Why do organizations decide to implement corporate wellness?

Today’s workforce has more responsibility than ever before. Our time isn’t very flexible and stress is a very real factor. Essentially, work-life balance can be hard to achieve. As a result, organizations are beginning to recognize that they need to adopt a Culture of Caring and introduce strategies to help offset these concerns.
Some organizations are also seeing pain points related to absenteeism and increased disability claims, and are looking for ways to address these issues that affect productivity levels and costs.

In both cases, corporate wellness enters as part of the overall solution. But if you’re going to put the effort into implementing wellness, you want to make sure you get the results you’re looking for. Below are 3 key reasons why corporate wellness can fail and what you need to do to make sure they don’t stand in the way of your success.

MISTAKE #1: Approaching Wellness as a Project

Let’s be clear… effectively implementing corporate wellness into your organization takes effort. Comments like, “We tried it…. Our program didn’t work”, generally means that the scope was too narrow.

Corporate wellness is not a project, but rather a strategy. While health fairs, guest speakers and office yoga can be great ideas, one-off initiatives are not enough. For an organization to see success, it must understand its unique reasons for wanting to implement corporate wellness and layer on a suitable strategy to support the execution.

Your commitment to wellness should be integrated into the culture and visible throughout its operation. You need to plan how you can leverage existing programs and how to integrate wellness into policy and practice. Identify how to build on existing programs like those related to benefits and insurance, health and safety, employee recognition, or social groups and committees. It’s essential that you make wellness a part of your overall plan rather than something that exists in its own silo.

Approaching wellness as a strategy also means that it will take time to see results. It’s easy to get discouraged when you spend time arranging a team fitness challenge or nutrition counselling program and employee participation is low, but expecting people to attend in droves the first time to you introduce something is likely not realistic. Just as you would when launching a new software system or introducing a new role that supports your corporate goals and objectives, you must approach implementation in carefully planned stages. When designing your corporate wellness plan, focus on a full year and ensure that you don’t let short-term challenges derail you from your long-term goal.

MISTAKE #2: Falling Short on Leadership Support

Taking on corporate wellness without leadership support is like climbing Mount Everest with nothing but a water bottle and a positive attitude. Nice thought, but it’s not happening. No matter how well planned your program is, it’s going to fall flat unless you have the people to support it along the way.

Often conversations on corporate wellness and management support focus on the CEO and selling the ROI. While it is important and valuable to have the C-level executives bought into wellness, this often isn’t the biggest hurdle. In many cases, the main challenge is getting middle management onboard. Why? Being in the middle means they feel pressure from above pushing them to keep their teams on track, deliver on objectives, and meet deadlines. They have the added responsibility of leading those that report to them to keep them motivated and productive. It can, therefore, be difficult for middle managers to justify wellness as a priority and the program gets lost in their long list of tasks.

To address this, you need to eliminate the sense that wellness will simply add to the workload. It needs to be seen as a team effort rather than another idea from the top that they will need to carry and deliver to their employees. It’s important to bring everyone to the table. Create a Champion Team that includes representatives from all levels of the organization to share ideas and create the strategy together. If employees at each level of the company get involved and feel that they are being heard, your chances for success are drastically improved. At the end of the day, wellness programs in organizations that have rallied support from all levels of their team enjoy the best results.

MISTAKE #3: Forgetting to be Proactive

The large majority of organizations offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that includes screening, counseling, referrals and services for personal and work-related issues. It’s an important program to have in place and a valuable benefit available to employees. With an EAP in place, some organizations believe that they already have corporate wellness addressed. For a comprehensive corporate wellness strategy, however, EAPs are no longer enough.

For years, EAPs have been the answer to wellness. The program provides support to people dealing with an issue and offers resources that help them address the problem. The challenge lies in the fact that these programs are largely reactive. They are designed for people to use when an issue has been revealed. They are not designed or intended to support employees leading up to the point of crisis. Corporate wellness must include a focus on health promotion and preventative strategies.

Let’s look at an example. According to a survey by Statistics Canada, 3.7 million working Canadians (27%) describe their lives as “quite a bit” or “extremely stressful”, and another 6.3 million (46%) said they are “a bit” stressed.1 Research indicates that all types of long-term stress increase the risk of being diagnosed with anxiety and depression2 or chronic physical illness3.
EAPs include services that help manage the results of anxiety, depression and chronic illness, but what can we be doing to help employees manage stress in order to avoid these as outcomes? Understanding how EAPs and wellness initiatives can be integrated and compliment one another sets the stage for a powerful approach to corporate wellness. Layering preventative strategies along with restorative services allows you to engage as many people as possible at various stages of their health journey.

A commitment to corporate wellness is a big deal and well worth the effort. With an effective wellness program, you will improve the lives of your employees and ultimately help drive the success of your organization.

Need some more assistance?

Get your FREE Corporate Wellness Membership Starter Kit to get you started!  Employee Wellness Solutions Network can help you create a healthier culture resulting in a more profitable and successful workplace. Our membership give you access to services including corporate wellness specialists, trainers and health coaches to help you create the best strategy for your organization.  To learn more about the memberships, visit Employee Wellness Solutions Network.


1 Statistics Canada, General Social Survey, 2010: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-008-x/2011002/article/11562-eng.htm

2 Sand Sandanger, I., J.F. Mygärd, T. Sorenson and T. Moum. 2004. “Is women’s mental health more susceptible than men’s to the influence of surrounding stress?” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. Vol. 39, no. 3.

3 Statistics Canada. 2001. “Stress and well-being.” Health Reports. Statistics Canada Catalogue. no. 82-003. Vol.12, no. 3.