How to Make Your Employees Take Part in Wellness Programmes

Corporate wellness programmes have been proven to provide positive results, both for you as an employer, and for your workers’ wellbeing. Why, then, do you struggle to get your employees to participate in the company’s health schemes? There are certain theories and employee surveys that point to several reasons why your workers might not want to participant in a wellness programme, and if you address these head-on, you might be able to encourage greater participation. Reasons why your employees don’t participate in corporate wellness programmes include:


  • They think you’re trying to learn about their health issues to somehow use that information against them.
  • They believe that Health Risk Assessments are not reported about collective workers but individually, and won’t have their name associated with their individual results.
  • They don’t want to improve their health, despite knowing it’s good for them.
  • They don’t need help and are already living a healthy lifestyle.
  • You send mixed messages by offering wellness programmes but also having junk food available in workplace vending machines.
  • You don’t participate, so your employees don’t believe it’s important.
  • They know it will save you money, but don’t think there’s anything in it for them.


In order to tackle these issues, you and your employees need to comprehend exactly what a wellness programme entails. Barb Hendrickson, President of Visible Communication, explains, ‘Today, it can mean everything from a company gym membership to a simple smoking cessation programme offered to employees, to a full-blown, structured programme where employees can choose their areas to track, set their own goals, and have access to professional health coaches along the way. Structured programmes offer the best way to track results, especially if you start with a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) for each participant. HRAs are conducted by third-party companies and report results only in the aggregate. The more you stress this to employees, the better.’


As well as addressing the concerns listed above, how can you get your employees to engage in your wellness programme? Hendrickson puts her faith in two strategies: offering incentives and inserting game mechanics.


1. Incentives: According to Hendrickson, ‘Incentives can dramatically increase participation, as well as results. One study conducted by MED-STAT of Ann Arbor, Michigan, documents an almost 250% increase in participation with the introduction of non-cash incentives.’ So which incentives work best? Hendrickson details, ‘AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals invited employees in their Wilmington, Delaware, headquarters to participate in healthy cooking classes hosted by local celebrity chefs and to attend a health-tips seminar given by an Olympic runner.’ Other incentive ideas include:


  • name-brand merchandise
  • gift cards
  • corporate-identified merchandise such as tote bags and apparel (especially when used in exchange for registration)
  • gym memberships
  • perks unique to the company (prime parking spots, preferred vacation times, etc.)
  • formal employee recognition by management and peers
  • one-on-one time with the CEO or other executives


2. Wellness as a Game: Making wellness more fun and engaging encourages participation, especially if you have a lot of younger workers who grew up on video games. Hendrickson notes, ‘Medical information is notoriously dry, boring, and can be confusing; the use of game components allows for the information to be broken into small bites the employee can comprehend and remember.’ To make your wellness programme more game-centred, remember the following tips:


  • Make it simple. ‘Clear rules and a simple, point-based format that is consistent throughout the program will be easy to understand,’ says Hendrickson.
  • Make it interesting. Hendrickson advises, ‘Mixing in periodic challenges or competitions will keep the participants engaged.’
  • Make it social. Hendrickson recommends, ‘Provide ways that employees can socialise to compare scores, exchange tips, and encourage one another. Just the knowledge that others will see their progress provides some motivation, but support and encouragement from peers also contributes to success.’

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