Is Your Company’s Wellness Program Actually Effective?

Research shows that only 12 percent of employees feel their companies contribute to higher overall well-being

According to research conducted by Gallup, while many large companies spend anywhere from $50 to $150 per employee on traditional wellness programs (most of which mainly target physical health), only 24 percent of employees who have a program available to them participate.

Additionally, they found that only about 12 percent of employees “strongly agree that they have substantially higher overall well-being because of their employer.”

According to a recent report, Gallup found that there are three important factors that significantly affect a company’s wellness culture: how your company defines well-being, how your company supports well-being, and the role that your managers play in promoting well-being.

Through their longstanding research with Healthaways, Gallup has come to measure well-being using the following five elements:

  • Purpose: enjoying what you do every day and sustaining motivation to pursue your goals
  • Social: leading a life that includes supportive and loving relationships
  • Financial: you have a secure and mostly stress-free financial situation
  • Community: you like and feel safe where you live
  • Physical: you have good health

What they’ve found, is that many corporate wellness programs are falling short because they don’t focus on all of these important factors and tend to only place an emphasis on improving employees’ physical health.  

“When thinking about well-being, too many companies focus primarily on physical health and fail to address the whole person -- which is why so many well-intentioned programs fall short,” Douglas R. Stover and Jade Wood wrote in the report. “To have a positive impact on employees' well-being, companies must move beyond a sole emphasis on physical wellness to embrace all the elements that enable employees to live a thriving life.”

As far as company support of well-being goes, according to Gallup employees are often deterred from participating because of structural barriers.

“Well-being must be built into the fabric of the organization so employees don't have to sacrifice performance or take personal risks to improve theirs,” Stover and Wood wrote.

And finally, they explained that company leaders play an important role when it comes to wellness programs because their research has shown that managers “account for at least 70 percent of variance in employee engagement scores” and “engaged employees are 28 percent more likely to participate in a wellness program.”

Wellness programs can be effective for helping to improve well-being both in and outside of the workplace, but if your company’s program is actually effective, each of these key factors will need to be present.

Stover and Wood sum it up simply, “When you examine your company's current investment in wellness, does it focus on health and wellness alone, or does it encompass the other key elements that influence how your employees experience their lives? Developing thriving employees requires taking a whole-person approach. After all, employees bring every aspect of themselves to work each day.”