Get real: Reactions that is, to occ health program

It could save a lot of money

If you're planning to invest in dozens of mountain bikes for sedentary office workers to ride during lunch breaks, you may abandon the idea if most admit they'd never use them because they don't want to get sweaty at work. On the other hand, if a worker tells you she wouldn't dream of using the company gym because it's too dirty, providing antibacterial wipes is an easy, low-cost solution.

"Before you start a program, you should always, always get input from employees," says Tracey L. Yap, RN, PhD, assistant professor at Duke University School of Nursing in Durham, NC. "Never assume you know what will work for them in their world."

To get truthful feedback, use these approaches:

1. Hire an outside company.

An employee may have no intention of participating in any wellness program unless it's offered during her lunch hour, but you may never learn this even if you ask directly. Employees may fear a lack of confidentiality if you do a survey in-house. "It's worth investing in an outside company to do the survey," she says.

2. Allow employees time during the workday to complete a survey.

"Don't expect them to do it on their own time," she says.

3. Evaluate the program at regular intervals.

Participants may jump at the chance to start a walking program, for instance, but numbers may soon dwindle. Why not learn the reason for this?

It's a mistake to start an occupational health program and then ignore it for a year or so. "You should be tweaking it all the way through," she says. "No one builds a perfect program right out of the gate."

If an employee stopped participating in a program he formerly enjoyed, don't hesitate to ask the reason. One woman confided that the real reason she stopped going to a fitness program was because she dreaded being weighed in front of the company nurse.

"If you find out it's a big enough problem for one person to pull out of a program, chances are others feel the same way," she says.

4. Tell employees you're looking for barriers and potential obstacles, not compliments.

Describe what you're planning, then say, "I'm looking for you to show me where the flaws are in this." "Let them know how you envision the program, then let them poke holes in your vision," she says. "Give them permission to do that."

Sources

For more information on obtaining feedback on occupational health programs, contact:

• Tracey L. Yap, RN, PhD, Assistant Professor, Duke University School of Nursing, Durham, NC. Phone: (919) 613-6170. Fax: (919) 681-8899. E-mail: tracey.yap@duke.edu.