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Are Workplace Wellness Programs Effective? This Study Says No

Workplace wellness programs may not be worth the hype, according to a new report.

The study, spearheaded by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, examined 3,300 employees over the course of one year. Half of the participants were provided access to iThrive — a wellness program that offers health coaching, biometric screenings, and education and awareness about healthy living — while the other half were not, Bloomberg reports.


The study found that having access to a wellness program had little to no effect on employee behavior, and those in the control group who opted-in spent as much on healthcare as those who did not. Employees with better health were also found to be more likely to use the wellness programs than those with poor health.

In addition to these findings, a survey conducted during the process determined that the programs had little effect on overall job satisfaction and productivity.

These findings are still preliminary and many studies have found that programs can take as long as three years before producing any notable benefits.

It seems companies are not ready to give up on the wellness initiatives just yet. Approximately 25% of companies globally invested in wellness offerings last year. The industry also grew from $1B in 2011 to $6.8B in 2016, according to IBIS World analysis, Bloomberg reports.

Whether wellness programs are key to improving employee happiness and productivity remains to be seen, but many employers are committed to improving employee health and wellbeing overall. While some are implementing Fitwel and hiring chief happiness officers, others are investing in offices that provide features such as game rooms and meditation spaces.