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McKenzie Stephens
Solutions Strategist

What Employees Really Think of Wellness Programs—And How to Fix It

Workplace wellness programs are a good thing, right? And employees really love them…maybe not so much. With the vast majority of workplaces providing workplace wellness programs—more than 75 percent of surveyed HR professionals said they did—and with the Affordable Care Act’s wellness incentives, you’d assume these programs are welcomed by employees. Maybe it’s time to rethink those assumptions.

Employee Benefit News recently reported on an eye-opening survey that suggested employees may not be so happy with employer wellness programs. The survey, conducted by Chicago-based CBIZ Benefits and Insurance Services, uncovered reasons why employees might not embrace workplace wellness programs. Fortunately, most of the negative attitudes can be remedied. Here’s a sampling of responses and solutions:

I don’t like my manager. Managers can be an effective role model when it comes to engaging employees with wellness programs. If you spot areas or departments where program engagement is lagging, it might be wise to look at those relationships instead of the program.

The program doesn’t seem helpful. Some wellness programs are very narrowly focused, say on health risk assessments (HRAs) and a few activities. By offering more health-beneficial activities and ramping up the fun factor, wellness programs can engage more employees.

The program “isn’t fun.” Wellness doesn’t have to equal drudgery. Tap into social media and social groups to put some zing into your program. The article suggests, “Don’t just ask employees to exercise three times a week, but also invite them to post a picture of them doing it (a “Healthy Selfie”).

I want to do wellness my way. “I’ll do it my way” isn’t just for Frank Sinatra. No one wants to feel forced to participate in anything, so give your employees as much say so as possible in how they participate in wellness activities. Set some broad guidelines, offer evidenced-based programs, and let employees design their own activities.

What about my privacy? With numerous high-profile hacks, it’s only natural that employees are concerned about something as personal as their health information. It’s important for employers to communicate openly, transparently, and frequently about safeguards in place to protect employee information privacy—and to constantly check those safeguards to ensure they are working properly.

As you can see, negative attitudes toward workplace wellness programs can be overcome by looking at what’s really going on, being open to creative solutions, and getting employees involved in creating the programs not just participating. You also might want to look at the wellness incentives you’re using and recent findings from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

  • 92 percent of surveyed HR professionals who use incentives say they are “somewhat” or “very” effective in increasing employee participation in wellness programs
  • 37 percent offered gift cards as incentives
  • 25 percent offered merchandise
  • 20 percent offered recognition in the organization’s newsletter or on its intranet

There are many good reasons to make the effort—including well-documented evidence that workplace wellness programs are a powerful engagement strategy. And, 77 percent of the respondents to the survey said their wellness initiatives were “somewhat” or “very” effective in reducing their organization’s healthcare costs. That’s a bottom line everyone can be happy about.

One last tip: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a terrific tool for evaluating your organization’s wellness program. Check it out at the Worksite Health ScoreCard.

Would you like to see how you can make your workplace wellness program “healthier”? Contact a Marketing Innovators Solutions Strategist to discuss your goals and how we can help.