive past experiences and good attitudes can lead to behavior modification.
People change their behaviors because of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is doing something because you want to. People that are intrinsically motivated change for the benefit of themselves. Extrinsically motivated people change their behavior because there is an incentive such as a t-shirt or contest. Some people will be intrinsically motivated; however, many will need extrinsic motivation in order to change their behavior.
There are many different stages that he/she goes through before changing their behavior. It is possible that a person may have a health problem and not be aware of it. Health screening and education about health problems with early detection are extremely important. No matter how hard you try to change your employees’ behavior, nothing will happen until they decide that they are ready to make a change.
In order for a person to make a change there must be a realization that there is a problem or behavior/health change that needs to occur. Sometimes the most difficult step is the first step because it is recognizing that a change needs to take place. In order for a behavior change to occur, a person must be motivated. People can be motivated by their own feelings to change or they can be motivated by others around them such as spouses and children.
Although it is possible for a person to change because others want them to, they will be more successful if they are making the change because they want to. If a person can envision themselves doing the new behavior this is a positive step in making a behavior change. Once the decision is made to make a lifestyle change, it is time to act on the change. Behavior changes don’t happen overnight or in a week or even a month. Behavior change takes time.
Behavior Change Programs: Setting Goals
Employees can be helped to adopt a new healthy behavior by setting goals in order to change the behavior.
- Make behavior change goals specific. Include a time factor and specific tasks to be achieved.
- Make behavior change goals realistic. Unrealistic goals may cause people to give up.
- Make a stepping stone for each behavior change goal. There may be many steps for each goal.
- Provide rewards along the way when going from step-to-step.
Over time your employees will try to maintain their behavior change, but challenges will occur. Sometimes they will go back to their old behavior. It is important to remember that even if a person makes a mistake it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the work to change the behavior is wasted. Sometimes a person may feel discouragement, resentment, and resistance.
The key to getting back on track is to remember that as humans we all make mistakes. If the employee starts to go back to his/her old behavior your goal is to try to encourage a return to his/her new behavior. Try not to dwell on mistakes. Help your employees find the “warning signals” of the negative behavior and look for ways to prevent this from happening again in the future. Set-backs should be anticipated and expected.
Employees can learn how to continue their behavior for an extended period of time. After a while they will be able to make their “new behavior” a habit. In order to continue their behavior over time it is necessary to look at small changes as positive points. Remember: Small changes lead to bigger changes. Employees need continued support from co-workers, friends, and family.
Make sure to invest wisely and provide behavior change programs that support the goals of your corporate wellness program. Behavior change programs are well worth the cost and should be considered a critical element of any corporate wellness program. This claim is also supported by research and has been shown to contribute to a positive corporate wellness ROI.