Boutique Wellness: A Solution to Wellness Fatigue

Wellness programs can be costly, but an unhealthy workforce could be worse

It is not uncommon for a workforce to grow weary of wellness. From the decision makers who are frustrated by low participation, to the employees who are tired of emails by noontime yoga, efforts to help improve lives can sometimes backfire.

The one-size-fits-all wellness program can have far reach, but perhaps little impact on true behavior changes. A one-off lunch-and-learn or the yearly steps challenge, while helpful for some, prove largely ineffective in the long term. In addition, a wellness program often attracts those who are already engaged in a relatively healthy lifestyle.

So how do you encourage those who are ready and willing to make changes, but feel intimidated or discouraged by the seemingly insurmountable task at hand? A more tailored approach  ̶  boutique wellness, if you will  ̶  may be the solution.

Offering a program specifically geared toward improvement in some aspect of physical, mental or emotional wellbeing provides the opportunity to educate, influence and encourage individuals to embrace the challenge of changing habits. 

Small groups of ten to 20 people who meet anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks fosters the supportive environment necessary for success. Depending on the size of the company, offering classes at several locations throughout the week is a nice choice to enable participants to commit to the weekly in-person meetings by accommodating for schedule disruptions. One-on-one coaching sessions are an ideal complement to this type of program. These sessions allow for the individual attention often needed to ferret out challenges and strategize solutions to each person’s particular obstacles. 

Incentive to participate or for completing a program can encourage people to register, but skin in the game is also necessary. Begin with an application process to weed out those who are truly ready for change from those who are participating only to earn an incentive. An acceptance letter into the program, with the instruction to confirm participation starts the accountability process, with the contract to participate to follow. An upfront monetary deposit is a great indicator of commitment level. Upon completion of the program, the deposit is returned and the completion incentive awarded.

Budget is often cited as the limiting factor, so to address that, consider this one example. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of $16,752 per year, of which about $9,600 is attributed to diabetes. People with diagnosed diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of the disease. Factor in indirect costs of increased absenteeism and reduced productivity to truly reflect how costly it can be to have an unhealthy employee.

A corporate wellness program is a tool but it’s not a solution.There are many layers and to be successful, each layer must contribute consistently.  An insurance provider can offer funds to clients to support wellness initiatives that meet the needs of their employees. Clients have to use these funds and whether the onus falls upon the HR team, a wellness committee or a dedicated wellness coordinator, someone must be motivated to install wellness activities. 

Creativity may be necessary when implementing and steering a wellness program, so use internal and external resources to find diverse options to meet specific needs. Generally, the healthiest companies have strong support from those at the top, who not only allow the events and trainings, but encourage attendance and participate themselves.  The final layer is the individual employee, who must first determine there is a need and desire for change. That individual must then use the tools and resources available and choose to put in the hard work necessary to create the change.

It’s hard. On every level, it’s hard. So, Pick your hard.  Having an unhealthy workforce is hard.  Skyrocketing medical and insurance costs are hard. Being a sick individual is hard. There is no time for wellness fatigue — there is too much at stake.

Whether you are the employer, the employee or the provider trying to retain clients, the hard choice in the moment will lead to the benefit in the long run. If your current wellness program is tired, outdated and not meeting expectations, maybe it’s time for a change. Going small, boutique style, could be a solution with a big payoff. 

Michelle Zellner is the founder of Better Beings, a Denver-based wellness company committed to improving lives and creating healthier humans, aka better beings.  She is the author of the "YOU Revolution; the Journey of a Better Being," which is based on her 10-week lifestyle change program and the telling of her own wellness journey. Zellner also provides corporate trainings and keynote speeches to companies across the country. She can be reached at

Categories: Human Resources