5 Reasons Why Wellness Programs Fail

5 Reasons Why Wellness Programs Fail

Wellness programs always start for the right reasons. A company recognizes that its staff are valuable human beings who deserve to be taken care of. They recognize that people who are in good all-round health are more productive and successful. 

Sadly,  many wellness programs fail. Many companies struggle to launch successful programs, and are faced with the question of why wellness programs fail.

Employee wellness programs can be powerful. When they fall flat, it is often for common reasons: employee disinterest, limited accessibility, and other courses. However, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that employee wellness programs are well received and generate powerful results.

Read on to know more about why employee health and wellness programs usually fall short, and how your organization can strive to do better.

What Is An Employee Wellness Program?

Employee wellness programs, also known as workplace wellness programs or employee well-being initiatives, are a collection of efforts within a company or organization to promote healthy lifestyles among its workforce and, in some cases, staff members’ spouses and dependents.

Fortunately, more companies are recognizing the positive effects of employee wellness. According to a report published by Allied Market Research, the global Corporate/Workplace Wellness Industry generated $49.81 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $66.20 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 5.9% from 2020 to 2027. 

If successfully executed, there are myriad benefits of employee wellness programs. To give one major example, they drive employee engagement. According to Gallup’s report on employee engagement, companies with a highly engaged workforce have 21% higher profitability. They also have 17% higher productivity than companies with a disengaged workforce. By contrast, work dissatisfaction will impact the workplace negatively, since workers who are “actively disengaged” spread their unhappiness to their colleagues.

To keep your employees engaged, we have listed the five common reasons why wellness programs fail, and how you can avoid them.

5 Reasons Why Employees Wellness Programs Fail

1. Lack of Employee Participation

Employee wellness programs seem like something that would be a huge hit among the employees. After all, these initiatives are aimed towards their well-being but, this is not always the case. Most employees are unwilling to participate because they don’t have the time, or they don’t want to make time.

A survey conducted by UnitedHealthcare found that 63% of employees are unwilling to devote more than an hour a day to improve their health and well-being. They are simply not motivated enough to participate. 

To counter this, launching programs that actually appeal to employees is important. The best place to start is with the company culture, to get a better understanding of what kind of incentives will stir interest in your group. For example, if you are a gaming company, gaming nights can be a good off-work activity, and giving game-related incentives such as free video games or consoles can be a good idea. 

Takeaway: Start with your company culture, and define what will generate the best levels of participation.

2. Generic Programs

No two employee health concerns are the same. It is crucial that your program offers a different range of activities to cater to the diverse needs and preferences of your workforce. One of the main reasons why wellness programs fail is having a generic program. The offerings are too broad, without any personalization.

Employers can avoid this through personalized wellness offerings. Allow people to define whether they want to pursue physical fitness, or relaxation, or weight loss. Perhaps they are trying to quit smoking or start cycling to work. Give married employees access to wellness benefits that include spouses and children. The best employee wellness programs should always take the needs of the employee into consideration.

Takeaway: Personalize your wellness programs. The more employee-specific you can be, the better.

3. Concerns About Privacy

Employee wellness programs require the collection of private information, in order to screen for health conditions. With compromised private data becoming a global crisis, concerns around this are not a surprise. 81% of people say the potential risks they face because of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits.

People value their privacy and are often afraid to disclose personal information with their employers for fear of jeopardizing their job security. Reluctance to give out personal information is one of the reasons why wellness programs fail. This is true in the case of health or medical information. If a health assessment was made and an employee was diagnosed with comorbidities, they may fear that this could cause their employers to believe they are no longer fit to perform their duties.

To ease the burden of concerns over privacy, it is important to have waivers stating that all medical information is between the health provider and the employee only. Also including clauses that any diagnosis won’t affect their jobs is a good way to put employees at ease.

Takeaway: Reassure employees that all medical data is 100% private.

4. Limited Accessibility

After a busy day, the last thing an employee wants is to spare some time in any other place except their own home. They want to relax, unwind and just loosen up. If a company’s wellness program will eat time out of an employee’s off-work schedule, it is unlikely to succeed.

The program should come to the employees, not the other way around. It should be easy: A sleek app, not a booklet or something that’s easy to lose. They should have access to it anytime, anywhere. It should not take too much time from their days off. If possible, programs that can be used during company hours are great morale boosters. This shows that the company values its employees well-being.

Takeaway: Make wellness programs easy and convenient.

5. Little to No Management Participation

No matter how amazing your program is, if the management and the top brass are nowhere to be found, then you have yourself a reason why wellness programs fail. A study by IBM reveals that 80% of executives believe their company is supportive of employees’ physical and emotional health. However, only 46% of employees said that their company supports their physical and emotional health. 

Employees feel more motivated to act when they see the management showing support. When the management is publicly devoted to a goal, this impacts employee behavior. It is a positive reinforcement that shows the employees that the management is throwing their full support behind the wellness initiative.

Employers can make a commitment by giving the program enough funds and publicly campaigning about it. These kinds of efforts will show a true commitment to transforming your organization’s culture of health and wellness.

Takeaway: Make sure senior staff are visibly involved and invested. 

Employee Wellness Programs: An Important Part of the Workplace Experience

Employee wellness initiatives are a powerful idea. After all, what company doesn’t want its staff to be happy and healthy? They don’t just boost morale but also increase employee retention and overall work productivity. However, launching a wellness program is not always as easy as companies think.

We have listed here the five big reasons why wellness programs fail. These reasons vary. Employees may feel that the program won’t benefit them much, and that the incentive is not worth it. They might think that the programs lack sincerity due to their generic nature and because the management is nowhere to be found. Employees may also feel anxiety over giving out information that may affect their jobs. Whatever their reason might be, employers should listen to their employees. They should respond swiftly with solutions that feel inclusive, easily accessible, personalized, and safe.


Boost your employee engagement through successful wellness programs today. Check out our ebook Bringing Humanity Back To Employee Wellness Programs.