7 Tips for a Successful Corporate Wellness Program

If your organization wants to implement a wellness program, here are seven tips to help you better support your employees’ journey toward a healthier lifestyle.


Roughly 42 percent of U.S. adults have obesity, a significant risk factor for various chronic medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. The astronomical costs of this excess weight (nearly 7 percent of GDP, pre-pandemic, by some estimates) represented a considerable burden for employers — in terms of both direct healthcare costs and indirect costs due to absenteeism and reduced productivity.

What can employers do to stem the rising tide of obesity-related costs? Providing effective treatment early, before excess weight leads to long-term health complications, is key. Businesses recognize this, and many organizations offer weight management programs as a health and wellness benefit. The results, though, are often uninspiring.

Obesity is a stubbornly tricky condition, and every workforce is different. Still, weight management programs have built a demonstrated track record of helping employees achieve and maintain clinically significant weight loss — leading to healthier organizations and substantial cost savings.

Seven Tips for a Corporate Wellness Program

If your organization wants to implement a wellness program or strengthen your existing offering, the following are seven tips to help you better support your employees’ journey toward a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Get the science on your side with a comprehensive medical approach. Obesity is a complex chronic disease that calls for a medical solution. Research shows that most people need expert medical guidance and ongoing support to overcome the mechanisms that the human body has evolved to fight weight loss. Decades of data have demonstrated that an integrated medical approach to obesity treatment is many times more effective than lifestyle changes alone. While diet and exercise will always be critical, very few people with obesity can lose a meaningful amount of weight (and keep it off) by themselves, regardless of how hard they try. It’s about biology, not willpower.
  2. Personalize, personalize, personalize. Many factors cause weight gain and prevent weight loss, meaning weight management plans must be carefully tailored for each individual, considering everything from medical history and current medications to genetics and home environment, lifestyle and sleep issues, prior weight-loss experience, and more. For some, a personal care plan might involve primarily diet, physical activity, and behavioral modifications, while anti-obesity medications may be called for others. Not everyone will be eligible for medications (or want to take them). Still, pharmacotherapy should be considered when appropriate — especially now that several new FDA-approved drugs produce potentially game-changing results.
  3. Take advantage of technology. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift toward telemedicine, and consumers consistently say they want to continue to have the option to access this method of care delivery. Telehealth appointments and messaging are not only more convenient for many people, but digital health platforms also support better care by offering data-driven tools and remote patient monitoring and by enabling care teams (doctors, nurse practitioners, dietitians, health coaches) and patients to more easily access and share information, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Interactive educational resources and intensive virtual coaching can also be delivered effectively using digital technology.
  4. Set positive but realistic expectations. For many people, weight loss has negative associations: suffering at the gym, not being able to eat what they want, and a sense of personal failure when the pounds return. Instead of expecting a quick fix or tossing in the towel after one slipup, people need to know that success is entirely possible but that managing their weight will require a lifelong commitment. This is why any responsible weight management program will promote sustainable lifestyle changes — finding nutritious foods that taste good and physical activity that’s fun, for example — and incremental improvements. Donna T., who participates in a program that a New York electrical workers’ union offers to members and their families, says it well: “It used to be, I’d go on a diet, and if I had one screwup, I’d put everything in my mouth. Now I’ve learned I get to make choices with every meal. The wellness sessions have taught me that even small steps add up.” Donna’s small steps have added up: she’s lost 46 pounds since joining the program 18 months ago.
  5. Leverage success stories. If you have a program that works, let people know! One of the most powerful ways to bring more employees on board is to allow them to hear from peers who’ve had a positive experience with the program. Most people with obesity have tried to lose weight and failed, so they may be skeptical of a new effort. But seeing someone they know who has been able to lose weight and keep it off can give them hope that this time will be different.
  6. Incentivize participation. To get people in the door to hear the success stories at a workshop or lunch and learn, offer an incentive. It can be simple like a pedometer or a set of measuring cups, but providing something of immediate value can draw in those who might be hesitant to consider making another effort. Creating companywide challenges like the 10,000 steps challenge or weight loss competition can help foster community and implement reward incentives.
  7. Foster community. In addition to expert guidance and empathetic support from providers, peer support can make a big difference. Creating a sense of community, where program participants encourage each other and hold each other accountable, can boost engagement and long-term success. As Donna says of the union’s weight management program, “The best part about the program is the group meetings. When I’m down, or my weight creeps back up, the coaches and the other members remind me I can do it. Group support is huge.”

Many corporate wellness programs generate initial enthusiasm and then see significant attrition when participants fail to achieve results. Losing weight is undeniably hard, especially for people with obesity, but it’s far from impossible. A comprehensive, clinically proven approach that uses every tool in the toolbox and provides support at every step can overcome the usual barriers to success and enable your employees to meet their healthy weight goals, improving their quality of life and your bottom line.

Judy Blades
Judy Blades is a certified health coach and wellness program coordinator at Intellihealth, a leading health tech software and managed clinical services company dedicated to scaling and democratizing access to effective medical care for obesity. She is a member of the company’s Flyte Medical clinical services team, which partners with health systems, employers and payers to deliver virtual obesity medicine and weight management programs. Judy has more than 13 years of experience in health, well-being, fitness, nutrition and weight management coaching and has developed a track record of leading patients and clients to successful transformation through healthy-habit coaching and engaging in one-on-one supportive conversations and group workshops and activities. She can be contacted at judy@intellihealthcorp.com.