Well-Being in the Workplace 2/2: Boosting Participation

Say you have an employee well-being program. Great! How do you get your employees to make the most of it? A Gartner survey shows that while many employees have access to well-being programs at work, they don’t always use them. Here are a few tips on driving engagement.

  1. Increase Awareness

Employees can’t take advantage of a well-being program if they don’t know what it has to offer. To keep people informed, HR should lead the way by partnering with leaders across the organization. Managers are well positioned to check in with employees about their needs and to offer tailored advice. It’s important to note that awareness-raising is not just one person’s job. Well-being should be embedded in the organization, and this means that HR, managers, and even peers should be able to effectively communicate the value of a well-being program.

  1. Reduce Stigma

Many employees don’t use wellness programs because they are wary of the stigma around mental, emotional, and physical health. How can this be addressed? Company leaders can take the reins by sharing their own experiences with well-being. Trusted employees can empower others to seek support by speaking out about their own personal challenges. This kind of gesture shows that the same problems affect different kinds of people and that while it’s okay to struggle, help is available.

Companies should be proactive and educate managers about well-being and its associated challenges. In recent years, the number of employees who feel that their employer cares about their well-being has plunged. Employers can reverse this trend by teaching managers how to talk about well-being, when to talk about it, and what solutions are available. Managers ought to be the first port-of-call for struggling employees. Good training can give them the resources they need to provide help without becoming over or under involved.

  1. Pay Attention to Difference

Well-being is not a one-size-fits-all enterprise. People have different needs, and programs ought to reflect that. This is why there has been a pivot toward holistic programs that emphasize well-being across a range of metrics. A company that focuses exclusively on, say, physical well-being risks alienating employees to whom this is not a top priority. A person may, for example, be addressing a range of challenges outside of work, and constant reminders about a company fitness plan or a team step challenge would only add to their worries. When programs take a broad view of what it means to flourish, more people get involved. A study from the RAND Corporation showed that the more comprehensive a well-being program is, the greater the participation rate.

  1. Incentivize It!

The first major study on wellness programs and the use of incentives showed that incentives can increase employee participation. Within this study, 75% of programs surveyed included incentives to boost participation. Employers that did not use incentives reported a median participation rate of 20%, while those that offered rewards of more than $100 had a rate of 51%. Incentive programs spread the word about well-being and encourage people to talk openly about it. This increases awareness and helps reduce stigma. If your wellness program isn’t getting the returns you expected in terms of increased productivity and reduced health plan costs, you should consider using incentives to boost performance.

  1. Conclusion

We’ve looked at four things you can do to make your well-being program succeed. First, well-being should be woven into the everyday fabric of the organization and not feel like a perk, bonus, or afterthought. Managers should be equipped with the tools they need to inform their employees about well-being programs and help them seek out resources that can help. Second, we need to remove the stigma around well-being by showing employees that struggling is not uncommon and that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Third, companies need to recognize that their employees are in different situations and have different needs. Finally, we saw how incentives can greatly increase participation by offering coveted rewards, increasing awareness, and dismantling stigma.







Mattke S., Kapinos, K., Caloyeras, J., Taylor, E.A., Batorsky, B., Liu, H., Van Busum, K., Newberry, S. (2014) ‘Workplace Wellness Programs Services Offered, Participation, and Incentives’, RAND Corporation. Available at: Microsoft Word – Wellness report -final version clean.docx (dol.gov)

Wolf, R. (2019) ‘The Wellbeing Initiative Your Organization Needs’, Gallup. The Wellbeing Initiative Your Organization Needs (gallup.com)

Harter, J. (2022), ‘Percent Who Feel Employer Cares About Their Wellbeing Plummets’, Gallup. Available at: Percent Who Feel Employer Cares About Their Wellbeing Plummets (gallup.com)

Venkataramani, S. (2021) ‘Make Way for a More Human-Centric Employee Value Proposition’, Gartner. Available at: Employee Value Proposition (EVP) Postpandemic Should Focus on the Why (gartner.com)