Workforce Health + Benefits

How to Increase Workplace Wellness Program Participation

Creating a healthy workforce is beneficial on multiple levels:

  • It reinforces the importance of individual health and personal well-being for all employees while laying the foundation of community and positive social support.
  • It can work to achieve higher levels of productivity among your employees while also decreasing absences from work.
  • It can improve worker satisfaction and retention while also decreasing health care costs and preventable medical issues.

Merely having a wellness program, however, is never enough. Your employees must know the program exists, see actual value in it, find it easy to participate and engage, and – above all – feel comfortable and ready to participate.

How do you achieve this? Through a well-marketed wellness program.

To achieve high engagement and, ultimately, a healthier, more successful culture and workforce, let’s talk about wellness program promotion and increasing employee participation.

Before You Start: Are You Still Strong on The “Why” Behind Your Employee Wellness Program?

When figuring out the best way to encourage and market your employee wellness program, it is imperative to implement a top-down approach. When management begins identifying the importance of a wellness program, the information doesn’t just become relevant. It becomes essential to all staff.

When leadership buys into the concept of wellness and all of the benefits the program offers, your employee population will be more likely to engage and participate.

So, are you clearly and effectively communicating the “why” behind your wellness program?

Do your employees know the importance of engaging in the wellness program?

You must start here before making marketing pushes and asking employees for a high amount of participation.

Every wellness program needs a clear vision. Defining your ‘why’ is the defining step, and it should anchor on what you, as an organization, stand for and why it’s worth it to implement and engage in a wellness program.

How to Increase Employee Participation in Wellness Programs

The fact of the matter is that employee health is a deeply personal topic, so getting them to buy into the idea of a wellness program and a culture of wellness is essential.

Focusing on the potential roadblocks facing you along the way, and the corresponding solutions to those problems is a great way to plan ahead and avoid possible setbacks.

Let’s walk through some common factors that lead to low engagement in corporate wellness programs and how to combat them:

Problem #1: Employees don’t know your program exists.

Potential Solution: Communicate the program’s value and how to participate through a variety of touchpoints, with attention to the work environment.

Consider the different subgroups within your population that you’re hoping to engage. Do you have spouses, remote workers, truck drivers, physicians, regular office staff? Communicating your wellness program through various touchpoints and modalities – like, video, push notifications, emails, posters in common areas, postcards to spouses, and so on – is an excellent approach to increase exposure to the program. 

By increasing your scope and widening your marketing tactics, you ensure that all employees are receiving the vital information they require.

Problem #2: Employees don’t see the value of the program.

Solution: Deploy a responsive program designed to meet every employee where he or she is in their health journey.

This personalized and effective approach when marketing a wellness program is foundational to its success. No matter what type of initiative you are looking to implement, employees will be more engaged when it benefits them directly, and those benefits are communicated clearly. 

To design a responsive program, examine the common claims, diagnoses and health risks within your population to identify the most beneficial wellness offerings to ensure that the wellness program applies to their needs and personal well-being. By meeting employees where they are and providing multiple paths toward their health goals, you ensure that the program is comprehensive and responsive to the individual needs of each employee.

You may also consider doing a training for managers about your organization's wellness program goals to help them become advocates for the program and share a consistent message about it to their employees.

Problem #3: Employees don’t know how to participate.

Solution: Deliver clear and consistent messaging to demonstrate program registration and participation.

Everyone in the organization should be clear on the steps to participate in the wellness program. Your wellness program communications should focus on:

  • Defining what wellness means within the context of your specific plan design.
  • Providing a clear understanding of how participants can earn the full value of the available incentives and be supported by the program on their path towards well-being.

One of the top three issues in wellness programs today is streamlining the communication of resources to avoid confusion and overlap.1

By implementing a comprehensive wellness program from a single vendor that includes elements of prevention, health awareness and education, disease management and emotional well-being, you ensure cohesive messaging (as opposed to when you’re stringing together multiple point solutions).

Additionally, keep in mind that stringing together multiple point solutions while trying to build a cohesive communication plan can be time-consuming for the HR team, as it most likely will not be done for you by a point solution vendor.

Problem #4: Employees don’t feel comfortable or ready to participate.

Solution: Establish transparency and trust at the very beginning.

We live in a day and age where people are increasingly worried about their privacy of personal information. In the workplace, people may be even more secretive or hesitant to engage for fear of losing their job.

That’s why it is imperative to establish a culture of trust and transparency when introducing a wellness program.

Communicating the processes and safeguards surrounding their health data and sharing the wellness program’s intentions and goals is an excellent first step.

From there, make sure that your program design is compliant with EEOC and other regulations, and that the right contracts and processes are in place to protect employee privacy.

Remember: effectively promoting wellness in the workplace means meeting employees where they’re at.

Meeting every employee where they’re at personalizes the process and ensures that each employee feels engaged and committed to the wellness program and overall culture developing within your organization.

If employees are initially hesitant or unwilling to learn about their current health through a screening or health risk assessment, be prepared to offer alternatives for participation that can lead to the same results you’re looking to achieve through the wellness program. If one of your goals is to improve employee health, the following alternatives can help initiate positive change:

  • Offering resources and evidence-based coaching to support employees.
  • Promoting health awareness by encouraging them to meet with their doctor and complete a provider-set goal.

Reach your wellness program participation goals with the right partner.

At Bravo, we seek to improve an organization’s strength by addressing preventable lifestyle-related health risks through a comprehensive wellness program that delivers the results leadership desires and employees need.

Above all, we work hard to ensure your wellness program isn’t a burden for your HR and benefits team and has a sustainable, meaningful impact within your culture. That’s why we also highly encourage the formation of a wellness champion network.

With a team of wellness champions, promoting your wellness program doesn’t just have to be on you and your leadership team. It’s a complete organizational effort where employees from every corner and level of the office are actively involved in the program's promotion and success.

Let us show you how to build a wellness champion network through our free guide:

Download the Wellness Champion Guide

Get to know more about who we are and what we provide by downloading our Wellness Engagement Guide. It’s one year's worth of health and wellness content to help you build out a wellness champion network, increase engagement in your program, and keep wellness top of mind with participant-facing articles, recipes and workout calendars for the month


1 Shortlister. Workplace Wellness Trends Report - 2019. Accessed September 14, 2019.

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