Health is important – from physical fitness to emotional well-being, a healthy lifestyle is something we all aspire to attain.

This is where wellness programs come into play, aiming to bring about constructive change – but do they truly have a positive impact?

For being an $8 billion-dollar industry, you would deduce they are effective, efficient, and highly resourceful.

Wellness programs are subjective in their success, boasting both profitable yields and less than desirable outcomes. Our goal with sharing information about this topic is to help readers distinguish between wellness objectives and their definitive results. Understanding the facts is critical to the process of evaluating whether or not wellness programs are a right fit.

| What Is A Wellness Program?

Wellness programs are a comprehensive initiative designed to encourage and support various aspect of an individual’s well-being. Beyond just physical and emotional comfort, a wellness program seeks to enhance features such as social, occupational, and environmental wellness. These programs involve modules that can range from nutrition and physical activity to stress reductions and financial trainings.

Wellness programs are designed to meet the specific needs of the target population involved, making their effectiveness reliant on active engagement and participation.

| What Should I Consider When It Comes to a Wellness Program?

When evaluating wellness programs, a crucial aspect to assess is the program’s return on investment. The success of wellness initiatives can be measured by the rate of employee engagement, behavior and/or risk change, and cost trend.

A study conducted by Harvard Medical School, “Do Wellness Programs Work?” reported on the implementation of a wellness program over an 18 and 30 month period. The findings concluded that approximately 8% engaged in regular exercise and 14% appropriately managed their weight compared to those who were not exposed to any wellness programs.

However… the program displayed little to no significant effect on self-disclosed health and behavioral metrics (such as sleep patterns or dietary choices), clinical health indicators, expenditure and utilization related to medical visits and tests, procedures, and prescription medications, as well as three employment-related outcomes (including absenteeism, job tenure, and job performance), according to Harvard Medical School.

Similarly, research conducted by an Oxford scholar revealed that coaching, stress management classes, and financial assistance courses did not yield any positive outcomes. In fact, the studies indicated that stress management courses impeded employees and has an adverse impact on morale!

While wellness programs can offer incentives, guidance, and a proper work-life balance, the very same programs can be inaccessible or provide limited accessibility, often lack personalization, present short-term focus, and set unrealistic goals.

“They say that, instead of putting the burden of action on individual employees by providing them a constellation of difficult-to-access perks and programs, organizations need to take a hard look at the structure of work.”

– Tanya Ott, Why Corporate Well-Being Initiatives Aren’t Doing So Well – And What Companies Can Do About It

So, what can we conclude about wellness programs? What decision should you make based on this information?

| Do Wellness Programs Really Work?

Our conclusion? Most fail to meet 2 of the 3 critical measurement of success, such as healthy behavior and/or risk change and cost trend (lower healthcare and insurance costs).

Noted by JAMA, there were no noteworthy distinctions observed in clinical health measures, healthcare spending and utilization, or employment outcomes. Consequently, the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study determined that the elevated rates of health screening did not consequently justify the unchanged medical spending, health behaviors, or employee productivity over a 30-month period.

In reality, balancing employee satisfaction and cost-effectiveness do not often compare, resulting in a transactional, almost bribe-like approach that, if not implemented effectively, could hinder or exacerbate the employee’s condition. Likewise, wellness programs often fall short in addressing individual employee needs, as the budgets of these programs typically oversimplify the shared concerns of employee health, engagement, and support requirements.

As stated, our aim is to not to discourage anyone from conducting their own due diligence or suggesting that an effective program be discontinued.  We are attempting the approach the subject without bias in favor or against wellness program. Not all programs are created equally, as there is validity to specific methodologies and achievements in particular components of wellness programs. At HAWK, we consider it our responsibility to impart knowledge and provide information based on insightful and measurable data, along with benchmarking success.

Can we answer your questions? Call us today to get the conversation started!



What Is an Employee Wellness Program – https://www.wellable.co/employee-wellness-program

Do Wellness Programs Work – https://hms.harvard.edu/news/do-wellness-programs-work

JAMA Study – Click here

Illinois Workplace Wellness Study – Click here

What Wellness Programs Don’t Do for Workers – https://hbr.org/2019/08/what-wellness-programs-dont-do-for-workers