3 Wrong Ways to Structure a Corporate Wellness Program: What to do Instead

Recently trending articles such as those featured in Bloomberg and the Chicago Tribune claim that corporate wellness programs don’t work. This is misleading, because the study they are referring to – the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study – is tracking a wellness program in its first year. We know from previous research that wellness programs take 3-6 years to show results.

Here are three pitfalls to avoid when structuring a corporate wellness program:

  1. Focusing only on money. Incentives can work, but it cannot be the only strategy.
  2. Expecting quick fixes. A year isn’t enough to see results.
  3. Defining wellness too narrowly. Wellness isn’t just diet or exercise.

Having a robust design and the right methodology for a corporate wellness program really matter. What also matters is engaging people at all levels of the organization and embedding wellness into the culture. Let’s look at how to structure a wellness program for success:

  • Engage leadership at all levels, including the C-suite to raise the profile of wellness and signal to the rest of the organization that this is a high priority.
  • Ensure motivated wellness champions help create momentum and keep communication channels open.
  • Integrate wellness initiatives into business priorities as much as possible, and with corporate social responsibility programs, which can boost employee engagement.
  • Define wellness holistically so it’s broad enough to include not only diet and exercise, but substance abuse or addictions, stress, mental health, meditation, lifestyle diseases, and engagement skills.
  • Make wellness available on site as much as possible so employees can access the activities that matter to them.
  • Integrate mobile and other technologies to help employees obtain real-time feedback and learn more about how they can participate.
  • Use metrics that not only include biometrics, but also business-related outcomes such as productivity and ROI.

Lastly, it’s important to take advantage of emerging research. For instance, we know that empathy and respect at work improve wellness, and plant-based diets can boost productivity. A truly integrated approach will yield phenomenal results that last.

Designing corporate wellness programs well means focusing on all aspects of wellness and the organization's business priorities and culture. Photo by Antonika Chanel on Unsplash.

Designing corporate wellness programs well means focusing on all aspects of wellness and the organization’s business priorities and culture. Photo by Antonika Chanel on Unsplash.

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