What Employees Want in an Employer Wellness Program


Running a competitive business and having healthy employees are twin goals that most employers consider inseparable. And to support both, many employers have invested significant time, money and thoughtful resources into building a comprehensive health, wellness and fitness program.

Yet, despite the myriad of available tools, technology and programs that have attracted a number of employee participants, there is still a significant number of non-participants—nearly 60 percent—who remain outside of the program looking in. They are those who indicate they are likely to start participating, but for some reason do not. So what’s holding them back?

A number of barriers. Inconvenient program options. A non-supportive company culture. And, trust and privacy concerns all fall near the top of the list.

So what are employees looking for in an employer wellness program? I thought I’d share what employees told us they wanted to see in their employer wellness programs, according to research we recently conducted.

Personal connection
Almost 75 percent of employees we surveyed said “personal touch” was important in their wellness program and can come from knowledgeable “live” experts—such as coaches and specialists—who are credible, engaging, easy to access, and provide one-on-one support for their specific needs.

Providing “live” expert support can help you deliver a more customized program that connects emotionally with employees, making them feel more empowered to take charge of their health.

Employees also value a program that helps them connect their health results to their everyday choices and want information on new programs, tips, deadlines and customized topics that meet their needs. Having the ability to also choose the type and frequency of communication methods helps employees feel like the programs were meant for them rather than the masses.

Ease and convenience

Many of the employees we surveyed said there was one program benefit they’d like to see more employers offer: on-site fitness facilities.

According to our research between 40 to 45 percent of employees who are offered on-site fitness facility access choose to participate and report the highest satisfaction with them largely due to their convenience, inviting environment and low or no membership cost.

Employees tell us that on-site fitness facilities are an important component of health and wellness and lend credibility to an authentic, supportive culture—especially when employees see their managers and company executives working out.


When it comes to health and wellness programs, motivation is everything. Yet, oftentimes, companies have a tough time determining what, exactly, motivates employees. Confidence in trained professionals’ support, meaningful advice that suits real life, and community with others who have benefitted from program support can motivate employees to act.

And, if you want to motivate more hesitant employees, you’ll have to educate them on program effectiveness and use plenty of examples of participants who, as our survey respondents claimed, are “people like me.”

Mental health support

Our research showed that employees value mental health support—and many say it’s crucial to their decision to participate. In fact, many of the employees we surveyed said mental health support can be as important as support for physical health—if not more.

A supportive company culture

A supportive culture lends credibility to and trust in the program by living the value. It leaves no gap between what an organization says and what it does. It can also empower more employees to do the right thing for their health and inspire others to do the same.

So, what’s a company to do when it comes to fostering this “culture of health”? Employees we surveyed said wellness programs should be:

  • Personal—providing meaningful, realistic advice for employees’ specific situations.
  • Flexible—allowing employees to participate with ease, wherever and whenever they want.
  • Community-focused—connecting employees with co-workers (and management) who share similar health interests.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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