During the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about resilience and what it means to reboard — learn from the past to prepare for the future. And as employers, we must adopt a mindset that can take health and wellness, workplace balance, and benefits to the next level. That is persistence.
What does it mean to be persistent? By definition, it’s the dogged quality that allows someone to continue doing something or try to do something, even though it is difficult or opposed by other people. Persistence is tenacity, determination, endurance — staying power.
As employers, how can we be persistent in our messaging, education, and activities around health and wellness? We need to do more than deliver a one-time open enrollment message or hold a one-time event that rallies short-term excitement, but not lasting commitment to health. But how?
The Wall Street Journal publishes a series called Luminaries that shares diverse perspectives on challenging issues. Addressing persistence, British adventurer Alastair Humphreys shared how years of perseverance to accomplish expeditions around the world taught him, “If you persist at something long enough, eventually you will do something out of the ordinary.”
Humphreys has walked across Southern India, rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, ran six marathons through the Sahara Desert, and crossed Iceland on foot. “But my adventuring has moved toward what I call microadventures: short, simple, local, affordable adventures wherever people happen to live like climbing a tree in your lunch hour or finding a river to swim in,” he shares.
Where Humphreys lives in the United Kingdom, there are hiking maps called Ordnance Surveys that cover a grid of 20-by-20 kilometers. Each is 1-by-1 kilometers. “I’ve been going out—one grid square a week. By doing that every single week for a year, it’s given me a completely different perspective on where I live.”
He concludes by saying this: “The hardest part of all these things is just starting.”
And this is true, no matter your business or employee population — no matter what you are thinking of starting and continuing. Once you start and persist, you adopt a behavior, a habit.
When we consider health and wellness benefits and how to develop and maintain a culture of health, what does that really look like? It’s easy to fall into a habit of complacency with a mentality of, “That’s the way we’ve always done things” or “I checked the box.” It’s difficult to stop and say, “If this isn’t working for us, how can we do it differently?”
Ultimately, the pathway to persistence begins with a conversation about how to evolve employee benefits so they can improve quality of life. It includes asking what benefits your team members value and need to thrive. It requires handing your people the mic and asking, “What matters most to you?”
We need to do more than have that annual meeting where we roll out the next year’s plan, or that inconsistent wellness talk when we remember it’s a good idea to encourage healthy habits. There needs to be a commitment, a plan and follow-through. To establish and nurture a culture of wellness, persistency is essential if we expect to see outcomes like decreasing non-urgent E.R. visits, reducing chronic disease, and containing costs from co-morbidities that could be managed with lifestyle changes.
Also, as the definition of persistence goes, these conversations and initiatives need to happen “even though it is difficult or opposed by other people.” Doing what’s right and doing what’s easy are not the same. Instead of taking a traditional plan design, make the choice to advance your benefits so they focus on quality of life.
Related to endurance and a dogged will to succeed, decide that benefits are more than a line item or part of a salary package. Be persistent with education and intentional about incorporating impactful key messaging about benefits, wellness, and healthy choices — including how to maximize the plan — in frequent, scheduled communications. We absorb information differently so utilize diverse methodologies to reach people: in-person chats, walk-and-learns, email newsletters, intranet, and take-home flyers. Above all, keep the conversation going.
As Humphreys acknowledges, all of this is easier said than done. But getting started will not feel like climbing Mount Everest if you take it in 1-by-1 blocks, one step at a time. Think in microadventures rather than the insurmountable buildup to a Seven Wonders of the World type initiative. It’s the little things that happen consistently, with persistence, that make a big and long-term impact.
About Health Action Council
Health Action Council is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization representing mid-and large-size employers that enhance human and economic health through thought leadership, innovative services, and collaboration. It provides value to its members by facilitating projects that improve the quality and moderate the cost of healthcare purchased by its members for their employees, dependents, and retirees. Health Action Council also collaborates with key stakeholders – health plans, physicians, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry – to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare in the community.