There is no doubt that employee health and wellness is of paramount importance for a company’s productivity. This is the reason why corporate wellness programs have become part of the culture of most companies. However, there is still a question mark on the efficacy of such programs.

This doubt creeps in when wellness programs of some companies are successful, while others prove an utter failure. The fault does not lie in the wellness programs per se, but in its design and execution.

Why corporate wellness programs fail?

The key to the success of a corporate wellness program is to plan it in such a way as to avoid the common pitfalls that lead to ineffective and even harmful initiatives. The one big reason for failure of corporate wellness programs was found in a study undertaken by two organizations – the ‘Transamerica Center for Health Studies, and the ‘Institute for Health and Productivity Studies’, both based in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This was due to the non-integration of health promotion programs into a comprehensive workplace health promotion strategy.

How to develop a corporate wellness program that works?

There are several important aspects of a corporate wellness program that need to be kept in mind:

#1 Coupling employee health assessments with tools and resources

If an employee is asked only to fill up a questionnaire regarding his or her health habits that include smoking behavior, physical inactivity, poor diet, high stress levels, etc., it will not be motivating enough to bring about a change in his or her lifestyle. However, if the workers are given the tools and resources to actually do something about their health, they will get motivated to act.

#2 Financial incentives

It is a general belief that introducing a financial incentive program will achieve employee health and wellness.This is a fallacy, since it does not achieve long-term behavioral change in employees, but lead to resentment among them. It has been found that, if given a choice, an individual will go for a short-term reward, such as smoking a cigarette, then focus of long-term benefits, even if it carries a financial incentive.

#3 Health plan website

It is a false assumption that if the employees are directed to the company’s wellness program website, they will automatically start adopting it. Unless such a website is made part of a broader comprehensive health promotion program, it will never engage the employees.

#4 Short-term programs

Losing weight or quitting smoking are not short-term measures. Therefore, short-term campaigns remain a non-starter as far as employee health and wellness is concerned. In fact, random acts of wellness, such as ‘Biggest Loser’-themed events and pedometer challenges may do more harm than good by promoting impossible-to-achieve quick fixes.

#5 Outsourcing employees’ health

At times, companies resort to hiring outsiders to address employees’ health issues that may be specific for different issues, such as lifestyle coaches, employee assistance counselors, case and disease management vendors, etc. More the number of such vendors, more compounded the confusion. It is not only the overlapping and duplication of methods, but also the inability of the vendors to get at the root of a systematic problem that leads to their failure.

#6 Interest of company leaders

No health promotion program can succeed in a company, if it doesn’t have the commitment and support of its leaders. This support needs to be provided at all levels of the organization. The company leaders are responsible to establish a healthy work environment by integrating it into the organization’s overall vision and purpose.

#7 Evaluating wellness programs

It is important to evaluate a wellness program most critically to determine its efficacy. This requires an evaluation plan to gather baseline data at the beginning and monitoring it over time. It not only entails examining the tangible benefits of the program, such as absenteeism or medical cost reduction, but also the broader impact of programs on core priorities, such as employees’ improved morale, talent attraction and retention, enhanced company and customer loyalty and the like.


What will really work for a company as far as employee health and wellness is concerned depends upon the company leadership. It needs to understand what works, based on evidence, and then integrate individual health promotion programs with organizational philosophy that supports a healthy work environment.

Author's Bio: 

Torsi is a professional blogger.