I recently had the honor of working with Civitas Learning to help build their wellness fair. Their fabulous benefits administrator, Sarah, alongside their broker team and health carrier, had much of the fair designed by the time I came along. I was able to help plug into options for their vendor day, providing a variety of body workers, nutritionists, acupuncturists, essential oilers, and more. Y’all, I have seen some BAD wellness fairs where employees depressingly wander around, not really knowing where to go next or why this is something their company is doing. I’ve said this about workplace wellness a lot lately, but it rings true for wellness fairs as well: Employees need to feel like this is being done FOR them, not TO them. Take a stressed out, overworked population in a toxic work environment, and tell them they need to show up Wednesday for a bio-metric screening and some Starbucks gift cards and you’ve pretty much got a recipe for disaster, or at the very least, a waste of everyone’s time.
Wellness fairs are not the same as full blown wellness programs or creating a culture of wellness for the long-term; but, when designed properly, they can be an exciting way to launch your wellness initiatives or boost a program mid-stream. I think the approach Civitas Learning took to theirs was ideal and feedback from their employees is proof. Below are my tips for how to create a fair that gets your employees thrilled about being part of their company; to offer them a variety of wellness resources to choose from and have them walk away feeling empowered, not overwhelmed, is the key.
Set the Fair’s Intention and Announce It Globally
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many companies throw together a wellness fair without setting goals or intentions for the fair. A wellness fair won’t accomplish much if intention isn’t behind it along with proper announcements proceeding the event. For example, I attended one of those sad fairs years ago and it seemed like only 5% of their employees were there. When I inquired, their HR rep explained that the fair was scheduled when most of their employees were abroad for a big seminar. I asked if the fair was scheduled after they knew about the seminar and he explained that the health carrier needed to do the bio-metric screenings this week. Screening only 5% of your population is pointless. Schedule your fairs at the best possible times throughout the year when the majority of your employees are available.
Setting intention is important. What do you want employees to get out of the fair? What do you want the executive decision makers to get out of the fair? This is especially important if bio-metric screenings are being done. What’s the point of drawing employees’ blood if the data isn’t usable? Maybe employees will learn something about their metrics, but then what? Do you have medical follow up or coaching to help those employees make improvements? Are you using the screening data in a HIPAA compliant way to help plan your next healthcare choices or expenses?
I love the idea of setting a THEME for your event as well. Some examples are “Build Your Long-term Wellness Practice,” “Boardwalk to Better Health,” or “Surf into Better Health,” and be sure to inform your vendors and speakers so they’re prepared to play along with the theme. It sounds cheesy but who cares! Fun themes get attention and 98% of our jobs aren’t fun!
Give it a name, set a theme, and announce it globally. Most companies use social media to advertise their fairs and put them on their websites also. It’s great PR and your employees will be able to share the event easily. Have banners printed and signs up in the break room, toilets, and hallways. Lastly, if you can “tag-along” the fair’s announcement with bigger wellness plans or initiatives, that’s great. Meaning, maybe you’re just starting your workplace wellness program and you can use the fair to launch said program for the rest of the year.
Let me be clear about something: A Bio-metric screen is not a wellness fair. Employees are pretty tired of bio-metric screens unless they’re done with proper intention and health coaching after the fact. Many employees report not understanding what the purpose of the bio-metric screen is and of course I’ve heard horror stories about contracted phlebotomists doing a terrible job and really botching the experience for all. Ask me about the time a phlebotomist brought their aggressive dog with them to a client!
I applaud the diversity Civitas Learning went with. Each day was quite different from the next and the fair lasted 3 days total. They offered financial wellness talks, guided hikes, bio-metric screens via their health carrier, and the vendor day offered a diverse group of wellness experts from various fields for employees to connect with.
No one wants a $5 gift card to Starbucks that gets lost in their purse or wallet after one coffee. Remember that we want employees to participate as much as possible and feel as if this is being done FOR them, because it is!
Civitas Learning came up with a great idea to incentivize employees to visit as many vendor tables as possible: They each got a punch card and if they visited at least 6 vendor tables, their name got added to a raffle with fun and appropriate prizes. Showcase the winners after the fact so other employees who maybe didn’t participate as much can see what they missed out on. That could help build momentum for the next fair.
MAKE IT FUN & Inclusive!
Another obvious one to me, but again, I’ve seen some drab, boring fairs where employees would rather stay at their desk than participate! Consider the environment: Are you asking employees to cram into your small break room to participate or are you able to provide an open space or a good speaking room where people feel welcome and the environment matches the theme. Get colorful decorations to stay congruent with your fair’s theme, and be willing to rent out a space for a half day or plan an outdoor activity at a park that allows large groups. You don’t have to stay in the office for the entire fair! Create some competition among employees and have your wellness champions come up with various games or trivia throughout the event. Again, be sure to take pictures and share the experience with the entire organization. Consider including families for certain events as appropriate.
Lastly, I don’t recommend taking this all on yourself unless you love planning large events! Every company offering a culture of well-being should have a 3-4 person wellness committee, perhaps an outside consultant like yours truly, and wellness champions within the organization to help spearhead and drive energy towards the fair.
Remote employees sometimes miss out on corporate fairs and that may just be part of their distance. However, I strongly encourage employers to come up with ways remote employees can still participate. Civitas Learning worked hard to do just that. I advocate for live streaming when I do wellness talks or lunch & learns, and be sure to clearly communicate with your remote employees regarding time zones and creative ways they’re still able to join in.
I think workplace wellness fairs can be an exciting way to launch or re-boost your company’s wellness culture if they’re designed properly. Set the intention, make proper announcements and reminders, educate employees on the variety of resources and events, and keep it diverse. Incentivize appropriately (no Starbucks giftcards, please!), find ways to include your remote employees, and be sure to include some type of health coaching follow up IF you’re offering bio-metric screenings at your event.
Thank you again to the trusty vendors! Farmhouse Delivery offers an amazing organic produce and grocery delivery program. They can partner with companies for corporate discounts and can, amazingly, deliver everyone’s food to the office!
Michelle Harvey, with HappilyOilyAfter, brought her wealth of knowledge on non-toxic living and supporting holistic well-being through essential oils and supplements.
Erica Caliandro, L.M.T. with Restore Bodywork, educated employees on myofascial release, her healing modality.
Erica Goldsmith, I.N.H.C, H.C. (Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Integrative Health Coach) with Revive and Renew You discussed holistic nutrition with employees.
Yoolee Kwon, Acupuncturist (Acyoopuncture@Gmail.com) offered mini sessions for employees.
Lynna Foster, Certified Bowenwork Practitioner with Bowen by Lynna was a huge hit at this event set up in a private, relaxing room!
**Civitas’ fair included many other wonderful vendors not listed here.
Reach out to me for help designing your best wellness fair! I offer consultations for vendor relationship connections, wellness education, bio-metric screening companies, and a whole lot more. Kayla@AustinWholeLiving.com