Increase Employee Participation in Your Company’s Wellness Program

Employee wellness programs save employers money through increased employee engagement, reduced number of sick days, and less money spent on healthcare.

Corporate wellness programs are good for employees and good for the company. Wellness programs incentivize improving health and wellness as well as teambuilding, all while at work. It seems like a no-brainer to participate in such a program, and one would think these programs have high participation rates. But that is not the case in most companies.

According to a Gallup poll, only 24% of employees who are offered a wellness program at work participate in it. However, studies show that wellness programs directly result in fewer sick days, less money spent on healthcare, better attitudes, and increased productivity. So each dollar you invest in your company’s wellness program can give you a significant return on investment.

While many factors could contribute to the low participation rates discovered by Gallup, there are several easy and inexpensive actions you can take to increase employee engagement with your program.

Here are a few ideas:

Survey Employees While Planning a Wellness Initiative

What better way to know what employees want and need in a wellness program than to ask them? Each employee has different health and wellness needs and is motivated by different things. By asking the employees what they need and what motivates them, you can create a customized wellness program that they will want to participate in.

Don’t Charge for the Program

Employees do not want to pay for extras at work. Remember, you’re paying for them to be there, and you’ll be reaping the rewards of their improved health and wellness. Studies have shown that for every dollar spent on a wellness program, the return on that investment is between $1.50 and $6, depending on if you have a lifestyle management or chronic disease management wellness program. To increase participation and results, it is best to keep these long-term benefits in mind and offer your program to employees for free.

Provide Motivation Through Incentives

When an employee hears of a new program you want them to participate in, they might think “what’s in it for me?” Even though they will personally feel the benefits of participating, it’s a good idea to incentivize their participation (and meeting their goals) with usable, high-value prizes, for example:

  • Gift cards to local restaurants or stores
  • Corporate merchandise (gym bags, work shirts, water bottles, coffee mugs, etc.)
  • Increased company contribution to HSAs or insurance premiums for participants
  • Fitness center membership contributions
  • Additional paid time off
  • Formal recognition by management and peers

Make the Healthy Choice a Convenient Choice

Making it convenient to participate in the wellness program is an important step to increasing participation. If employees need to take a lot of time outside of normal work hours, they may choose not to do it. If they can do their progress reporting, exercise, or other challenge activities close to or during work hours, they will be more likely to participate.

Respect Employee Privacy

Employees often like to keep their work and personal lives separate. But when it comes to health and wellness, the two can come together. Sometimes, though, employees need help when it comes managing their health, and they’d like to get that help in a private manner. Assure all employees that any information they share about their health will be kept confidential and that they can trust whomever they are sharing this information with.

For example, if you are doing a weight loss challenge or helping employees monitor their blood pressure, have the same human resource or community health professional keep track and do the reporting, which should all be done in private.

Establish a Commitment to Employee Wellness

Wellness programs are a great way to show your employees that you care about their health and well-being — and that of their families. It’s often hard to remember that your employees have busy and fulfilling lives outside of the office that are filled with errands, appointments, childcare, and maintaining relationships. Seeing managers and other company leaders participating in the program and having them help create a supportive corporate culture around your commitment to employees will also increase participation.

Employee wellness programs increase work productivity and feelings of self-worth, reduce the number of sick days and money spent on healthcare, and improve overall quality of life. Investing in your employees’ wellness will give you many more returns than each dollar you put into it, so get started with one today!


Baun, W. B., Berry, L. L., & Mirabito, A.M. (2010 December). What’s the hard return on employee wellness programs? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Harter, J. & O’Boyle, E. (2014, May 13). Why your workplace wellness program isn’t working. GALLUP. Retrieved from

Melter, Z. (2015, August 24). 22 surprising stats every corporate wellness and benefits manager should know. Heart Health Blog. Retrieved from