Do Wellness Programs Work? Yes.. If You Do This

So, do wellness programs work? It’s a common question we get and rightfully so.

The answer itself, that’s going to take a minute. First, YES! Wellness programs work and they can be legendary,… if you know how to manage it.

In all actuality, it depends on a wide range of different factors. In order for you to have an effective corporate wellness program, you’ll need to follow a proven blueprint that’s been vetted and tested. If you follow that roadmap, you’re going to see employees participating, healthier life choices, healthier behaviors, stronger work culture, and you can see lower healthcare costs.

Countless studies have shown how effective wellness programs can be. Here’s one such study from U.S. National Library Of Medicine National Institutes Of Medicine. You can read it here. Here’s what they found: Controlling for baseline covariates, high-risk members who completed only a coaching program were significantly more likely to lower five out of seven health risks than were high-risk members in the comparison group. Participation in multiple wellness activities (eg, biometric screening) increased the odds that risks would be reduced.In addition, the number of risk levels that improved was greater than the total that worsened.

At Kadalyst, we help worksites develop, implement and administer their wellness programs. We work with employee wellness program managers and wellness coordinators, the majority of them are awesome at what they do. 

While their hearts are in the right place, many of them make choices that hinder the success of their wellness program. If you’re making these same mistakes, it’s likely you’ll do more harm than good. 

(1) Your Wellness Program Needs A Group Effort

Every employee wellness program manager is doing their best to operate a successful wellness program. While they can do a lot on their own, you need a group effort to truly run an effective employee wellness program. 

If you build, operate and manage your wellness program independently, your wellness program is going to be vulnerable. Your wellness program must be integrated throughout the organization. You need leadership to sign off on it as you’re going to need to have a consistent message on wellness throughout the company.  If it’s not, it will be viewed as being less important than other programs. 

When we see companies have success with their wellness programs, it’s because everyone in the company (top to bottom) is involved in focusing on employee health.

This is a great read here that goes deeper into the type of company effort you need to operate a successful program.

(2) Don’t Focus On Employee Participation 

Let’s do a quick exercise so you can visualize what you need to focus on as it pertains to employee participation in your wellness program. These are not exact numbers, we just want you to visualize what we’re recommending.

25 percent of your workforce is healthy and don’t need your employee wellness program. While they can certainly benefit from your wellness program, the majority of them are not going to join. 

Another 25 percent of your workforce will participate in your wellness program but this audience is going to need some motivation and support. 

You’ll have another 35 percent that will engage your wellness program but they’re going to be a tough sale. You’ll have to clearly communicate the benefits of your program for them to join. 

The last 15 percent are those that are not going to join your corporate wellness program. It doesn’t matter what you show them or how much you motivate them, they will never join your program. While that may be true, that doesn’t mean they’ll always say no. It only means it’s going to take a lot of effort and communication to get them to trust in your program and what you’re trying to achieve.

We’ve discussed how to improve employee participation in your wellness program many times before, but do check out our blog we dedicated to the topic.

While employee participation is very important, don’t lose sleep over it. As long as you’re doing everything you can to clearly communicate your program and living a healthy life, you have nothing to hang your head over.

Employee communications are an important pillar to operating an effective wellness program. We also know HR communications equally plays a key role here too.

(3) Don’t Be The Program Police

Worksite wellness program managers play a key role in managing the program. While we always want employees to do the right things, you don’t need to be the police of your program. 

Your wellness program manager has the spotlight on them at all times, so employees are going to be paying close attention to your every move. That’s part of the job. However, that doesn’t give your wellness manager the right to police the community. That can create a hostile work environment and destroy your employee wellness program.

Employees don’t want to be told what to eat, when to exercise, etc. You’re going to find many employees don’t want nothing to do with your healthy lifestyle, and that’s ok. 

Here’s some tips for your wellness program management.

