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Why Employees Don’t Participate

Employee wellness participation first requires employees to commit to lifestyle changes. Accordingly, humans must first generate the energy and motivation to change up routines and then commit to change.

Since we are biologically wired toward routine, and not change, igniting wellbeing participation takes strategy. And within each workforce, personal attitudes about change and abilities to change vary according to genetics and experiences. Since we are hardwired towards rationalization and disengagement, ambivalence is enough to stop wellbeing participation.


For companies and hospitals with low wellness participation, chances are programming is creating ambivalence. But there is much that employers can do with little effort or cost. Here are 4 strategies to consider.


There is a Trust Issue

When leaders promote trust, transparency, authenticity, vulnerability, and shared accountability, employees are more willing to participate in wellness. Gallup reports that only 24% of workers agree that their organization cares about their wellbeing. Considering these employees the least likely to burnout and the most likely to not be actively looking for another job, employers should pay attention. Strategies promoting trust that leaders genuinely caring about employees can impact wellness participation and can support organizational goals. 

Privacy and Data Security

Privacy and security should be a regular part of  wellbeing communications. Being honest about the use of wellbeing technology and data promotes trust that information remains protected and individuals are free from judgment.

Check-the-box statements that overview user agreements, data use, and security are standard. Following up with security messages that use practical language is better. Making privacy and security a regular point of communication, can ease distrust, misunderstandings, and assumptions within the organization. Ask for vendor if they have standard templates that can be customized.


Employers that invest in a culture of health and leadership support build trust and align to business objectives. Leaders can never over communicate their care and support for employees’ health and personal development. Soliciting active feedback, acknowledging misalignments, sharing out commitments, and communicating personal journeys, all create the energy and focus needed for employees to lean into their own wellbeing journeys.

Irrelevant Programming

Employers invest a lot of resources in developing events, challenges, and kick-off activities. But one-size-fits all and top-down strategies can struggle with engagement and returns. Offering up programs that don’t match employee mindsets, creates irrelevance and ambivalence.

Instead, use technology to identify engagement opportunities and funnel challenges, content, and health benefits that are relevant to each employee’s current motivations and needs. By creating adaptable and personalized programing, employers drive participation and engagement.  

Employees Aren’t Ready

Humans work against their best interests all the time. Change can be hard and scary. Genetics, mental health, stress, addiction, trauma, misinformation, fears, and cultures can create mindsets and behaviors that impact participation. No two people are alike in their experiences or abilities to change, and timing can be everything.

Employers that offer suites of information and activities within each change stage (ie: planting information, offering multiple opportunities, creating champions) give employees the ability to move at their own pace.

With the right technology and focus, employers don’t need big budgets to create engagement. Leadership, personalization, and relevancy can work together to generate the interest and energy to disrupt unhealthy routines and ignite commitments.