What Wellness Programs Don’t Do for Workers?

What employee wellness programs don't do for workers

What Wellness Programs Don’t Do for Workers?

What Wellness Programs Don’t Do for Workers?

The idea of employee wellness is not new, but it has not always been an industry with maximum benefits for the employee. Wellness started out as a benefit provided by companies to their employees for free. Employee wellness programs are now becoming more of an industry with new studies showing the benefits they provide people, but not necessarily employers. Wellness is starting to seem like something that can help make workers happier and healthier in addition to making them safer at work. It is also found through surveys conducted with HR professionals across 30 different countries, that there are some wellness programs limitations that exist.

The idea behind wellness initiatives shows that there are many ways it can improve both worker health and safety practices within organizations over time.

However, one study shows that while most people think current Wellness Programs do deliver on promises made about improving worker productivity. These improvements may only provide benefits long-term rather than immediately. 

Wellness Program limitations

wellness programs limitations

Despite these findings, Wellness Programs’ limitations are a handful. Wellness Programs limitations include:

  • Wellness programs are often limited by employer resources and lack of employee engagement.
  • Employee wellness programs do not necessarily produce better health outcomes than other types of workplace wellness initiatives, such as traditional insurance plans or legal policies.
  • The wellness Program's uniqueness to each company makes it difficult for benchmarking success across industries.
  • Wellness Programs may not be an effective way to reach certain populations, such as those who are low income or unemployed.
  • Wellness programs typically only offer virtual services and treatments which does not work for all demographics. For example, older adults tend to take advantage of Wellness Programs.
  • Wellness programs tend to be more expensive for employers than not having one at all (Green, Weller & Kreuter, 2015). Wellness initiatives are also only in the best interest of companies that have employees working on-site or traveling on business with them; this does not apply to Telecommuting employees. Wellness programs need to be tailored for specific demographics because they differ in terms of what is most effective (Green, Weller & Kreuter, 2015).
  • Wellness programs sometimes lack the ability to provide patients with enough support and encouragement through face-to-face interactions which can lead to failure or relapse.
  • These programs also only measure the success of participants who actually complete a program. The true impact can't be known for those who drop out or don’t participate for a longer period of time.
  • Wellness programs are not an effective tool for improving community or population-level health. Wellness initiatives need to be combined with other larger-scale efforts such as education campaigns, increased access to healthy food options, etc.

Solutions To Overcome Wellness Programs Limitations

wellness programs limitations and solutions

Employers should consider implementing more stringent criteria in their wellness program standards. So, they target less healthy employees who would benefit most from participation in a workplace wellness program. 

  • Employees should be encouraged to engage in specific activities within the existing contacts. While also taking advantage of available opportunities outside work.
  • Education on mental health should be proactively incorporated into Wellness Programs.
  • Employers should use wellness programs to help employees understand what are the expectations of the company at work. And increase their understanding of the relationship between health and productivity.

Wellness Program results will only improve when it becomes a part of the culture within an organization. Wellness Program standardization can be difficult due to each company's unique needs. But taking these factors into consideration may allow employers to create a program that works for everyone involved. 

Employer-sponsored Wellness Programs vary in terms of cost-effectiveness, scalability across different types of businesses, ease or difficulty with implementation, success rates associated with meeting specific goals, size/scope, etc. However, from an employer perspective, it's important for business leaders to consider all the positive outcomes of wellness programs too. For example, Wellness Programs can help improve employee morale and boost retention rates. Wellness programs are generally designed to encourage workers’ health by offering a variety of incentives for participating in healthy activities or maintaining certain habits. The three main categories of wellness program incentives include:

Financial Incentives

Wellness programs may offer an incentive, such as a reduction in premiums. If participants meet specific goals based on biometric screenings (i.e., blood pressure readings). Wellness rewards may also be given using points that could be redeemed for items like gift cards or gym memberships.

Nonfinancial Incentives

Some employers have used non-monetary wellness incentives, such as preferred parking spaces near the front door. And companies can provide such nonfinancial incentives to the employees. Wellness programs may also include non-financial incentives, such as preferred parking spaces for participants.

Mental Health Education

mental health support

Through mental health education, companies can teach employees to talk about their emotional state. Offering emotional support at every level and investing in mental healthcare programs can go a long way in supporting your employees. This shows the collective will to change the stigma around mental health at the workplace in order to better support your employees' needs and requirements.

