I’m Not Surprised Corporate Wellness isn’t Working, Yet?

A recent research report showed an 18-month, seemingly comprehensive, corporate wellness program showed little to no measurable benefit in the area of decreasing absenteeism, healthcare costs, and individual health scores.

I didn’t really want to write this article.

I almost let it slide, after all, it was the weekend.

As the weekend wore on, however, I kept thinking about a headline I read: “Rigorous new study of employee wellness programs suggests they may not be very effective.”

And each time, my commentary would begin running through my head.

I didn’t want to address this article because frankly, I’m an optimist. And I pride myself on supporting others and staying positive. And I believe eating well and exercising carry great benefits. And I commend corporations for bringing wellness programs to their workplace.

Yet this research and thus the report, doesn’t really surprise me.


I wish the results were different. I wish they were really positive and as an industry, we could all celebrate! After all, wellness in the workplace IS important.

Yet, why am I not surprised by an 18-month seemingly comprehensive program showing little to no measurable benefit in the area of decreasing absenteeism, healthcare costs, and individual health metrics?

I’m not surprised because the health and fitness industries have been putting forth initiatives and recommendations, just like this, to individuals, for decades. We’ve created countless educational and awareness campaigns, touted the benefit of exercise and, in my city of Seattle, even added a sales tax to sugary sodas. We’ve been counseling the public on everything from decreasing their sugar consumption to increasing the number of steps they take per day. And still, research shows, year after year, despite the industry’s best efforts, our populations’ heart disease, diabetes, and obesity rates continue to rise.

Makes me wonder what the well-meaning researchers were thinking? “Let’s do the same thing (health testing, educational programs, nutritional counseling, and increase exercise), in a controlled setting, and see if we get a different result.”

Something like:

…let’s put a Band-Aid on an open wound and see if we can stop bleeding.

…let’s give hard-working people a list of very helpful and healthy “behavioral changes” —Exercise! Eat right! Decrease your stress! –to add to their already-too-long-to-do lists.

So what’s the answer?

How about we stop relying on the same overused, overvalued and underperforming formula of:

  •         Here’s what’s wrong with you (your body)
  •         Here’s what you need to do to fix it (usually diet and exercise)
  •         Now go do and get healthy (create new life-changing behaviors because you should).

This “formula” works, at best, for a small percentage of people. For most people, it can work a little, usually temporarily. And yet, this is how we’ve been addressing wellness for a long, long time.

I certainly don’t hold it against you for honestly believing this formula will work. In our minds, it seems like the right solution. Find what is broken and fix it.

Humans are just not that easy. And humans come with complex bodies, that aren’t that easy either.

So what is our first step towards increased health and wellness for all? I propose changing the formula. Let’s observe and ask, “What is missing?”

What if we committed to starting people on their wellness path a little differently?

“On Your MARC, Get Set, Go!

“On your MARC” is an acronym that outlines how people can step into a wellness program, or even their everyday life, at a preliminary preparation stage versus immediately skipping right into the action “Go!” phase.  When you step into “on your MARC” you prepare yourself, similar to a track athlete, by creating a mindset of appreciating your body, relating to your body and acting compassionately towards your body– and thus yourself.

Mindset- create an engaged mindset


Relate, and act

Compassionately towards yourself and your body.


Jill Pagano is a speaker, author and well-being visionary who shares how living in our body can be delightfully sweet. In her book, Getting Happy with your Body, Jill uniquely proposes the answer to feeling better in our body really begins when we exercise what goes on between our ears.

Jill is the creator of The Happy Body Habit® and innovative wellbeing program that goes beyond traditional programs’ health assessments, nutritional counseling, and exercise incentives. Uniquely, she teaches others how to adopt a relationship-mindset with arguably the most important relationship they are in–the one with their body.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Chng

1 thought on “I’m Not Surprised Corporate Wellness isn’t Working, Yet?”

  1. It is very hard to get people to change their diet in any big way. There are 38 studies on Juice Plus that show how adding whole food nutrition into the body can impact heart health, decrease sick days, promote healing and many more positive outcomes. More research is being done. It costs about the same as a cup of coffee at Starbucks.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.