Research Reveals Barriers to Wellness Program Engagement

The biggest barrier reported by non-participants was a lack of information.

Research conducted between 2015 and 2016 by HealthFitness and The Connell Group shows that while wellness program participants have greater satisfaction with wellness programs and perceive themselves as healthier, nearly 60% of employees are non-participants.

According to the survey, these people express interest in engaging with wellness programs but ultimately refrain from doing so. The researchers point to several barriers that prevent these people from participating in their employers’ wellness programs.

The biggest barrier respondents reported was a lack of information (69%). In some cases, the proportion of employees aware of programs’ availability is 30% lower than the proportion of employers indicating they offer the program, the survey found.

Non-participants also said that they wish to interact with coworkers sharing similar interests and even health risks, but 53% of them say there are cultural barriers preventing them from engaging, such as inconvenience and their employers’ lack of support for their participation.

Personalization of these programs was also a demand, with 75% of participants saying “a personal touch is important in their health.” Researchers say this approach can come from “live experts—coaches and specialists—who are credible, engaging, and easy to access and provide one-on-one support for their specific needs.”

Moreover, the survey found that non-participants and participants seek a “customizable program” and that these programs’ “ability to meet their specific needs will influence their decisions to start and continue participating, respectively.” The study also indicates that an emotional factor may enhance enrollment with 70% of participants saying their program offering means their employer cares about them.

Participants indicated they are likelier than non-participants to stay with their employer, refer someone to the company and be more productive. Seventy-nine percent of participants say they are “extremely satisfied with their employer’s program offering compared to 41% of employee non-participants.”

“It’s clear we need to take our health, wellness and fitness programs to a new level to continue producing results that are meaningful and effective,” says HealthFitness president and CEO Paul Lotharius. “Employees are seeking engagement that is purposeful and multi-dimensional and we as an industry must address these needs in our program strategy, people and delivery.”

More findings can be found by downloading the latest HealthFitness “Think Piece” online here.