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Dr. Matt Grawitch: October 2008 Archives

Many organizations have jumped on the wellness bandwagon, that is, offering programs geared towards promoting healthy lifestyles among their workers with the hopes of reducing healthcare costs, absenteeism, and productivity loss. However, a recent report by Hewitt Associates has found that many employers are finding that wellness programs are not having their desired effect. They found that many of the most popular programs, at least in terms of the frequency of employers that offer them, have sickly participation rates. For example, 73% of the companies surveyed offered a nurseline, but only 7% of employees actually used the program and only 45% of employers were satisfied with that program. Across all of the organizations examined, only 10% of the costliest employees actually participated in employee wellness programs.

In 2005, Aon conducted a survey and found that the top four reasons for lack of participation were (a) lack of motivation, (b) too busy, (c) privacy concerns, and (d) not placing a high priority on getting healthier. Though more and more organizations are beginning to use incentives to spur participation, specific incentives are wrought with their own challenges.

Why might employees be experiencing a lack of motivation when it comes to participate in wellness programs? Though the list of reasons is immense, largely one can point to the organization’s culture and a failure to involve employees. If the culture does not support and actively promote wellness behaviors in the workplace, then why would employees get on board? In addition, if an organization does not offer programs that employees are interested in, then why would they participate? For example, going back to the Hewitt Associates survey, onsite clinics were utilized by 25% of employees and onsite pharmacies were utilized by 50%, and 81% of the companies that offered onsite clinics were satisfied with them, while 95% that offered onsite pharmacies were satisfied with them. However…only 19% of the organizations offered onsite clinics and only 11% offered onsite pharmacies. So, if organizations would start offering wellness and disease management programs that employees are already motivated to use rather than focusing on finding ways to incentivize programs that employees don’t want to use, perhaps employers would see better results.