HR Insights


The 3 Most Common Barriers to a Successful Workplace Wellness Program (And How to Avoid Them)

Posted by Gretchen Knurr on January 23, 2018


Do you aspire to begin a wellness program at your organization? Or do you already have one, but are having trouble keeping it afloat? Nearly 60% of employees with access to a corporate wellness program say that the wellness initiative has made a positive impact on their health and well-being, but there is still room for improvement. If you want to reap the maximum benefits of having a wellness program at your company, there are a few crucial barriers to success that you need to be aware of. Rise above these common barriers by reading the following tips for success.

Barrier 1: Lack of Interest

How to Surmount: Clearly communicate the benefits.

Employees may show a lack of interest or follow-through when it comes to wellness programs. They may not want to participate in the activities or may not even know about all of the wellness options available to them. It’s important that you market your wellness options well to your employees. Some employees may mistakenly assume that wellness programs exist for purposes limited to weight loss or smoking cessation.

Make sure the marketing for your wellness program showcases the broader rangeof wellness support options available to employees. 

If the motivation to take care of themselves is not enough to produce action, it may be useful for you to show them the financial benefits associated with their participation. A UnitedHealthcare customer survey showed that 64% of employees underestimate the value of financial rewards and incentives that can be gained – which average about $742 per employee per year. Show them the financial giveback from taking care of their health. Some employers go so far as to offer incentives, such as decreased health insurance rates, to faithful participants as an incentive.

Barrier 2: Lack of Funding

How to Surmount: Leadership needs to buy-in. 

Starting and maintaining a great wellness program requires funding from the organization budget. When a business refuses to allocate any funds to a workplace wellness program, it is hard for the program to be successful. While some events like a company run or a walk through the park are free, great wellness programs go a bit further in their offerings and their budget should reflect that. That budget should allow for the printing of materials, marketing, occasional speakers, fitness classes, and on-site screenings.

To ensure your wellness program has sufficient funding, you will need to make sure that company leadership buys-in to the program. It needs to be supported by upper level staff to ensure there are people in powerful places advocating for the necessary funding. If possible, your budget should also cover incentive offerings for people who participate in the wellness program.

Barrier 3: Lack of Time Investment

How to Surmount: Offer time-based incentives that enable people to participate.

Most people want to be healthy, but far less of them are willing to invest the time necessary to make positive changes. According to the same UnitedHealthcare customer survey referenced earlier, 70% of employees are interested in taking proactive steps to improve their health and wellness, the bad news is most employees don’t want to put in the time to do so. It was found that 63% of employees are unwilling to devote more than an hour a day to improve their health and well-being. This is a big problem.

Did you catch that percentage? Nearly two-thirds of people are unwilling to invest more than one hour per day into their own well-being.

As shocking as this may seem, if you think about the pace of average daily life, it makes sense. After spending 8-9 hours per day at work, on average, going home to take care of the needs there (children, cleaning, home administrative tasks, etc.) takes up much of the remainder of the day. So, what can your organization do to help? Offer time-based incentives throughout the day that enable your employees to achieve some sort of healthy self-care throughout the work day. Here are a few ideas: incorporate a few minutes of guided deep breathing before staff meetings, keep healthy snacks available around the office, or bring in a yoga instructor once a week for 30 minutes. At one of my former jobs, employees were allowed to add an extra 30 minutes to their lunch break if they used it to work out. Be creative, but do what you can to find time for your employees to get healthier at work.  

These three common barriers may seem unsurmountable at first glance, but with some good organization and careful planning, your company can rise above them. Start planning for your wellness program’s success today!


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Gretchen Knurr

About The Author

Gretchen Knurr

After 5 years of working in higher education, Gretchen brings a fresh perspective to research-based content through freelance writing and editing. You can usually find her working in a coffee shop filled with natural light and easy access to a hot cappuccino. When she's not finding new insights into modern HR topics, she is probably hiking in the mountains of Colorado or re-watching The Office. 

Post Topics Workplace Wellness, Resources for Managers, Company Culture