Do Wellness Programs Work?

“Wellness Programs Don’t Work”

As cited by SHRM, Johnson & Johnson launched its pioneering “Live for Life” initiative in 1979. This health improvement initiative was aimed at encouraging a healthy lifestyle among employees and since then, more and more employers have begun offering wellness programs. In fact, among companies with 200 or more employees, 81% offer some type of workplace wellness program. That is a 70% increase from 2008. Despite the wellness program industry continuing to grow each year, there are still many who believe wellness programs are a waste of time and money. “Why Wellness Programs Do Not Work” keeps making the headlines, which means there is still skepticism about the efficacy and impact of employee wellness programs.

This led WELCOA to partner with the Returns on Well-being Institute and conduct a study to prove whether or not wellness programs are worth the investment. Their findings support additional research done by SHRM, which is that wellness programs do work, but only if they go beyond physical health and focus on total well-being.

The Truth

The truth is that your wellness program will not be effective if it only focuses on physical health. Wellness programs that are employee-centric, high-performing, competitive and strategic, on the other hand, will see incredible results. WELCOA dug a little deeper and decided to interview 18 top performing, wellness award winning organizations to discover what exactly they were doing to succeed. During both individual and group interviews, WELCOA was able to nail down six best practices to ensure a success wellness program:

  1. Wellness programs should go further than just thinking about physical health and take a whole person approach to well-being. This means that wellness offerings need to holistically support employees throughout all stages of their life at the organization.
  2. The concept of wellness should start at the top of the organization and those in leadership roles need to enthusiastically support and participate in well-being initiatives.
  3. Your strategy needs to go beyond simply offering well-being benefits. Organizations need to create and nurture a workplace culture that fosters well-being at the core.
  4. Wellness programs need to include mental health initiatives and strategies that work to address the stigma surrounding mental health and provide access to the necessary resources.
  5. Think beyond just increasing profits or business outcomes and help employees find purpose. Ideas include providing meditation programs, yoga, volunteer opportunities, or a focus on stewardship and sustainability.
  6. Last but not least, set goals for your wellness program and find a way to collect meaningful data that tracks and measures your results.

Health Designs provides a variety of services and resources that are focused on total well-being and our HD Executive Aggregate Reporting provides a benchmark and greater understanding of the health status of your population. This will provide a clear guide to establish specific goals that we can help your organization reach! To learn more about incorporating a successful wellness program, contact us today!


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“Health Designs has exceeded our expectations, particularly in the personal coaching portion of our wellness program. Employees have met with the same coach since the first day and have formed an important, trusting relationship to help employees determine their goals and achieve results.”
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