March 8, 2021

How Leaders Can Drive Employee Engagement in Wellness Programs


The most valuable asset an organization has is its people, so it’s not surprising that 70% of large employers in the United States invest in health and wellness programs for their employees.1 Despite this, only one-third of American employees regularly participate.2 So what’s the magic ingredient for getting people engaged? The answer is leadership support.

Leadership support goes beyond providing a wellness program. This is a great first step, but in order to show employees that they truly value wellness, senior and middle managers must show that they themselves prioritize their own wellbeing. In fact, a 2016 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 73% of employees who worked in organizations where the senior leaders were actively involved in their wellness programming believed their organization helped them develop a healthier lifestyle, compared to 11% of employees in organizations where senior leaders weren’t involved.3

The reason why it’s crucial for employees to participate in wellness programs is because they can improve mental and physical health in as little as one year, which translates to lower costs associated with absenteeism, presenteeism, and health claims.3 Furthermore, wellness programs reduce employee burnout, which costs U.S. businesses $300 billion every year.4 According to a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, when employees participate in wellness programs, the company can expect an ROI of $1.50 to $3 per dollar invested starting in the second year of the program.5

You might be wondering how, as a leader, you can display a commitment to wellness. The good news is, it’s as simple as performing three actions!


Communication is key! Before a wellness initiative is about to launch, it’s important for leaders to encourage employees to participate by promoting it through multiple company communication channels. In a remote workforce, these could be through emails, in newsletters, on intranet banners, on company social networking programs, or even in (virtual) meetings. In all of these communications, leaders should indicate their own excitement and intention to participate in order to drive interest. After a wellness initiative is over, leaders should send a wrap-up email that includes a personal testimonial about the event and a statement of gratitude for employees who participated.

At Sprout, we do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to promoting our wellness programming within your organization. We do this by developing communications material that is ready-made for distribution, so that all you have to do is send them out!


Recognition is a great motivator! It also fosters a culture of wellness by letting people know that their contributions to the workplace are valued, which increases morale and happiness and ultimately boosts creativity and productivity. Celebrating an employee’s contributions doesn’t have to be difficult. For example, leaders can give them a shoutout in a company-wide email or in a meeting to help them feel a sense of appreciation.

Manager support and recognition is also important for helping employees develop a healthier lifestyle. In fact, a survey by Mercer found that, when comparing different organizations that offered wellness programs, employees were almost 10% more likely to report health improvements if they worked at an organization where there were also leaders who publicly recognized their changes to their health habits.1 This recognition can take the form of a public announcement or incentives like gift cards for milestones such as winning a health-based competition or achieving a health goal.

Sprout provides ample opportunity for recognizing and rewarding employees. Users can offer each other encouragement on social streams, watch as their name rises to the top of leaderboards, and redeem virtual currency for gift cards at our rewards store. 


The most important thing a leader can do to show their commitment to wellness is to practice what they preach! Leading by example shows employees that it’s okay to take vacation days, mental health days, and paid time off. It also means refraining from working too much overtime and sending emails after work hours, which sends the message to employees that they too should always be on work mode, a mindset that results in stress and burnout.

Leaders must also actively participate in wellness programs and make their efforts known. There are creative ways they can do this, even when working remotely. For example, during a step challenge, leaders can take a picture during a walk and post it on the social media platform the company uses to communicate. If leaders participate, it sends the message to employees that participating in wellness programs is something that is valuable and worth taking the time to do.

With Sprout, it’s easy to make leaders’ commitment to personal wellness visible. Leaders can post about their wellness journey on social streams, join wellness-based community groups, and rise to the top of leaderboards as they participate in wellness activities. Schedule a demo with one our wellness experts and learn more about Sprout's digital wellness platform.

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