Following the implementation of a workplace wellness program, there are two groups of employees that require followup and support. My last column covered how to help wellness champions maintain success. But participants who haven’t progressed also need extra attention. It’s not enough to be satisfied with a majority of participants improving. You should strive to help each individual achieve at least some success towards better mental, physical and financial health. 

To be clear, it’s not your job as an employer to make your employees healthy. Rather, it’s your job to provide opportunities for employees to make themselves healthy. However, you will encounter a proportion of your workforce that just isn’t responding to your best efforts. So how do you target these individuals without sacrificing the integrity of your wellness program? 

Read: Followup, support key to helping wellness champions maintain success

First, identify the barriers that are preventing these employees from getting the most out of the wellness program and systematically break them down, using all of the resources at your disposal. Here are some of the common barriers you might see, and how to address them:

  • Employee X didn’t attend any lunch-and-learn sessions on resilience, meal planning and building a time-saving workout, but they constantly complain about being stressed and too short on time to eat well and exercise.

Create an online presentation that can be viewed at any time, and either make participation in education sessions mandatory or provide an incentive or reward to encourage participation. A free half hour for all attendees to be used at the beginning or end of the day or to extend their lunch hour goes a long way to drive attendance, especially if your budget doesn’t allow for financial rewards.

Read: Do wellness incentives work?

  • Employee Y is committed, educated and motivated to improve, but their spouse (who takes on the meal planning and preparing at home) has no interest in eating well or exercising. Instead, they either prepare convenient (but not nutritious) meals or order in, and prefer to spend their evenings and weekends on the couch watching TV.

Unfortunately, your impact on employees’ spouses is minimal so you need to make the best with what you can. If you have an employee assistance program in place you can extend that access to family members, effectively establishing an employee and family assistance program.

Providing education sessions in portable formats also promotes access for the whole family. And, providing an incentive that extends to family members may result in greater participation all around. This could include a family pass to an event, a gift card to a healthy restaurant with an amount to cover a family meal, or a subscription to meal planning/preparation service.

  • Employee Z has been educated about their health risk areas and is willing to address them but has yet to participate in the individual challenges offered through the wellness program. They don’t seem to be motivated to improve their results on their own.

Don’t be afraid of some healthy competition between employees. Offer team challenges with a more substantial prize, such as a team lunch or a half day off. Or, continue with individual options but post a public leaderboard in the lunch or break room to give participants some extra incentive to improve, and recognition to fuel their motivation.

Another option is to provide access to a health coach. Sometimes information isn’t enough, or can be overwhelming, so these individuals may need assistance with identifying first and next steps, and could benefit from some support to keep going.

Read: Employers align Olympics with employee wellness, engagement programs

  • The organization is large with multiple divisions and locations, so you’re finding it hard to keep awareness of the program up on your own, let alone focusing on those falling behind in progress.

A wellness committee can provide great support to a wellness program and, in turn, its participants. Committee members can promote the program content for those who may need an extra push. Allow the committee to appropriately zero-in on those not participating and identify their barriers to begin the process of breaking them down.

Read: Employee productivity top objective of global well-being programs: survey

No wellness program will have 100 per cent participation or 100 per cent progress. But by simply identifying employees who need a slightly different approach to reach their goals and making small adjustments along the way can produce a positive result.

Karley Middleton ‎is a health and performance consultant at Hub International in Winnipeg. These views are those of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.
Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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