Top 10 Reasons Why Wellness Programs Fail

Top 10 Reasons Why Wellness Programs Fail

As a corporate marketer and participant in onsite wellness classes, I saw the same sad story repeat itself. Again, and again… at every place I’ve ever worked, wellness programs were launched, then they fizzled faster than you can say “la croix.”

If you are a landlord looking to offer onsite wellness amenities, avoid these common pitfalls:

1. Overly Concerned About “Space”

The biggest concern I hear when first talking to companies is, “we don’t have space for onsite fitness or meditation classes.” With about 5 minutes onsite, I can usually see that there is space; you just sometimes have to get creative. Lobbies, rooftop decks, patios, parking lots, nearby parks, conference rooms, that empty corner office… all are good options. When space restrictions truly do exist, put me in touch with your building owner or property manager, and we can often find a creative solution.

2. No Clear “Program Owner”

Accountability makes for results… as a landlord, you know this. Your wellness program may not have a clear owner. The responsibility can fall to Property Managers, HR executives, Office Managers, or just someone on staff who’s just a class advocate. But, let’s be honest, the last thing these people need on their plates is coordinating fitness instructors and writing promotional emails. 

At coworking spaces it often falls on the Community Manager or General Manager. When your wellness classes are just one of the many responsibilities on your plate, it’s not likely to get the attention that it needs. 

Outsourcing your recurring wellness classes can free these folks up to focus on other more strategic initiatives. Summary -- programs don’t work if there’s isn’t someone accountable.

3. Wrong Classes

When wellness programs are created, they are often a reflection of the interest of one individual… the person setting up the classes. I assume that because I like a rare form of Korean martial arts, that everyone else will, too. Sometimes that might be the case, but often not. Regular feedback surveys and reporting can help guide onsite program offerings.

4. Wrong Instructors

Finding the right instructor is kind of like dating. The person needs to have real expertise, or else you’ll have mediocre classes and no one will show. They have to command the respect of the students and be a good cultural fit. They have to be the best representation of your brand. They have to be background checked, licensed, and insured for legal reasons. Once you find the right instructor, you have to find the right substitute, in case they get sick. And the dating cycle starts again. It’s doable. It just takes time.

5. Wrong Schedule

Onsite classes are the ultimate convenience. Just walk down the hall or, at worst, a few floors up or down and your class is there. And yet, if they are not offered on the right days and at the right times, no one shows up. Every company has a different culture around work hours. Arrival time, lunch hour, and departure time from the office should influence class schedules.

6. Classes Are Too Long

Too long you say? Yup. Turns out, in a corporate setting, most people would rather “get in, and get out.” They want results fast. They are also there to do work, so long classes just don’t jive. Do your fully immersive, 90-minute yoga class at your neighborhood studio, and keep corporate classes to 45 or 50 minutes, max. People only feel comfortable “eating in” to their workday by 30 minutes. So, if everybody leaves the office by 5 PM, the earliest I would recommend an evening class is 4:30pm.

7. People Don’t Know What’s Up

The old marketing “Rule of 7” states that people need to “hear” your message at least 7 times before they’ll take action. That takes a lot of work, and that’s why marketers have jobs. (In fact, the average marketing manager in Portland makes $76,000 per year, according to Glassdoor). Just like any initiative, your wellness program needs an investment in real promotion in order for people to know about it. Awareness drives participation, and participation drives success. 

8. Your Yoga Friend Does Classes For Free

I hear this all the time… “My neighbor’s girlfriend is a yoga teacher and she’ll come in and teach classes for super cheap. Or free!” To that, I say… “Awesome! Enjoy that and save some cash. Let’s talk in a month.” Invariably, this is how it goes: 

  1. Class #1: Yoga friend shows up right on time, and everything is chaos. There’s no way to register online, so class is too crowded. The teacher is wearing a sports bra and booty shorts and HR is trying to figure out how to make her decent. Sanskrit chanting music blares during class, which if off-putting to newbies.

  2. Class #2: Awkward first impressions, cause participation to plummet. Yoga friend arrives late because she came from another gig that actually pays her well. No feedback was gathered after the first class, so the teacher doesn’t know that her music was polarizing and the same thing happens.

  3. Class #3: Yoga friend gets sick and you scramble to find a substitute in 1 hour and fail. The few people left that were interested in participating, have little confidence left because class was canceled mere minutes before start time.

  4. Class #4: No specific person is responsible for class promotion… so no email reminders were sent. No flyers hung, no slack notifications pushed. The few people that do know about it, don’t have confidence that the class is going to happen, because of their last experience. So no one shows up. The teacher is there, waiting. She won’t be back. She’d rather teach somewhere with actual participants, and where she’s fairly compensated for her time. 

Summary… you get what you pay for. You can pay very little to get a fitness or yoga instructor to show up, but that’s not the same as running a wellness program. It can be a good way to start out on a small scale, but downstream you’re unlikely to have sustained momentum or quality programming. And consider this - cut corners in the beginning and you may leave a bad taste in people’s mouths... which reflects poorly on you.

9. Lack of Frequency

You know that working out once a quarter doesn’t give you a 6-pack. Or doing 1 yoga class per month doesn’t make you flexible. In order to see real results (just like anything), you need to commit. Offer daily or weekly classes for meaningful results. Regularly offered classes give you the right to put a checkmark next to the “wellness” box.

10. Can’t See The Bigger Vision

A wellness program has the potential to be more than just a weekly yoga or fitness class. For buildings, it can be a way to boost your amenities offering, foster connections between neighbors, get higher utilization of common areas, and differentiate your properties. For companies, it can support team building, cross department pollination, and employee experience. Think holistically about the program and it’s potential impact, and you’ll find it’s easier to get budget secured and management support.


These are just a few of the reasons why I started Zest -- to run wellness programs the right way. I’ve learned what needs to happen to ensure successful program rollout, adoption, and evolution.

If you are a landlord looking to up your amenity packages and attract tenants, consider onsite wellness classes. And do it the right way, with Zest your local wellness program manager.

10 Signs Your Office Building Needs a Wellness Program Operator

10 Signs Your Office Building Needs a Wellness Program Operator

4 Seriously Impactful Results of Onsite Wellness Classes

4 Seriously Impactful Results of Onsite Wellness Classes