Engaging Employees in Healthy Behaviors

Wellness programs provide the opportunity for employees to focus on their health and well-being. Turning opportunity into action is the key to a successful program.

Organizations typically have a mix of employee engagement – from those already active and interested in enhancing their health even more, to those who aren’t interested in making changes. The majority are usually those who will engage with the right support and structure.

Employee readiness to take advantage of wellness activities spans the spectrum from highly motivated to completely disengaged.

Employee readiness to take advantage of wellness activities spans the spectrum from highly motivated to completely disengaged.

Companies can employ a variety of tactics to maximize employee engagement in their wellness program.

Key time periods

Good habits can be hard to develop. There tend to be critical times when people drop out of a physical activity or diet program. One key time period is the first six weeks. If people can stay consistent with a program through the first six weeks, they have made a fairly serious commitment to incorporate the habits into their lifestyle. You might build a team challenge that goes through eight weeks to help people stick through the tough first six.

Goal setting

Setting goals leads to lead to better participation and more people making a strong commitment. Whether it is a team goal of participating in a walking event or an individual goal of so many miles or minutes of activity, encourage employees to set achievable goals.

Buddy systems or team goals

The social aspects of health improvement are powerful. Many studies point to tight social groups being the backbone for a successful campaign because people have a commitment to something bigger than themselves; plus, it’s just more fun for most people. Consider building your program around teams or partners.

Team campaigns

A worksite-wide campaign or competition can help you keep your message and initiatives more visible and alive. Encourage campaign participation, but make it voluntary so that those who prefer that type of motivation can join while others can participate in their own way and at their own pace.


Incentives such as cash or health insurance rebates are a strong motivator for engaging employees in wellness activities. And when more employees take steps toward improving their health and well-being, your return on investment increases. With incentives, as with all wellness engagement tactics, it’s a good idea to review what’s working and what isn’t at least annually. This will give you the opportunity to fine-tune and further boost employee engagement.