Energizing employee wellness with incentives

Employees spend many of their waking hours at work or commuting, which can take a toll on their health, especially if they’re stressed or seated at a desk during the day. You can motivate employees to invest in their well-being by rewarding them with incentives for wellness participation and/or healthy outcomes.

Boosting the health of your employees can have a measurable impact on productivity and your overall business. Start by creating goals and determining which small incentives will work best to motivate your employees. Offer those incentives based on participation in employee wellness programs and eventually move toward outcomes-based incentives as a way to maintain participation and improve employee well-being.

Program goals
Your goals will likely vary as your wellness program continues to grow or evolve. By defining goals at the beginning of implementing a wellness program, you can determine which initiatives can best help you achieve them.

When thinking about your goals, keep these ideas in mind:

  • Do you want to boost participation in one area of your wellness program (health assessment, biometric screening, etc.)?
  • Do you want to improve health outcomes each year? How will your current ongoing initiatives contribute to these improvements?

Participation incentives
Employees need to want to participate for your program to succeed. When offering incentives, start small; see how employees respond to the incentive, and determine if the incentive needs to change at a later date. Popular incentives include:

  • Benefit premium discounts
  • Gift cards
  • Spa services
  • Electronics
  • Gym memberships
  • Cooking gadgets
  • Drawings for larger prizes
  • PTO days
  • Casual dress days

Starting with smaller incentives can be quite effective. Often, employees just need a little nudge to participate. I have seen employers achieve 30 percent participation in their company’s annual health risk assessment, a common employer wellness strategy, with a $25 cash incentive.

Outcomes-based incentives
Increased participation in a wellness program doesn’t necessarily ensure healthy outcomes. A more effective way to ensure an employee population makes healthy choices is to offer incentives for meeting certain goals or criteria.

Here are some outcome-based activities to provide incentives:1

  • Working out at a fitness center a set number of times per month
  • Visiting a physician for an annual preventative visit
  • Maintaining or improving biometric measurements year over year (such as cholesterol and blood pressure)

Offering incentives for outcomes and activity takes participation to the next level. It keeps employees active, engaged in your program, and focused on their health and wellness goals.

With some simple rewards and a smart plan, you can help your employees become healthier, happier and more productive.

1It’s always wise to seek advice from your legal counsel before implementing wellness programs of any kind, particularly those that involve incentives.

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