Why do some wellness programs work and others don’t?

Corporate Wellness_webAs an organization, you say promote wellness in the workplace. But does your organization actually practice wellness?   I still find it fascinating when I walk into an employer’s wellness meeting or lunchroom and there in the back of the room is a box of donuts. And while a doughnut every now and then isn’t the end of the world, what I am trying to convey is that many organizations contradict what they are trying to accomplish by asking their employees to do something when the company, the culture and the environment does not incentivize good behavior and healthier life choices. Many employers who implement wellness programs still have poor vending machine options, smoking break areas that are easily accessible and accommodating, and at the end of the day are not making it easy for their employees to choose a healthier lifestyle. Employers are making it easy to continue to do what they always have done but somehow expect a different outcome.

When I meet with employers about worksite wellness programs, some say, “we have tried something like that in the past but it didn’t work.” I try to find out why it did not work which is followed up with a laundry list of questions. What we find is that there are three commonalities that destroy the wellness mission.

1-Tools & Resources vs. A Wellness Program

There is a big difference between an actual wellness program and a tool/resource. Many employers promote websites, mobile apps, and discounts on certain fitness memberships that can work initially to help jumpstart interest; however, after a couple of months the newness wears off and the interest diminishes. Solution – if you offer tools and discounts, they need to have back up power behind them. For example, an online site where someone logs in to search for recipes, log and track activities, analyze their own personal health progress, etc., needs to be constantly promoted and talked about at the workplace. You must also find out what makes each and every person respond in such a way that they want to and are excited to continue to click on that smart phone application, log into that site, track their activities, and then tell their co-workers how cool are the resource or resources provided. Otherwise, people will forget about the program, become disenchanted, and stop using the tools in which your company has invested.

2. “No Man on Deck” vs. An Army

Manpower – It can literally take a small army to design, implement, measure, track, motivate, educate, challenge, reward and then follow through to have an effective wellness program. Human Resource departments cannot handle all the duties necessary. Not because the HR staffs are not capable, but because they already have so many things on their plate. Just as most organizations outsource many things to help their organization run effectively, the right insurance broker and/or wellness vendor may be a good option to achieve optimal results.

3. The Tortoise vs. The Hare

Seeing results from a wellness program takes time. Many people create habits over time and habits are not broken over night. Multiply breaking habits and learning new habits by every person in an organization and you’ll realize that, for the entire culture to transform into a healthier organization, it will take perseverance, persistence, dedication and commitment to see the program through before any company can call it a true success. Ultimately, people will have to change their lifestyle in such a way as to stay on the right path. That path may be difficult, but it is not impossible with time. Do not expect results overnight. Remember, wellness is like running a marathon – before you get to the finish line, you would have had to run for hours and before that, you would have had to train months to prepare yourself for the big day.

Wellness programs do work! If you find a program that has eliminated the three reasons listed above of why a wellness programs fails, you will find a company running the most successful of wellness programs. They can work if they are designed, managed and measured properly. If you do not have dedicated staffs, then consider shopping around for an insurance broker and/or wellness vendor that can become an extension of your Human Resources department, or perhaps contract a company to share the responsibilities with your HR staff. There are many affordable ways that your company can implement a program that yields major results and savings.