Business of Well-being

7 Strategies for Corporate Wellness Success

Many employers have great intentions when it comes to initiating a corporate wellness program, but then struggle to make their efforts successful. Despite a well-executed, enthusiastic kick-off, attention wanes as the weeks go by and employees lose their initial positive outlook towards the program offerings. As time passes, participation, engagement, and buy-in are low or half-hearted.

A solid wellness provider will take these setbacks into account and create effective, inclusive, and successful corporate wellness programs. Here are seven strategies that can help a company establish a culture of health and wellness while inspiring, motivating, and engaging employees.

When these strategies are successfully implemented, companies can expect participation rates as high as 90 percent through every phase of their program! The evidence is clear - A culture of health is contagious.

1.    Lead To Succeed

Success starts at the top. Clients with highly engaged leadership have dramatically higher participation rates. Companies should establish Wellness Committees and Wellness Champions who enjoy special status and recognition and will spread the message within the organization. Committee members and champions should come from different departments, divisions, and varying levels of authority.

Johnson & Johnson found that a strong corporate wellness culture results in employees who are 3 times more likely to take action on their health and are 2.5 times more satisfied in general than employees of organizations who perceive a poor corporate culture of health. Job satisfaction is a crucial component of employee wellness. Healthy, engaged employees are happy, productive employees. And it starts at the top.

2.    Make It Easy

The most common barriers to participation in corporate wellness programs are lack of time, lack of interest, lack of awareness, lack of access, and privacy concerns. Companies can address these barriers by communicating the program more effectively and by making healthy choices the default option, so that time, interest, awareness and other barriers are minimized.

Simple changes can be implemented, including serving healthier foods at meetings, in the cafeteria and in vending machines. Other strategies include posting health and nutrition messages in high-traffic locations like elevators, restrooms, hallways and coffee stations, and encouraging employees to take stretch breaks throughout the day.

Map out walking routes around the office with varying distance and approximate time requirements to offer options for all levels. Make it easy, and participation will skyrocket.

3.    Know Your Employees

When designing a successful wellness strategy, it is imperative to know your employees. The implementation process should include employee surveys and small focus groups to obtain personal feedback, uncover barriers, and develop a program that is based on listening, learning, and understanding your employee population.

To achieve high participation and engagement, key demographic information must be taken into consideration, including language and/or literacy barriers, access to computers at work and home, job duties and restrictions, etc.

Specific aspects of the program may need to be tailored to meet individual needs or tweaked to provide participation opportunities to specific individuals like remote employees or those with health restrictions or disabilities.

4.    Brand It And Promote It

In order to drive higher participation and engagement, there are four critical components to developing an effective communications strategy:

A.    Develop a wellness brand for the program

B.    Create a "home" for the program

C.    Design materials that educate employees, provide updates, and recognize success

D.    Personalize messages

Branding the program with a catchy name or logo provides a recognizable and consistent experience that employees use to identify the program. Once the program is branded and developed, create an easily accessed "home" for the program-- either a website or internal wellness portal-- that offers all the information employees need.

Successful companies use a combination of technology, wellness committees, meetings, and communications to allow their employees to share information and stay connected. Sharing success stories and testimonials in a company newsletter, web portal, or via e-mail blasts provides the dual benefit of recognizing your champion employees and motivating others.

Finally, employees are more likely to pay attention if they perceive the communications to be personally relevant. Offer tips and resources that specifically refer to the office environment and surrounding community to keep employees interested and engaged.

5.    Keep It Fresh

Companies tend to focus on the launch of a wellness program - with a wonderful kick-off event, great communications, and lots of enthusiasm - but then drop the ball on the back end.

Engagement and interest often fade because there isn't enough follow through. In order to maintain involvement, it is important to refresh the program regularly, add new components, and keep people excited about participating.

Successful programs survey champions and employees to learn what health topics they'd like to see included in the program and maintain engagement through social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and company-wide web portals.

Best of all, companies should keep it fun and fresh by sponsoring team challenges, offering incentives for meeting goals, holding walking meetings and other fun initiatives.

6.    Make It Worth Their While

When designing successful programs, companies should consider the objective of offering incentives. You need to know if the goal is to motivate people to participate, to influence outcomes, or a combination of both.

Financial incentives work well at motivating people to participate in actionable tasks (like completing an HRA or attending an on-site screening) but do not necessarily result in lasting behavior change.

Conversely, if a program is able to instill a sense of humor, fun, community, and respect, your employees will have an emotional connection to an experience larger than themselves that will provide an intrinsic motivation to continue on their journey to wellness and behavior change.

7.    Make It Personal

Successful wellness programs are personal. Ideally, your program offers enough resources, screening processes, educational materials, and ideas so that your employees establish their own personal goals. Your program should encourage employees to set achievable goals so they can experience early success and the rewards that come with that success.

While these early successes will build competence and motivation, establishing harder goals keeps employees challenged and growing. To promote success, companies should offer support by providing tools, resources, and encouragement, including health coaches,  wellness portals, fitness challenges, and rewards.

About The Author

Fiona Gathright is President of Wellness Corporate Solutions (WCS), an award-winning, woman-owned business specializing in customized, high-touch wellness programs.

Fiona writes a popular blog Corporate Wellness Insights (, is sought after for her expertise in wellness, and serves on the board of the Institute for Human Resources, the Alliance For Workplace Excellence and is a Foundation Associate of Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation (WBL).

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