Don't ignore the powerful influence of peer pressure

Identify your local champions

Often, getting results from wellness programs requires a lot of money and time—sometimes more than you have to give. Why not capitalize on a resource that is completely free—that of positive peer pressure from co-workers? Some approaches:

1. Find some local champions.

"Ideally, these are people who have achieved a major wellness goal, and they're proud of it," says Jodi Prohofsky, PhD, LMFT, senior vice president of health management operations at CIGNA. "You just need one to get started!"

First, tell the person about the positive impact their story can have on others. "Once they tell their story, others will want to share theirs, too," says Prohofsky. "One way to find that first champion is to have an essay contest." Publish the winning essays, and then ask the winners to judge the next contest you hold. Once you get the go-ahead from an employee, publicize their success story through the Intranet, brown bag lunch gatherings, and team meetings.

2. Ask employees to form teams with others.

Prohofsky is executive sponsor of CIGNA's Healthy Life Team Challenge, a 10-week enterprise-wide weight loss and physical activity competition that encourages employees to manage their weight safely or embrace an active lifestyle. "I sent a message to all employees asking them to consider forming teams with their friends and co-workers," she says. "When people saw teams forming, it prompted them to join one or form their own. The response has been fantastic. I expect this to a very successful, low-cost wellness initiative."

3. Solicit stories during wellness events.

During a diabetes education class at Alexandria, LA-based RoyOMartin Lumber Company, a 32-year-old employee shared with the group that he and his wife had recently lost a significant amount of weight. "He lost 35 pounds and she lost 20 pounds. They took a simple approach of exercising together daily and preparing and eating healthy choices together," says Collene Van Mol, BSN, RN, COHN-S/CM, the company's occupational health manager. "He is now off his oral medication for diabetes. His next goal is to be taken off blood pressure medication as he continues to lose weight, exercise and eat a healthier diet."

The couple was featured in the company-wide employee newsletter, as an example of success resulting from taking personal responsibility for healthy changes.

4. Enlist company leaders and managers.

These individuals can serve as role models. They also have the clout to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs while at work. "Our Health Culture Survey showed that supervisors, the health and safety team, and our company leaders are well trusted by employees, with the supervisor trust rating right up there with family members. That is powerful!" says Van Mol.