Starting a Wellness Committee
A representative Wellness Committee is a cornerstone of a successful Workplace Health Promotion Program, regardless of the size of the organization.
Membership of your Wellness Committee
Aim for a committee of a manageable size (no more than 15 members, depending on your organization’s size). Your Wellness Committee should represent all employee groups (e.g., full-time and part-time staff members, managers and front-line staff members, salary and hourly employees, union representation, HR, marketing or communications, legal, and occupational health/safety).
Here are some additional considerations:
• Wellness Committee members can be selected by leadership or can be selected from among volunteers.
• Determine in advance how long Wellness Committee members will support and how new members will be selected. Balance the need for continuity with the need to bring fresh ideas and energy to your organization’s Workplace Health Promotion Program.
• It’s not necessary, or even desirable, to have your healthiest staff members on the Wellness Committee. Ideal Wellness Committee members are those who best can represent their peers, motivate others and support the implementation of the Workplace Health Promotion Program.
• Consider offering an incentive or recognition to Wellness Committee members. It legitimizes their positions and encourages participation. Some organizations that have implemented stipends have generated enough staff member interest that the selection of Wellness Committee membership becomes a competitive process. The Wellness Committee responsibilities become a formal part of the member’s job accountabilities.
Role of your Wellness Committee
In some organizations the Wellness Committee is accountable for the implementation of the Workplace Health Promotion Program. In other organizations, the Wellness Committee plays an advisory role. In either case, the group members can be asked to:
• Attend regular meetings of the Wellness Committee.
• Help create a vision and name for the organization’s Workplace Health Promotion Program.
• Represent their peer group by sharing ideas, needs, concerns and feedback from their work areas and colleagues about proposed Workplace Wellness Plan Procedures, policies, and programs.
• Make available feedback on the possible barriers to proposed Workplace Wellness Plan Procedures and offer suggestions for addressing those barriers (e.g., how does a proposed policy fit with the schedules of staff members?).
• Suggest effective Workplace Wellness Plan communication Procedures and solutions to challenges. For example, what is the best way to communicate with staff members who work the third shift? How will staff members react to a proposed message from upper management?
• Be a voice of support for a culture of wellness, carrying the message from the Wellness Committee to their work areas and colleagues.
Functioning of your Wellness Committee
Meet. Schedule regular Wellness Committee meetings on paid work time. Your Wellness Committee may want to meet regulary at first, then slightly less often as your health improvement strategy is more established. If your Wellness Committee is new, it might be useful to ask members to provide information about themselves and their interests.
Communicate. Set up regular channels of communication with Wellness Committee members so they are up to date and engaged. An email list is often the easiest way to do this. Encourage communication to flow both ways: from Workplace Wellness Plan coordinator to members and from members to coordinator.
Check-in. At least once a year, evaluate how effectively the Wellness Committee is functioning. Is the Wellness Committee serving its original purpose? Ask committee members for their feedback. Do they feel like their work is making a difference? Do they feel like their input is valued and taken into account when planning and implementing initiatives? Do they understand their expected Workplace Wellness Plan roles and responsibilities? Are there members who want to rotate off of the committee? How will new members be selected?