4 Reasons why worksite wellness programs fail

People spend a large part of their lives at work. Incorporating wellness in the American workday seems to make a lot of sense, so why aren’t employers seeing the benefits? Worksite wellness programs can not only be tough to get off the ground, but they can be hard to sustain. At Alyfe Wellbeing Strategies, we can certainly help alleviate some of the roadblocks you may encounter. However, even the best programs can fail to be successful if the 4 reasons below are not addressed in a meaningful way:

1. Lack Of Support From Leadership.
Employees naturally take direction from their leaders, which makes leadership support throughout the organization vital to any worksite wellness program. From senior leaders to line management, if the employees are not given the right encouragement to participate, they can often feel like they shouldn’t participate. Setting up a culture of well-being throughout your organization is one of the most impactful steps you can take to let employees know leadership is on board.

2. The Program Doesn’t Address The Whole Person.
Each of us has our own idea of what it means to be well. Narrow programming can limit the engaged audience. If a worksite wellness program only focuses on weight loss, it may not capture the attention of someone who is happy with their weight, but has concerns around coping with stress. Wellness programs, just like people, need to be multi-dimensional. Employers should work with wellness vendors that can tailor their programming to each person’s needs.

3. Keeping the Healthy, Healthy and Ignoring High Risk Individuals.
Following the 80-20 rule, employers can estimate that roughly 80% of employees are driving 20% of the employer’s health care costs. These individuals are the ones who are most likely to engage in a wellness program, but because this group is already healthy for the most part, they will show little impact on your bottom line.

Conversely, the unhealthiest 20% of employees are driving nearly 80% of health care costs and are the ones in need of serious health help. Though they are far less likely to participate in the wellness program, doing so not only saves companies money–it saves lives.

4. The Program Offers Rewards That Don’t Motivate Participants.
Ideally, we want the worksite wellness program to create intrinsic motivation, with achieving wellness as the reward. Oftentimes, in order to create the intrinsic motivation, we have to begin with offering a reward. Your reward can make or break your wellness program. Consider the following when determining an appropriate reward:

Are you using a carrot, or stick? Most people respond better to positive rewards versus penalties. Typically, young worksite wellness programs benefit more from using the carrot method. Try to avoid penalties until your program is well established and you’ve created a culture of health within your organization.

Does the reward promote wellness? Avoid items that could promote unhealthy behavior, such as fast food restaurant gift cards.

Does the reward value match the activity? Participants who are asked to dedicate time to complete multiple activities may expect a reward that has a higher value.

Will the reward sustain healthy behavior? Consider things such as immediate gratification, and ongoing rewards for continued participation.

Is the reward meaningful? Some people may be satisfied with a fun t-shirt, but others may prefer a premium reduction, paid time off, or a donation to a charity of choice.


Want to learn about Alyfe’s response to these 4 issues? Contact one of our well-being strategists to discover what we can do for your organization!