Making Wellness a Part of the Company Culture

Wellness isn’t simply a set of programs—it needs to become a part of the company’s culture. To explain the how and why, we present an article by Kristine Mullen, vice president of Humana’s Wellness Strategies & Solutions team.

Many employers are still struggling with low employee engagement in their wellness programs. Too often, employees either do the bare minimum requirements of their wellness program, or they get engaged initially but then interest tapers off. According to one finding, 63% of employers cited “low employee engagement” as the biggest barrier to a successful wellness program.

Employers have to do more than just offer programs—they need to create a “culture of wellness” at work. That means making adjustments in the workplace to motivate employees to take control of their health.

How does an organization instill such a culture of wellness? Here are five examples.

  1. Leadership. Employees will take wellness more seriously if leaders step up and state specific health goals as a business priority in meetings and in companywide e-mails. Leaders can also demonstrate their dedication by visibly joining and participating in wellness group activities. “Follow the Leader” is not just a kids’ game … It’s a strategy for making wellness work!
  2. Wellness champions. Designate willing and enthusiastic employees to act as wellness champs who can share personal stories about their goals and achievements, facilitate group activities and competitions, and encourage others to become more engaged. These employees are your grassroots advocates and resources, providing peer-level leadership, coaching, and motivation.
  3. A built environment that supports wellness. Make alterations to your worksite to encourage employees to be more active, eat healthier, and relieve stress. For example, repaint and install bright lighting in a dark and uninviting stairwell, put more healthful food options in the cafeteria or break room, and build in relaxing spaces for employees to use for breaks. These small changes demonstrate a business commitment to wellness.
  4. Wellness-friendly work policies. We all have heard of “family-friendly” policies, but what about those that nurture health and wellness values? Think about having more flexible work schedules to allow employees time to focus on their health. Experiment with a “digital detox” policy by requesting workers to not e-mail or work during the weekends and/or evenings after normal work hours.
  5. Storytelling. Are the employer’s communications and messaging about wellness clear, consistent, and relevant to employees? They need to be. And, to ensure that wellness stays top of mind, employers need to continually remind employees about the wellness options that are available to them. Remember the old adage, tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them?


When employers institute a wellness strategy, align it with their business goals, and get all levels of the organization involved in the effort, wellness becomes more than an assortment of programs—it becomes one of the core values of the organization.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we discuss changing opinions about what metrics are meaningful in a wellness program.