4 ways to get Employee Participation in a Wellness Program

By Michael Galvan | 05/09/2016

Employee wellness programs are focused on encouraging healthy behavior and chronic disease prevention and management.  This can include smoking cessation programs, fitness classes, healthy eating options, and more. These coordinated efforts to increase overall employee wellbeing are perhaps one of the best ways to help increase the happiness, health, and productivity of your workforce.

When your staff “buys-in” to a program it can lead to incredible positive changes. Many of the most highly-regarded businesses in the world continue to attract and retain talent because of their unwavering commitment to healthy behaviors and lifestyles.

Besides improving the personal wellbeing of the people you work with, employee wellness programs are also beneficial for the bottom line of any business.   A 2013 study by the Rand Corporation found that workplace wellness programs were associated with a “lower healthcare costs and decreasing healthcare use.”1 Another Rand study showed that the return-on-investment for a program was around $1.50 for every dollar spent.2 This means that companies are seeing real financial benefits from their wellness programs. Depending on the industry and workforce, there is a possibility for even greater economic benefit.

To see real changes take place, it’s important that the majority of the workforce actively participates. But many companies starting workplace wellness programs for the first time though are unsure how to drive employee engagement. Here are the first steps to a widely adopted program.


The first step of getting all team members actively participating is to have a cohesive strategy. What is it that you would most like to accomplish with your program? Is your focus on reducing the number of tobacco users, or driving involvement in an onsite fitness programs? Once you determine a few key goals, you can build your program around these tent poles.


It is a mistake to overlook the importance of communication. After your strategy has been defined, figure out how you will let all your employees know about the new commitment to workplace wellness. When you begin this discussion, be prepared to answer questions as they come up and provide insight into what your workers can hope to gain by participating.


Convenience is an integral part of driving employee engagement. You need to make it as easy as possible for people to become involved. The first step is to make signing up free and quick. A form-fill out on the company website is a good way to go. Many companies also create convenient programs by:

  • Having healthy snacks available at the office
  • Hosting fitness classes onsite
  • Using mobile wellness technology that enables employees to track their progress no matter where they are.
  • Providing easy access to nicotine patches, gum, and other helpful smoking cessation products.

Financial Incentives

Show me the money! Many companies find that the best way to get everybody involved is through financial incentives. These incentives can take many forms. Some employers choose to give people discounts on their health insurance for participating; others just give out small cash bonuses for signing up. Determine how much you can spend and then decide the best way to utilize your financial resources. Remember, many people may get started for the money, but the goal is to gradually make lifestyle and disease management shifts that become habit. 

Employee wellness programs continue to increase in popularity because of their demonstrable effects on wellbeing. Companies who implement healthy solutions for their team continually see the benefits of a more happy and productive workforce. Many find that there is a “snowball effect” and that the more people that get engaged, the more the program succeeds. Start planning your employee wellness program with this in mind and you will see how this group approach delivers impressive results.