Employee wellness is a thriving industry, with organizations shelling out an estimated $6 billion per year for various initiatives to support employees' health and well-being. What's not so healthy is the level of participation in these programs.

A study by Gallup reports that just 24 percent of employees whose companies offer a wellness program actually participate in it. Worse, just 12 percent of employees say their company's wellness program contributes to their well-being.

Why are these programs a failure?

Gallup's research suggests that companies focus primarily on physical health, and fail to address well-being in a holistic manner. The organization defines five areas of well-being: having purpose, a healthy social life, financial well-being, engagement with your community, and good physical health. An employee struggling in one of these areas will experience difficulties in other areas.


Ensuring your organization's wellness program addresses these five areas of well-being may improve employees' participation and satisfaction with it, but another reason these programs often fall flat is that they're not accessible to all employees. Offering a stress management or retirement planning workshop won't help if certain employees can't attend.

Managers can help remove these barriers to participation in their departments, and can be a significant factor in the success of the organization's wellness program. Are managers taking their vacation time, going to their children's events, and participating in the wellness programs? If not, employees may feel uncomfortable doing these things. If managers actively prioritize well-being, employees are more likely to.