This is obvious, everyone goes through things in their personal or work life. A company should not expect an employee to show the same effectiveness in work without showing any support. Even with those with the best intentions, ignorance about mental health can create a culture in which leaders and employees feel ill-equipped to identify emotional distress.

Flexible Workplace Policies

Studies say that employees thrive in an environment where flexibility is present. Employees should be allowed to have the freedom of deciding where and when work can be done. Wellness programs do not require employees to come into the office every day. Employers and wellness plans should encourage (but never force) people to work from home or change their schedules as they see fit. Wellness programs must take into consideration employees ’ needs and goals, not just company profits or statistics.

Flexibility and accessibility are important to employees, Wellness programs should encourage but never force people to work from home or change their schedule as they see fit. Beyond this employers can also provide flexible work schedules (e.g., telecommuting), flexible benefits (e.g., sabbaticals, reduced hours), and time-off policies that allow employees to take paid or unpaid leaves of absence for personal reasons such as taking care of an aging parent with illness. Wellness programs should encourage people to be productive in a way that works for them.

Compassionate leadership

Wellness programs must provide reasonable accommodations for individual needs Well. Wellness should be a part of everyone's life. Not just those who are at the top, Wellness leaders need to show compassion and care towards their employees as human beings. Leaders need to understand that preventing ill-health is not solely about having healthy lifestyle practices. It’s also about taking care of one another. Wellness programs should take into consideration employees’ needs and goals, not just company profits or statistics. The leaders, show compassion to your workforce.

Compassion at the workplace brings results for organizations and individuals. Wellness programs must acknowledge that all employees are unique and different. Company leaders must show compassion to their workforce. Wellness is not just about good health but also healthy relationships with others as well.

Implement Social Comparator

employee wellness limitations

Wellness programs that compare employee results with others in the company are famous as “social comparator” wellness plans. These social comparison wellness programs allow coworkers to compete against one another by comparing biometric screenings or other health metrics 

The research on the effectiveness of wellness programs in improving outcomes appears to be a mix at best. And some studies show that these plans may lead people with unhealthy behaviors to drop out or avoid participating altogether. Wellness plans have not been successful to help reduce healthcare costs in most cases either. A 2008 government report found economic evaluations do “not support a conclusion that [wellness] initiatives produce favorable results in aggregate cost savings''. When one includes all direct and indirect effects on employers' health insurance premiums and workers ' wages. Wellness programs are unlikely to reduce your company's healthcare.

Design A Better Wellness Program

wellness program limitations


That is why it is important to design a wellness program that actually works. Wellness programs need to be designed and implemented in a way that is respectful of the employees’ behaviors, not harshly punitive. Wellness initiatives should also target healthy behaviors rather than attempting to change unhealthy ones.

Employees are people, not statistics but human beings. Wellness programs must take into consideration employees ’ needs and goals, not just company profits or statistics.

Companies should consider wellness programs as a good thing for the workplace. But we need to make sure that they are fair and beneficial for all of our workforces. No matter what their health is like now (or in the future). Wellness programs can help us achieve both personal success and corporate success at once; let’s do it right. 

Benefits Of Wellness Programs

But just because Wellness Programs don’t always deliver on promises made, does not mean Wellness is a bad investment. Wellness programs may still be able to help organizations manage rising medical costs and long-term workforce productivity.

  • Wellness programs are more effective than other types of health initiatives such as traditional insurance plans or legal policies like the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means Wellness Programs might actually have some positive impact. Even if they aren’t delivering what employees hope for right away.
  • Survey respondents from across 30 countries indicated that healthcare cost savings were one of their top three reasons for investing in workplace wellness.
  • If you try implementing a wellness program. It may help your company lower its health insurance premiums by reducing obesity-related disorders such as diabetes and heart disease (which account for over half of all employer healthcare costs). While also increasing productivity through better mental health and sleep quality. Wellness programs can reduce your employee's absences or turnover rates. It will improve their performance on the job at the same time they're losing weight and feeling healthier overall. Corporate wellness programs must take into consideration people's health.
  • Survey respondents from across 30 countries indicated that healthcare cost savings were one of their top three reasons for investing in workplace wellness. And they observed the positive result in upcoming years.
  • Wellness programs may not be able to help with immediate productivity. But they can certainly play a role in reducing healthcare costs and it is for this reason Wellness Programs are still as beneficial as ever.

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