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Incorporate Massage Blog

7 min read

Online vs Onsite Corporate Wellness Programs: Which is Best?

Feb 23, 2015 9:35:00 AM

Wellness programs are the new arms race of health care. There’s a good reason, too. For the most part, wellness programs are a win-win. They make employees healthier, and they save companies money on their insurance and (at least in theory) on sick days, downtime, and productivity.

But how those wellness programs are delivered varies. Make no mistake, wellness programs are a big deal. In fact, Starbucks recently revealed that the company spends more money on health insurance and initiatives for its employees than it does on coffee. 

Online versus onsite corporate wellness programs


Which is Best for Corporate Wellness Programs:
Online or Onsite?


 From web-based to face-to-face, wellness programs at the office are changing healthcare for the better. But which form is better? Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about a wellness program for your office.


The cost of corporate wellness programs

While wellness programs can be implemented for as low as $45 per employee, most experts agree that achieving a significant return on your investment falls somewhere between $100-$400. The more you spend, the higher your return.

According to wellness program ROI expert Dee Edington, companies who want to see savings and a positive ROI should spend around $300-$400 per employee. Edington notes that while “medical care is expensive, wellness care is free." 

Related: Real ROI on Wellness: HR Experts Weigh In [video] 


Corporate wellness program options

There are numerous programs available whether you’re looking at an in-person wellness program or an online option. Choose a program that works well with your individual needs. 

Also, employers don’t have to front all the out-of-pocket costs for their wellness programs. The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 provides small businesses (fewer than 100 employees) access to wellness grants to establish worksite wellness programs. To qualify, however, you must be building your wellness program from scratch. 

When choosing a wellness program for your office, the choice usually comes down to an online, web-based corporate wellness program, or an in-person onsite program. There really isn’t a bad choice, and the decision comes down to what works best for you. That being said, we’ve laid out some of the pros and cons below.


Online Corporate Wellness Programs: Pros and Cons

Web-based online wellness programs are exactly what you think they are: wellness programs delivered via the Internet. Although fairly new, they’re gaining more and more popularity for companies looking into health programs.

Most of these programs come with everything you’d want in a wellness program, including weight management, nutritional content, screening, challenges, and newsletter. The main difference here is how the program is delivered: online in this case. But, like everything, web-based wellness programs come with their pros and cons, so let’s take a look.


Pros of ONLINE corporate wellness programs

Customizable content

Every business is unique, and the same holds true for its health goals. Because every organization comes with different health challenges, being able to select and deliver the exact content your business needs is a big advantage.



Web-based wellness programs are extremely easy when it comes to tracking health information. Weight loss, blood pressure, goals, challenges—it’s all extremely easy and intuitive with really great interfaces and user experiences that can only be created and leveraged with the web. This is especially helpful for individuals to monitor their progress, which in turn, motivates them even more.

Related: 10 Signs You Should Invest in Corporate Massage Therapy 



Likewise, when it comes to reporting progress, it doesn’t get much easier than web-based wellness programs. Since we’re spending most of our days on the Internet, simply adding numbers is really easy. 



Giving your employees anywhere, anytime access to the wellness tools they need is a huge plus. Jennifer Grana, director of health promotion at Highmark says that “Employers who increase health awareness through online tools are driving a change in behavior and Web-based tools are accessible to employees day and night—or whenever an employee is ready to make a change.”


Lower costs

Web-based wellness programs cost significantly less than their in-person counterparts. You don’t have to pay for the overhead that comes with traditional plans, and for some organizations, that’s a very good thing. The costs for vendors vary but expect to pay anywhere from 30-50% less on a web-based wellness program. 

Related: Workplace Wellness Ideas That Really Work 



Eligibility, reminders, achievements, rewards all happen automatically with web-based wellness programs. Users know exactly when something happens. 


Cons of ONLINE corporate wellness programs

Lack of motivation

Nothing really motivates when it comes to one-on-one interaction. While some people don’t really need the extra motivation, the people who usually do might find web-based wellness programs lacking. 


Limited reach

While web-based wellness programs do a good job giving organizations all of the information they’d ever want, a lot of them lack the type of customization or timeliness that lets employees ask their questions (and receive their answers) from real people. 


Onsite Corporate Wellness Programs: Pros and Cons

For employees looking to proactively manage their health, it’s hard to beat in-person wellness programs. Again, the name says it all. These programs happen at the office, face-to-face. And while many of them contain a web-based portion, they are in large part extremely hands-on. But that’s not always necessarily a good thing. Here are some pros and cons. 


Pros of ONSITE corporate wellness programs


In-person wellness programs usually kick off with a fairly thorough session where your risks, goals, and objectives are outlined. From that session, a comprehensive plan is built to fit your organization. That’s a pretty big bonus, especially if you have very specific health goals. 



Coaching is generally a lot better when it happens in person rather than over the Internet. There’s simply more time and engagement for answering specific questions and providing very detailed ideas on how to reach goals. 


Identifying risk factors

Because these programs usually happen in person, the professionals that implement them are more likely to identify health risks in your office, assess your current situation, and see possible pitfalls down the road. 


A personal touch

One-on-one coaching comes with big advantages. Employees tend to be more motivated and educated when they can ask questions in real time to an actual person. They’re also most likely to reach their goals. 


Cons of ONSITE corporate wellness programs

Higher costs

In-person wellness programs are almost always more expensive. But don’t always judge a book by its price tag. The name of the game here is ROI, and for many organizations, an in-person option will deliver a much higher ROI despite its higher cost. 



Nothing beats speed when it comes to the Internet. Reporting, analysis, and progress could be a lot slower if you opt for an in-person wellness program. 


Less flexibility

In-person wellness programs usually come with fewer web-based tools (although they’re gradually becoming better). That means that employees don’t have as much access to the data and resources they need, when they need them. 


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Greg Fox
Written by Greg Fox

After globetrotting for years as a freelance travel writer, he met the woman of his dreams and settled down. He now writes a good mix of advertising, marketing, and PR copy for Google, Adobe Systems, DC shoes, The Northface, and Verizon. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and son.