By Karley Middleton

If you’re like the growing number of employers who offers an employee wellness program, you understand that it’s not your job to make your people healthy. But it is your job (and to everyone’s benefit) to support them by giving them the tools to do so.

But what do you do when the response isn’t up to your expectations? How do you target the individuals who aren’t participating without sacrificing the integrity of your program? It starts with identifying the biggest barriers and systematically breaking them down. Here are four of the most common barriers, and how to address them:

  1. The “no time for anything but work” barrier. There are always those who never attend lunch-and-learn sessions on resilience, meal planning or creating a time-saving workout, but do complain about being stressed and having no time to eat well or exercise.
    Solution: Create an always-available online presentation, and make participation in education sessions mandatory or provide incentives to encourage participation. Incentives don’t have to be financial. Consider a “free” half hour for all attendees to be used at the beginning or end of the day or to extend their lunch hour as a way to drive attendance.
  2. The “saboteur at home on the couch” barrier. Other employees are committed, educated and motivated to improve, but their spouses (charged with meal planning and preparing) are more about convenience than nutrition and are happiest sitting on the couch watching TV.
    Solution: Since your influence on spouses (and families) is minimal, do the best with what you’ve got. Access to employee assistance programs, for example, can be extended to family members. Portable formats make education sessions more accessible, too. And family oriented incentives can help boost participation. This could include a family pass to an event, a gift card to a healthy restaurant with an amount to cover a family meal, or a subscription to meal planning/preparation service.
  3. The “can’t self-motivate” barrier. Some people get it. They know they have health risks. And they are willing to address them…someday. They just can’t seem to respond to the individual challenges on their own.
    Solution: Why not create team challenges among employees with more substantial prizes like a team lunch or a half-day off? Or, continue with individual options but post a public leaderboard in the lunch or break room to give participants some extra incentive to improve, and recognition to fuel their motivation. Offering access to a health coach can also help. Sometimes individuals may need assistance getting started or some support to keep going.
  4. The “I need a scorecard to keep track” barrier. When an organization is large with multiple divisions and locations, it can be challenging to maintain awareness of the program generally, much less focus on those who don’t participate.
    Solution: A wellness committee can provide great support to a company wellness program and its participants. Committee members can promote the program generally but also help identify who’s not participating, why, and help break down the barriers.

No company wellness program achieves 100 percent participation or success. But identifying barriers that might keep some employees from reaching their goals and finding ways to reduce them can produce positive outcomes.

HUB International’s team of brokers has extensive experience designing the full range of employee benefit programs.