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Maximizing Motivation for Employee Well-Being

Did you know that 92% of people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions? Most individuals want to live healthier lives, yet many struggle to achieve or sustain healthy habits. Similarly, despite having information about workplace well-being programs, many employees do not consistently take advantage of these benefits.

Jessica Grossmeier, Ph.D., MPH, an employee wellness expert, has studied evidence-based strategies to activate employee motivation for healthy living. Grossmeier spoke at our webinar, Maximizing Motivation for Employee Well-Being, and broke down how employers can foster internal motivation and remove barriers that can stand in the way of employees achieving their health and wellness goals.

Cultivate Internal Motivation

Grossmeier said, “we are influenced everyday by biological, emotional, social and cognitive forces both externally and internally.” Internal, or intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from within the individual. External, or extrinsic motivation begins with factors outside the individual. Both internal and external motivation are important, but internal motivation is more powerful for habit forming. Studies show people are more motivated to begin – and stick with – their goals when they are motivated by internal factors. This is especially true when it comes to employee well-being. If people want to get healthy for themselves, they will be more likely to stick with it than if they are doing it for someone else. Below are a few strategies employers can use to help their employees find their intrinsic motivation.

Align with the Right Why

When people know why they are motivated to do something they are more likely to start and stay consistent with their goals.

Productive reasons – or “whys” – for starting a goal begin within the individual and are tied to positive feelings. For example, being physically active promises an immediate benefit; feeling more energy and a lifted mood. Thinking about exercise this way makes it feel like a gift to oneself instead of a chore that must be done.

Employers can help their employees find internal motivation by focusing on the immediate and short-term benefits when communicating about wellness programs. Focus on how healthy behaviors can help employees feel better, improve energy and mental focus, and build connections with others.  

Identify What Matters most

People with defined purpose are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors like mindfulness, sleep hygiene, physical activity, creative activity, and healthy eating. Healthy habits are self-reinforcing; they make people feel good and encourage the continuation of mindful, healthy activities. Once people feel the benefits of healthy behaviors, it is easier for them to continue making healthy lifestyle choices.

Employers can help their employees articulate their purpose for themselves by incorporating self-reflection into wellness programs. For example, employers can run a “What’s Your Why” campaign. Organizational leaders can help employees create a purpose statement and guide individuals to identify how health supports their purpose. Encouraging employees to share their “why” with their co-workers can also strengthen their sense of purpose.

Employers can help their employees define what matters most in their lives by asking questions like:

  • Why am I here?
  • What am I living for?
  • Who matters most to me?
  • What matters most to me?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • What causes do I care about?

Determine How to Show up as One’s Best

Grossmeier said, “reflecting on one’s values activates the part of the brain associated with being open-minded about making behavior changes.” Employers can begin by helping their employees identify their values. Then, they can encourage employees to think about how living a healthier life can help them live out their values. For example, practicing meditation can allow employees to be more present with family and give them the peace of mind to focus on what is most important to them.

Knowing and articulating one’s values can also help prioritize where to put one’s energy. We all have the same amount of time in the day, but we can allocate more energy to the activities that matter most to us. If we align our values with healthy behaviors, it becomes easier to focus on them.

Communicate Consistently and Creatively

To successfully motivate employee well-being, it is important for employers to communicate regularly and effectively with their employees.

When it comes to wellness, people have selective awareness – meaning they only pay attention to information when they need it. So, it is not enough to communicate about benefits and wellness programs once a year around open enrollment. Employers should communicate with their employees at least once a quarter, so the information is top of mind when employees are ready to use their wellness benefits.  

It is also important for employers to communicate in multiple ways and formats because individuals respond to different media and messages differently. For example, an employer may choose to create a short informational video, a blog, a poster, and tv graphics about a wellness program to reach different groups in their organization. To be most effective, messaging should focus on immediate benefits like increased energy, clarity, and performance, positive mood, and enjoyment. Shifting from rational, logical reasons for healthy behaviors to positive emotions can strengthen individuals’ commitment to improve and maintain their well-being.

Decrease the Cost of Access

A common barrier to employee well-being is lack of time to participate in wellness programs. So, it is important for employers to increase accessibility. Employers must normalize participation during the workday; wellness is not something that ends when work begins. For example, employers can consider allowing employees to participate in wellness programs during paid work time or offer financial incentives for participation. While employers may be apprehensive to take time out of the workday for wellness initiatives, they should remember that healthy employees are productive employees. The more employees can take time for their health and wellbeing, the better they can show up at work and at home.

If employers want to increase their employees’ motivation to be healthy, creating wellness programs is just the beginning. Employers must help their employees tune into their reason for wanting to be healthy, communicate frequently and effectively about wellness programs and benefits, and allow time for participation during working hours.

The Alliance helps employers encourage their employees to take an active role in their health by aiding in the design of benefit plans that guide employees to high-value providers that offer high-quality care at affordable prices. When employees seek care where the quality is good and the cost is low, everyone saves. Employees receive the care they need while saving money for themselves and their families, and their self-funded employers also save. This allows their employer to reinvest their savings in their employers by providing improved benefits and higher wages.

Reach out to us to learn more about how The Alliance can help you remove barriers to care and help your employees access the resources they need to stay healthy and productive.


Health & Wellness Provider Network Design Self-Funding Transparency


Events by the Alliance Individuals Members & Employers


Health & Wellness Provider Network Design Self-Funding Transparency


Events by the Alliance Individuals Members & Employers