The Need for Wellness Incentives
Char Sutak, Employee Benefits, Willis
Health promotion programs seek to impact some or all of the risk factors associated with preventable illnesses by promoting healthy lifestyle choices and discouraging behaviors and attitudes that are detrimental to good health. Because lifestyle behaviors are deeply ingrained, making these types of lifestyle changes is very difficult and requires discipline and dedication. Educating employees about the benefits of positive lifestyles and the detriments of unhealthy behavior is an important first step. It will take stronger motivational forces to get most of your employees to take action. External incentives can play an important role in motivating your employees to action. The best incentive program will be easy to administer, cost-effective, and will move the largest number of employees to take action and sustain the positive change over time.
Types of Incentives
Most health promotion programs give something positive to their employees to encourage healthy behavior rather than taking something away. This helps to keep the wellness program positive and upbeat. Incentive rewards can be tangible, such as cash, prizes, vacation days, and reduced premiums; or intangible, such as management recognition, camaraderie, and personal fulfillment. Whether you use tangible or intangible rewards, incentives have the most effectiveness when they are closely tied to the healthy behaviors that they are intended to reinforce. Some sample incentives are:
To maximize its perceived value, an incentive should be designed with a high perceived value relative to its cost. Of course, the perception of value will vary from company to company and individual to individual. An incentive should be significant enough in "value" to give participants a reason to change now rather than waiting for a better reason later.
- Wellness dollars. Award wellness dollars for participating in various wellness activities that employees can apply towards fitness-related equipment such as bikes, treadmills, workout clothing, or gift certificates for health-related stores.
- Monetary rewards. Contribute cash to HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs that are offered as part of your benefits program or waive deductibles for preventive health care services like mammograms or well-baby visits. Offer term life insurance to those employees that complete a health risk assessment.
- Contests. Use to motivate change in physical fitness, weight loss, and smoking. In addition to tangible rewards given to winners, participants will receive the intangibles of recognition and teamwork. Create competitions such as a walking challenge where those that complete the challenge are entered into a drawing for health club memberships.
- Achievement awards. Verbal praise and a pat on the back are motivational to some, but a token of recognition of achievement may offer more. A colorful certificate to congratulate an employee for achieving a health-related goal is one example.
- Public recognition. Announce recognition by management at campaign midpoint or wrap-up.
- Food. Include healthy foods to kick off, revitalize or wrap up a wellness campaign.
- Time off. Offer additional days off. This may be the next best incentive to cash. This type of incentive makes good business sense if the number of absences drops significantly and attendance is used as an evaluation criterion.
Need help planning your wellness campaign?
Contact Char Sutak, firstname.lastname@example.org, 614/326.4907.
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