Why Your Corporate Wellness Program is Going to Fail

It’s true that many employers are proactive about wanting to help their employees and eager to institute programs that ultimately promote health and wellness, which aids the bottom line of an organization. However, it’s also a fact that no matter how well intentioned an employer happens to be, these programs still more often than not turn into a huge expenditure that lacks engagement. But why, exactly, is this the case?

Our team regularly talks with companies about their corporate wellness programs. There’s no denying that the rising cost of employee healthcare in this country is absolutely crippling employers. However, a recent study by researchers at RAND Corp uncovered some facts, including:

  • Approximately half of U.S. employers offer wellness program initiatives, and larger employers are more likely to have complex programs.
  • Employee uptake of worksite wellness programs remains limited. Only 46 percent of the employees in the firms surveyed undergo clinical screening or a complete health risk assessment, which is used to identify employees for interventions.

Gallup also conducted research, and the following was uncovered:

  • Only 12 percent of employees strongly agree that they have substantially higher overall well-being because of their employer.
  • Companies spend between $50 to $150 per employee per year on conventional programs that target physical health—or an estimated $6 billion annually!

So where, exactly, is the return on investment?

Reasons Employees Don’t Care

There are many reasons why corporate wellness programs fail. In our research, here is what we uncovered on why your workers are going to make your efforts to help them go right down the drain.

  • They feel like their work life is a hazard to their health. The truth is many American workers are already overburdened, underpaid, and overworked. This makes it very challenging to actually pay heed to a wellness message offered by an employer, especially if the reasoning behind it is based on reducing overhead costs. They know the employer is looking to put that cash back into the bottom line—not into their pocket.
  • They aren’t engaged with leadership. One of the reasons a program succeeds in the workplace is because there is mutual engagement. However, the majority of employees also state that the last person they want to spend any extra time with is their boss. This makes it very difficult when trying to get buy-in on a corporate sponsored program. If the employee simply wants to do their job and clock out at the end of the day, it’s hard to inspire any other activity on their behalf.
  • It feels like a hassle. Even though a wellness program might be well-intentioned, if an employee feels like it is adding to their work responsibilities or encumbering their day, they aren’t going to do it. The longer and more drawn out a process is to enroll or get involved with, the less likely a person is going to make an investment of their time.

So, What’s the Answer?

The great thing is that there is a positive solution to an otherwise negative situation. It is possible to get employees engaged and motivated about corporate wellness programs—and we only have to look as far as innovative companies like Google, Fitbit, and Facebook for the answers. Consider these tips for getting your workers jazzed up about wellness:

  • Allow employees to do wellness their way. No one wants to be told what to do, especially on something as personal as health. If there is a company wide effort to lose weight via a “weigh in” let employees figure out how they want to go about dropping the pounds, don’t tell them they need to do it via gym-time or clocking miles. When someone has the flexibility of determining how they are going to get healthy, it’s more likely it will happen.
  • Turn to technology. There are some fantastic online wellness programs that can really aid in the success of a wellness program—and more apps are entering the market every day, meaning you can take your company’s initiatives mobile. MapMyFitness, My Heart My Life, and Fit Click are just some of the free options available to your company. These will allow your employees to use health solutions that meet them wherever they are whenever they want them.
  • Make it fun. Think about it this way, happy hour is always more fun than a biometric screening, right? So how can you turn happy hour healthy? Consider investing in fitness trackers and pose competitions for helping employees get their 10,000 steps in daily. Or, encourage employees to post a #HealthSelfie to a company wellness website each time they work out. These methods create competition and camaraderie amongst workers, meaning that it becomes a collaborative effort.

Finally, a sound corporate wellness program must take into account more than just the physical health of its employees and go beyond smoking cessation programs. The best corporate wellness programs that do get acceptance from employees also consider their mental health and address the fact that a worker is more than just a worker—but a living, breathing, unique human being who has needs, desires, dreams, and goals. An employer must realize that their employees face happiness, sadness, joy, heartbreak, and myriad other emotions both inside and outside of work—and the savvy leader will know that all of these feelings have the ability to impact the bottom line, for better or worse. This is where BLT Strategies can help—we can help you devise a strategy that meets diverse employee needs. Contact us today for more information and visit www.BLTStrategies.com right now.

Mary Ellen Wasielewski