When Is the Worst Time to Launch a Wellness Program?

Corporate spending on wellness programs is surging, but motivating employees to use them continues to be a rather expensive struggle. There are lots of reasons for this, but a really unfortunate one is bad timing.

It's reasonable to assume that launching a wellness program during a time when employees are most interested in their health would correlate with higher engagement. Yet most wellness programs are promoted during Open Enrollment (OE), which usually runs through November, the exact time that people care the LEAST about wellness, and the MOST about getting fat on turkey.

October to December is the Wellness Dead Zone

How do we know? Through the magic of Google. The terms people search for on Google are indicative of what they’re interested in at a given point in time. For example, if you’re interested in eating healthier, you’ll search for “healthy recipes.” If you're interested in turkey, you'll search for "turkey."

To identify the best and worst times to launch a wellness program, we performed an analysis of Google search data. As it turns out, people don’t really search for the word “wellness”, so we picked three related terms: “healthy”, “fitness”, and “diet.” Here’s what the data looks like from November 2013 to January 2015[1]:

The first thing worth noting is that the search patterns are freakishly consistent every year.

The second, and more important point: The lowest volume of searches for wellness related terms always happens October to December. It’s the Wellness Dead Zone (indicated by the red zones in the graphic above).

Then, come January, when we all feel fat and bloated, there’s a tremendous spike in interest, which slowly decreases every month, until we finally stuff ourselves full of turkey again.

I think we can all agree that turkey is the true villain here. Here is the search term “turkey”, compared with “wellness”, “healthy,” “fitness,” and “diet.”

The practical implications:

If you’re considering timing for launching a wellness program, or promoting existing ones, here are some key things you may want to keep in mind:

  • Wellness programs that launch in January have tailwinds going for them. People are naturally interested. If it’s possible, launch programs in the first quarter of the year.
  1. If you have wellness resources that you promoted during the Wellness Dead Zone (October to December), assume that you have a new audience that’s tuned in. Promote them again.

  2. Try not to use the word wellness. Words like “fitness,” “diet,” and “healthy” should better connect with people.


  1. Google Trends http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=healthy%2C fitness%2C diet%2C wellness&geo=US&date=11%2F2012 27m&cmpt=q&tz= ↩︎