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The Power of Wellness Champions
by Kelly Sutton

Are you looking to engage your employees and further your company’s well-being program efforts? Developing a wellness champion network may be your answer. When it comes to health improvement and changing behaviors, research has shown that people are influenced by both social connections and the support of family, friends and co-workers. Within the workplace, taking steps to foster a culture of healthy behaviors can impact overall employee engagement, as well as engagement with the company’s well-being program.

Studies show that Wellness Champions can drive change and help a company become a healthier place.1 The champion’s role is to support the organization’s wellbeing strategy by educating co-workers about program offerings and inspiring them to achieve better health.

The wellness champion role is most often voluntary. These are front-line employees who are passionate about improving their own health and the health of their co-workers. They need not be “healthy superstars,” but simply working toward a goal of better health. Wellness champions work in all levels and departments of the organization. It’s their enthusiasm, circle of influence and their willingness to support their co-workers in adopting a healthier lifestyle that is key. They help communicate well-being programs, plan and coordinate events at their designated site(s) and promote a healthy lifestyle and positive mental health.

In a company such as Advocate Aurora Health with a large geographic footprint — with more than 70,000 team members — a network of wellness champions has been instrumental in helping us communicate information about our organization’s well-being programs, as well as encouraging participation and team member engagement at the local level. A network with more than 230 wellness champions has been recruited and trained, so far. These health-minded employees are given resources to reach their fellow employees throughout the organization. Monthly phone meetings to bring the network champions together have been very helpful. This is an opportunity for well-being team members to:
• share Advocate Aurora program information and updates;
• review organization-wide events; and
• encourage and recognize the wellness champions for a job well done.

It’s also a forum for the champions to share their own tips and ideas, local event information and share their successes with fellow champions. The Advocate Aurora Health Wellness Champion Network gathers annually for an in-person meeting to celebrate organizational well-being wins. Champions are recognized and awards given to those champions who have gone above and beyond in their respective areas.

Where can employers start?
Developing a network of champions begins with leadership support. Creating a plan to recruit, train and prepare champions will set the stage for success. Recruitment begins by developing an application to clearly outline the responsibilities of the champion and the time commitment involved. Ongoing communication with the champions provides them with the needed information and resources to become effective.

More and more cost-conscious employers are establishing wellness champion networks to help support their workplace well-being efforts. Implementing a wellness champion network is a low-cost initiative, but one that can have far-reaching benefits in improving employee health and engagement. A wellness champion network is an innovative strategy that brings employees together to have fun, while improving their health at the same time.

Kelly Sutton, MBA, CCWS, is manager of Advocate Aurora Health’s Well-Being Program. If employers are interesting in starting wellness committees and wellness champion networks in their organization, they can contact Advocate Aurora’s Wellness Services Hotline at 1-877-765-3213 (Option 1) to get started.


1Well-Being Champion Impact on Employee Engagement, Staff Satisfaction, and Employee Well-Being; Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 3, Issue 2, June 2019; Kaisa Wieneke, MPH; Jason Egginton, MPH; Sarah Jenkins, MS; Gretl Kruse, MA; Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, Michelle Mungo, MBA; Beth Riley, MBA; Paul Limburg, MPH, MD.

 
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