WHY Employees Dislike Wellness Programs and How to Change Their Mind-Set: Whether they're concerned about privacy or simply believe that wellness programs are no fun, some employees don't embrace wellness programs. This article offers tips for getting the less enthusiastic workers to join in.

Author:Wein, Debra

You've heard the hype--Employee wellness programs can save money, increase creativity, boost morale, and help organizations retain and attract talent. But you've also heard rumblings that employees hate wellness programs. How can both be accurate, and what can your organization do to implement a wellness program that employees will rave about?

There are seven common reasons employees dislike wellness programs, but these issues are easy to avoid if you are starting a program and easy to fix if you already have one in place, when you know what to look for. Before we can discuss why employees are turned off by run-of-the-mill wellness programs, you first need to make sure they know about them.

It seems hard to believe; after all, you spend so much time and energy communicating your program. However, a Harvard Business Review survey of 465 full-time employees from companies that offer a wellness program found that the No. 1 reason employees did not participate was that they were not aware their employer offered a well-being program. (1)

What You Can Do

Start by branding the program. The wellness initiative needs a name and a logo so that it is easily recognizable. Next, develop a communications strategy to promote your brand and your program. Determine what you will communicate, how often you will communicate and how you will disseminate your message. Develop information that is clear and straightforward, consistent and recognizable, and easily accessible. Use multiple communications methods (e.g., e-mail, hard-copy mailers, posters, a wellness portal, on-site meetings) and targeted messages to reach employees. In addition to letting employees know what is available, make sure they know where to access program information and what they need to do to participate. Most employees will not take the time to sift through information to find what they need.

To reinforce the message, develop a wellness committee made up of employees from all levels within the organization. The committee can help communicate the program, drive participation and motivate employees while also providing a voice for their colleagues' ideas and concerns.

Now, let's talk about how to engage employees by avoiding their "dislikes."

  1. Employees Think They Don't Have Time to Participate

    Between long work days and 24/7 connectivity with the office, as well as family obligations, employees are busy. According to a report from the Global Corporate Challenge, 86% of employees don't participate in wellness initiatives because they do not have the time. (2) The UnitedHealthcare 2018 Wellness Check Up Survey also provides insight into the employee mind-set. It found that 63% of employees are unwilling to devote more than an hour a day to improve their health and well-being. (3)

    What You Can Do

    Change the format of wellness offerings. Hour-long, weekly seminars no longer work for many organizations. Wellness programming can be effective and participation rates can increase when employees are offered shorter programs and more flexibility. A one-hour seminar can be broken down into four 15-minute segments. The content is still the same; the information is simply disseminated over time.

    Offer programs that can be done anywhere--on site at an employee's desk or at a remote employee's home office. Programs can be offered as recorded webinars, providing flexibility for busy and geographically dispersed employees. Allow employees to log on at their convenience and complete programs ranging in topic from nutrition and sleep to stress reduction and fitness.

    Provide employees with the time to participate in wellness activities and improve...

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