Wellness Program Participation Rates

by | Apr 28, 2022

wellness program engagement rates

Most Americans spend the majority of their day working. Even as much of the workforce has shifted beyond designated workplaces, people’s waking hours are still occupied by work tasks and responsibilities. As a result, organizations have recognized that they play an important part in the wellbeing of their employees. Better health is good for people and good for business. Despite best intentions, however, wellness program participation rates tell a mixed story about their effectiveness.  

The statistics

In 2020, a report by the U.S. Department of Labor found that at least 50% of companies with at least 50 employees offered some kind of wellness program to their employees and 90% of companies with over 50,000 employees offered wellness programs (other studies report this number around 81%). Regardless of company size or the specifics of their program, wellness program participation rates are estimated to be about 40%. 

The bad news

Ongoing studies of wellness program participation rates show that most wellness programs reach only those who are already motivated to tend to their health. Those who are less motivated will opt out on things like weight-loss challenges, step challenges, or gym membership benefits. For example, statistics indicate that gym membership only provides a benefit for about 10-15% of employees who would have joined one anyway. The people who most need this incentive are the least likely to use it. 

Another of the reasons wellness program participation rates are low is that workplace wellness initiatives are too complex, time consuming, or hard. Big, broadscale changes are ineffective at creating habits that stick. If the goal of wellness programming is to reduce healthcare costs, minimize absenteeism, or improve chronic health problems, the evidence for effectiveness is underwhelming. Generalized wellness programs are not having a strong impact on the country’s health issues at large.   

The good news

While wellness program participation rates aren’t ideal, some programs are working. The most successful programs are making a shift to holistic employee wellness solutions. They are responding to new trends, like those highlighted by workplace wellness statistics in 2021.

Successful wellness programs understand the new need for employee wellness for remote workers

Customized solutions work best. When companies use a variety of information from biometric screenings, employee surveys, demographic awareness, manager reports, or location considerations they better offer better, customizable solutions for their population and improve wellness program participation rates. 

Additionally, successful programs get leadership buy-in. Programs with middle management support averaged an ROI of ten times their initial investments. Strong programs also measure impact. Tracking metrics and iterating when needed leads to more effective programming to help those who most need it.

If you need help improving your wellness program participation rates and target the people who most need help, consider partnering with BetterYou. We are a Healthy Habits Companion that stays up to date with progress on the goals your employees care about most – like walking more, meditating more, talking to family and friends more, or getting more sleep. A personalized solution will help you create a healthier and happier workplace. 

What are some low-budget incentives that can motivate employees?

There are several low-budget incentives that can effectively motivate employees:

  1. Recognition and Appreciation: One of the simplest and most impactful incentives is acknowledging employees’ hard work and expressing appreciation for their achievements. A public shout-out during team meetings or a personalized thank you note can go a long way in boosting morale and motivation.
  2. Professional Development Opportunities: Offering employees the chance to enhance their skills and grow professionally is a valuable incentive. This can be achieved through workshops, online courses, or job-shadowing opportunities. Providing employees with the resources and support to develop their abilities not only benefits them individually but also contributes to their sense of loyalty and motivation.
  3. Flexible Scheduling: Allowing employees to have some control over their work hours or offering flexible scheduling options can be a powerful incentive. This recognizes the importance of work-life balance and empowers individuals to tailor their work hours to best suit their personal needs and preferences.
  4. Wellness Initiatives: Implementing wellness programs or challenges can be both low-budget and highly motivating. This can include initiatives like step challenges, healthy habit competitions, or team exercise breaks. Encouraging employees to prioritize their well-being not only improves their physical and mental health but also fosters a positive and engaged work environment.
  5. Opportunities for Growth: Providing employees with chances to take on new responsibilities or participate in cross-functional projects can be motivating. This allows individuals to expand their skills, tackle new challenges, and feel a sense of progression and growth within their roles.
  6. Personalized Incentives: Knowing your employees and tailoring incentives to their preferences can be highly effective. Taking the time to understand what motivates each individual and offering personalized rewards, whether it be extra time off, a small gift, or a handwritten note, demonstrates that their efforts are recognized and appreciated.

Remember, the key is to choose incentives that are fresh, creative, and relevant to your employees’ interests and demographics. By employing these low-budget incentives, you can effectively motivate your employees without breaking the bank.

How can rewards encourage employees to participate in wellness programs?

Rewards play a crucial role in motivating employees to actively participate in wellness programs. While a well-designed wellness program in itself serves as an enticing incentive, extra rewards can further encourage employees to engage in healthy habits. These rewards can range from traditional options like cash rewards, gift cards, or trips to low-budget and creative alternatives.

One effective way to incentivize employees is by offering unique rewards that are tailored to each wellness challenge. By consistently providing fresh and innovative incentives, employers avoid the risk of monotony and prevent employees from losing interest over time. For instance, rather than resorting to the same rewards year after year, companies can strategize to craft exciting and ever-changing incentives that spark motivation among employees.

Moreover, it is essential for employers to know their audience and understand what resonates with different groups of employees. Customizing rewards based on employee demographics allows organizations to cater to their diverse workforce effectively. Younger employees, for example, may be more attracted to quirky, pop-culture-inspired incentives, while older workers may value options like a nice lunch or a convenient parking space.

The effectiveness of rewards in encouraging participation in wellness programs cannot be overstated. Implementing well-thought-out and appealing incentives not only supports employees’ efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle but also creates a positive and motivating work environment. Ultimately, a successful rewards system helps employees stay motivated, leading to improved health outcomes and increased engagement in wellness programs.

Interested in learning more about how we can help your employee population improve their steps and sleep while reducing burnout?

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