Planning and Implementing a Workplace Health & Wellness Fair
For any wellness fair, regardless of the size or focus of the organization, there are a few steps that have to be taken. First, is to get buy-in from management. Then you have to set a date and assess your budget for the event, including how many staff hours are to be devoted to the planning and execution. Next comes assessing the target audience - their ages, health concerns, level of activity, lifestyles, etc. - to ensure that there is something at the fair that everyone can benefit from, and to make sure that the exhibits and events are actually relevant.
Obtaining Buy-in from Management
Assuming that management is unaware of the benefits of workplace wellness, there are a many resources on the Internet that provide reasons, outcomes, and statistics around workplace wellness programming. If you are not part of the Human Resources department, step one is to broach the idea with HR. Be sure to clarify why you believe a wellness fair is critical to your workplace environment, and your preliminary objectives for the day. They will of course bring their own goals to the table - and that is the point, isn't it? To get everyone onside and have their needs met.
If yours is a small organization - too small for dedicated HR personnel or the HR department is kept very busy with day-to-day tasks, be sure to identify the people in the organization who are willing to take on the responsibility of coordinating the event.
With your list of objectives and benefits in hand, and HR personnel on-side, it should be relatively easy to broach the subject with management. Plan a short presentation outlining all the positives of the event, and be clear that there are many options regarding costs and time away from work.
For some companies, a wellness fair may be the first step in changing mindsets about the importance of health promotion and wellness in the workplace, for others this will be already part of the culture and corporate psyche.
Setting a Date
If this is the first wellness fair you are holdng, we recommend that you set the date at least four to six months down the road.
You need to give yourself adequate time to query participants about their general interests and to arrange speakers, practitioners, and vendors/suppliers. Let your selected vendors know the date as soon as possible so that they can budget for the time away and the materials they need to bring with them, as well as prepare their presentations.
Additionally, making sure the areas for the fairs are booked well in advance - you don't want to find out at the last minute that your date conflicts with a major sales and marketing initiative that takes over your speakers area or decompression room.
Assessing Your Budget
Depending on your organization, a fixed number may be handed down "from above" or there might be a budget set per employee. Either way, you may have resources at hand that can reduce the outlay in certain areas, and allow you to spend more on the actual event itself.
How many people-hours has been allotted to the planning and execution? Is there a committee approach, or is one person the coordinator for the event? How much time off are employees to be given? Is it simply over your lunch hour or is the event on-going over the course of the afternoon or day? Do you have a venue on-site? How much space is to be allotted for booths, speakers, etc.? If the fair is to take place off-site, is attendance mandatory?
Is the company paying the practitioners/vendors, or are they charging participants directly? How many employees are expected to participate in the wellness fair - is it at a single location or department, or will there be additional costs involved in bringing off-site employees to the venue.
Remember, the more financial cost you expect the employees to bear, the lower the rate of participation. If your company is committed to the concept of workplace wellness, and not simply paying lip service, you will see the expeditures as an investment, not an expense. Employees know when concern is genuine, and a half-hearted show is worse than making no show at all.
Assessing the Attendees
Who is attending the wellness fair? Is there a demographic skew to the staff at the location? Are they predominantly younger women with families or older men who have performed physical labour for long periods of their lives? Do they work at desks or is it a factory environment where back injuries are more common than carpal tunnel?
Consider all aspects of their lifestyle, not simply the tasks they perform at work.
Doing it In-house or Outsourcing Your Wellness Fair
Organizing a wellness fair involves coordinating all the vendors/speakers/suppliers in addition to the attendees. There should be a preliminary survey to find out what topics are "hot" in your environment, and follow-up feedback from both employees and vendors.
Be sure to get a speaker's contract that specifies the what expenses are to be covered, when they are expected to be on-site, and the general content of their presentations.
Do the vendors need special insurance, or is it covered under your policy? Do you or other members of the wellness fair committee have local vendors you can trust, or can you get referrals and recommendations from other organizations in your area?
These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you make the decision whether or not to coordinate the fair yourself or to go to a third party provider.
At a certain juncture you may find that it is simply easier to call on a third-party coordinator who has a database of trusted suppliers they can tap into to pull together your wellness fair much more quickly and efficicently than you can do in-house. Your coordinator will take a fee for his or her services that will be separate from any of the speaker or practitioner fees.
Let the coordinator know your budget up front, and whether or not you are expecting to pay practitioners or to have them charge employees directly. The coordinator should ask you a series of questions regarding whether or not there has been a prelimary survey and the outcomes of that survey. If there has not already been a survey, the coordinator will provide you with one that lists options for activities and topics within your specified budget.
Once he or she has established the parameters for the event, he or she will come back to you with a series of recommendations about the services brought in for the fair. He or she will negotiate with the providers to get an agreement that is fair for both you and the supplier - who is leaving his or her primary work environment for the duration of participating, remember, and should be adequately compensated as such, though if it is also a merketing opportunity for their company, discounts will be negotiated.
Your coordinator will guide you through the process of creating a successful wellness fair.
Next: Suggested Activities
Ready to outsource your wellness fair coordination? See our services page to see how we can help you.