The Threat That May Be Stunting the Success of Your Wellness Program

September 25, 2015

You’ve developed your wellness program rollout plan, sent out the emails, and put up the posters to promote it. Your wellness program is finally off the ground and running — with one problem. No matter how great your program offering is, you sadly may still end up being met with minimal sign-ups and a low participation rate. What could possibly be missing?


The American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey found that one-third of employees don’t believe their employers are 100 percent honest. One in four simply don’t trust their employers — period.

And if these are the numbers reflecting Americans’ general feelings toward their employers, can you imagine how they must feel about diving into a corporate wellness program that digs into the most profoundly personal aspects of their lives? If your employees think the information they share about their health in surveys, with wellness program vendors and coaches, or in an online wellness journal is going to be seen by their employer, there’s a good chance they’ll opt out of the program altogether.

While this trust disconnect is very real in workplace wellness, that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. As you’re building your employee wellness program, here are some crucial efforts worth making to build trust between you and your employees:


1. Ensure All Aspects of Your Program Resonate Confidentiality

When building a trustworthy program, privacy cannot be spoken of enough. The more it’s highlighted, the more it will be remembered and believed.

Make it a priority to ensure the privacy of your wellness program is clearly stated on all communication efforts — both internally and through wellness vendor platforms that you partner with — be it an email, notification, or intranet dashboard. You’ll also want to equip your health coaches and staff members with talking points that echo your program’s promise of privacy.

Consider hosting a separate event to discuss the privacy of the employee wellness program, or bundle it as a part of your benefits enrollment process.


2. Keep Individual Employee Data Under Wraps

At LifeDojo, our health coaches have caught heart disease before it has happened, guided employees through difficult food addictions, and helped bed-bound employees find the strength to finally address morbid obesity. It is extremely unlikely that we would’ve been able to celebrate these successes if employers weren’t privy to their employees’ individual struggles.

Think about it like this: You, as the employer, are seen a little like a parent, while your wellness program should be seen more like the cool uncle. Your employees know you have the best intentions, but you’re also an authority figure because you pay them to do a job. So when it comes to personal health, employees often feel like employers overstep their boundaries. Whereas if it’s a private third party, they feel like their private matters will be safe, and they’ll willingly entrust that third party with more detailed information.

Aside from the fact that your wellness program is designed for the people within your organization, there’s a lot of benefit to keeping the two separate. As the employer, you can have access to the overall results of the program, but individual data should be limited to the wellness vendor or trusted partners and staff members who are authorized to access that information. If you opt to keep the wellness program in-house or feel like it is a must to collect individual data, proceed with caution and ensure all participants are aware of and have signed a confidentiality agreement.


3. Offer Group and Individual Wellness Programs

While much of resolving the trust gap between your organization and its wellness program relies on communication and keeping the two largely separate, take another look at the options available in your program. If everything is geared toward social participation, consider adding the option for a more private journey.

Through LifeDojo’s programs, we’ve found that 30-40 percent of employees respond well to social challenges, but 60 percent prefer to improve their personal health privately. Customization is key to the success of your wellness program, and by offering an individual track, you’ll reinstate your organization’s commitment to privacy.

Take a wide-angle look at your organization, and zoom in on the smaller parts. Don’t build a wellness program that’s assumed to work because “it just makes sense.” Instead, carefully consider your employees’ wants and needs to determine a method that works for everyone.

Without participation, you have no chance of hitting your wellness goals. We believe that by dedicating time to ensuring the privacy of your wellness program and steering away from the one-size-fits-all thought process, you’ll begin to see an uptick in responses to your program. If you’re struggling to ramp up participation, we would be happy to talk through the issue of privacy and employee engagement in general. Just fill out our contact form to get in touch.

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