Wellness programs have been hotly debated in recent months. Jennifer Patel, director of wellness engagement at Hallmark Business Connections, offers five common wellness program pitfalls and suggests ways employers can avoid them.

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Your plan design is too complicated
Strategize your plan to be “simple and appealing” so employees can see its face value. “Too many complex terms, details and navigations along the way serve as roadblocks to engagement.”

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Don’t assume incentives will draw participants
Patel says to approach incentives with a grain of salt. “If your employees don’t see value in completing the activity, the incentive won’t work like you hoped. Incentives are just one aspect of a wellness program, not the only lever in plan design.”

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Weak communications strategy
Creative communication is important to engaging employees. The tennis shoes on a flyer, she says, aren’t motivating anyone to go run. Patel suggests using inspiring images of actual people doing actual wellness. “You must promote the program in a meaningful way like you would promote other important things around the office,” she says. “Repeat the message, personalize it and use emotional ties to connect with people.”

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A realistic ROI
C-suite executives might be looking for an immediate reduction in health care costs. Don’t overpromise your programs when strategizing. “In addition to ROI, uncover and sell the VOI – Value on Investment,” Patel adds. “Happy, healthy and productive employees are more engaged and they better support one another.”

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Wrong measurement analytics
Participation is not engagement, Patel cautions. “Understanding how your program is truly performing is key to creating an effective strategy.”

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Make it fun
Allow your participants to laugh. Additionally, Patel adds, use the opportunity to expand your wellness programs into the community. For example, a walk for cancer gets your employees moving while raising money for a cause and connecting with others outside the office. “The opportunities are endless, but rolling some social responsibility into your wellness program is a win-win for your organization, your employees and the community recipient,” Patel adds.

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