  • Lead By Example – Instead of telling others what to do, lead by example. The eyes are going to be on you to set the example. Let employees see you in action and you’ll naturally attract a following.
  • Don’t Make Them Do Anything – You don’t want to force employees to do anything. You want a message that clearly communicates a healthy living is available to everyone.
  • Keep It Fun – Successful wellness programs are fun, so you need to be focused on building and managing a program that’s enjoyable to all. Sure, living a healthy life is important but there’s many ways to make it fun to join.

(4) Being A Wellness Accountant

A lot of employee wellness program managers act as accountants and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it could be holding back your program. In most cases, wellness program managers are not trained to be wellness accountants. 

Wellness managers shouldn’t be doing the financials, instead, they should be tracking important KPIs in the wellness program. A lot of wellness coordinators are use to spending time with spreadsheets, they spend time calculating points, generating incentive reports, and correcting errors. 

You may be wondering, what’s the problem?

If your wellness program manager is spending all their time doing spreadsheets, who’s helping your employees in the program? If you spend all your time focused on the taxes and financials, you’re not going to be able to effectively manage your employees. 

A lot of them get caught up with the incentive program and while that’s a key component to the success of your program, it’s not the only key you’re going to need. The last thing you want is to lose sight of the main goal you want to achieve: which is helping your employees become healthy.

Employees will always be checking their on their incentive points. The right wellness incentive management platform will help your employees keep up to date on their points status.

(5) Keep Your Employee Program Creative But Simple

If your wellness program is complicated, it won’t be successful. Complicated wellness programs make it difficult to have a clear message and if that message is not clear, you struggle to get employees to participate.

You need to keep your corporate wellness program simple. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t get creative, we want you to think outside of the box as it pertains to your wellness challenge ideas and health incentives. We want you to brainstorm with your wellness committee for events and ways to get employees involved. That doesn’t mean your program won’t be fun and exciting. 

When we refer to “simple,” we’re talking about clearly communicating. When employees don’t understand your wellness program, most will refuse to join you. Effectively communicating the benefits of your wellness program is key to your success. 

When employees understand your program and how it can help them, they will give you their attention.

(6) Your Employee Wellness Program Should Involve All Employees

Wellness professionals are always full of great enthusiasm, but sometimes it gets them in trouble. 

One company had a wellness program manager that loved doing 10K runs. He loved them so much, he decided to host one for employees. At first, it felt like a great idea, employees were talking about it. They held a meeting prior to the 10K run and hundreds of employees showed up. 

On the day of the 10K run, the wellness manager was surprised to see that only 6 employees showed up to the event. Why?

A lot of things went wrong. First, if you’re going to do a 10K run, you better get in some training. That is a total of 6.2 miles. It doesn’t matter what company you work for, asking your employees to run 6 miles is a bad idea. Very bad idea. 

While they were good intentions, this event only applied to a handful of employees, that’s why it was a nightmare. You want all of your employees to be involved, so your wellness program ideas need to get everyone involved. 

Here’s a few good ideas to make sure you get everyone to participate.

  • Always Have Multiple Activities – Even if you were doing a 10K run, you should of had other wellness activities available for employees. When you’re hosting wellness events, make sure there’s a handful of activities that appeal to as many employees as possible.
  • Opposites Attract – If you’re hosting wellness activities for diabetics, make sure you also have an activity for those that are not diabetics. When you do so, nobody feels left out.

(7) Comparing Participation Rates

Most employers that launch their own employee wellness program are aware of other companies that have their own programs. It’s common for employers to compare their programs participation rates with those of other companies. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the issue arises when you compare your participation to a worksite that is not like your own.

There’s a huge  difference in wellness program participation rates depending upon the type of company. Wellness program participation is heavily influenced by your communication abilities, use of incentives, involvement with the wellness committee, leadership support, and whether or not there is a benefits based incentives. 

For many years, Kadalyst and other wellness consultants have studied the impact of various wellness program elements including incentives on employee wellness program participation. What we’ve discovered is truly transformational. 

When you have a well organized workplace wellness program, you should be aiming to get 80-90 percent particpation. 

If you’re struggling to get participation in your employee wellness program, don’t hesitate to reach out. We understand how important your program is to you, we’d love to explain how we can help. You can reach us at 503-512-5175 or by using our contact form.

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