Obstacles to Worksite Wellness Programs
The 2004 National Worksite Health Promotion Survey reports that five obstacles impede successful implementation of Worksite Wellness Programs. Specifically the survey found the follow: lack of employee interest accounted for 63.5%; insufficient staff resources contributed to 50.1%; inadequate funds were responsible for 48.2%; failure to engage high-risk employees added another 48%; and, the inability to elicit the support of upper management resulted in 38% more of the reasons why worksite wellness programs did not achieve their goals for wellness and health.
Worksite Wellness Programs: Omitting the Obstacles
The most progressive use of these statistics would be as a framework for wellness and health program design. Having advanced knowledge of these common denominators for failure presents an opportunity to avoid the pitfalls they produce.
With foresight in mind, consultation with employees and management during the planning phase to design around these issues would greatly increase the success rate of the worksite wellness program.
Worksite Wellness Programs: Reasons Employees Resist Health Promotion
Lack of employee interest is most often generated by a lack of communication. Successful worksite wellness programs educated the employee population prior to the introduction of the wellness and health program.
Interest surveys indicate many reasons why employees choose to avoid worksite wellness programs. For example:
- they cost money
- the programs are offered at inconvenient times
- the purpose for the program is not clearly explained
- childcare is not provided
- commute issues are not provided for by the program
- the benefits to the company and how these directly affect the employees is not explained
- lower level management cannot convey the advantages of the program to the employees under their authority
- employees are angry and distrustful of the employer
- wellness and health programs are pushed up the priority list ahead of unhealthy daily work conditions
- employees feel forced to relinquish control over their own health risks to the company resulting in a perceived violation of their rights
Wellness and Health Programs: Avoid a Negative Preconception
Surveying the group previous to the health risk appraisal will determine the present level of acceptance of worksite wellness programs, and amenability to change. Knowing this variable is an important first step in evaluating what measures need to be taken to ensure the wellness and health program is favorably received in the workplace.
Employees who reported a favorable impression of worksite wellness programs should be approached to start a wellness and health planning team. This will help to germinate a positive social atmosphere for the new worksite wellness program
It is equally important to search out these positive attitudes among all levels of employee ranks. Delegating the responsibility for spreading good intentions and assigning them to organize, promote, plan and socialize the program will pave the way for increasing employee interest in wellness and health promotion initiatives.
Often high-risk employees are disinterested due to the nature of their illness. Chronic diseases often feel like an exercise in futility for the employees who suffer from them. They need to discover that participation in the program can make the difference between a high-risk position and moderate to low risk status and their participation will provide them with new options for wellness and health.
Worksite Wellness Programs: Finding the Right Words
Introducing wellness and health promotion in a way that meets the various communication styles and levels of the employees will help to get a welcoming response. Adults have many different ways of understanding, processing and internalizing new information.
The initial survey should determine if the employees prefer a self-administered, visual, auditory, traditional group class or on-line approach to learning. Usually, a mix will be necessary to meet all the present learning modes. A good quality health risk appraisal and form of delivery for feedback should be adaptable to more than one learning style.
Worksite Wellness Programs: Equal Access
Shift workers should have the same access to the wellness and health promotion program as the day shift. Single parents, commuters and minority groups need to feel that their specific issues have been included. In addition, allowing work time to be used for participation is an exceptional incentive for acquiring employee interest.
Addressing work conditions of an unhealthy nature that employees have been complaining about for a long time will be interpreted as a gesture of good will and could go a long way in setting the stage for general atmosphere of co-operation.
Worksite Wellness Programs: Increasing Staff Resources
Designating at least one staff person, either internally or by hiring one new person skilled in the area of behavioral management and program design greatly increases the likelihood of success. Staff resources can be increased by tapping into local training programs sponsored by state health promotion groups or by requesting free educational resources from Wellness Proposals, an independent wellness vendor which also offers a free basic wellness plan as part of their service.
This intrepid company is dedicated to making wellness and health promotion an equal opportunity for all companies, regardless of financial resources. Municipal hospitals and local health care organizations often supply health risk appraisals, behavior management program outlines and design plans for managing disease.
Worksite Wellness Programs: Bringing Upper Management on Board
Many upper-level supervisors are encumbered by the erroneous and negative belief that employees will not participate in the wellness and health program, and therefore, are not open to the initiative.
In order to dissipate these negative beliefs, explaining the reasons why some worksite wellness programs fail and dealing with these issues beforehand, will assist with developing a positive platform for wellness and health promotion initiatives.
Hammering out preconceived notions during the planning process is just as important as keeping them informed and including their input along side the employees’. For the purpose of accurate evaluation and feedback, upper management should be represented on the planning committee. Having a cross section of employee ranks increases socialization of goals and shared planning.
Writer Bio: John Bates is a leading wellness industry consultant and prolific writer about all aspects of health and wellness programs. His work can be found on numerous wellness websites including his own: Infinite Wellness Solution’s and Infinite Health Coach.