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10 Simple and Effective Incentives for Employee Wellness Programs

February 28, 2023

Young woman sitting on floor at home with laptop, about to exercise

Wellness programs have grown increasingly popular in corporate America. In fact, 52% of US companies offer employee wellness programs of some kind. And of those companies, 56% of employees participate, which has resulted in fewer sick days taken and higher job satisfaction.

The issue, however, can be finding ways to motivate employees to participate in these programs. Some employees will naturally be motivated to join – these tend to be people who already have a wellness routine in their personal lives. But to reach others, companies may need to develop incentives for employee wellness programs.

Here, we’ll discuss what wellness program incentives are, how they can help, and offer ideas you can use within your organization.


What Are Incentives for Employee Wellness Programs?

Wellness incentives are rewards given to employees for their participation in a company’s wellness program. They can also be given for achieving certain wellness milestones or taking part in certain wellness activities.

The purpose of wellness incentives is to be a positive reinforcement for healthy behavior. For example, an employee may be more inclined to take a health risk assessment if they will receive a discount on their insurance premium. In this case, the discount is the wellness incentive.


Why Offer Wellness Program Incentives

As mentioned, the goal of a wellness program incentive is to boost engagement in your program. The goal of a wellness program itself is to help employees adopt a healthier lifestyle, which in turn can benefit companies.

These benefits include:

  • Reduction in Healthcare Costs: 72% of employers saw a reduction in healthcare costs.
  • Return on Investment: The average return on investment (ROI) for employee wellness programs is six-to-one.
  • Reduced Absenteeism: Wellness programs can reduce absenteeism by 14-19%.
  • Improve Culture: 77% of employees say that workplace wellness programs positively impact company culture.
  • Increased Retention: 85% of employees say they intend to stay at their jobs.

Again, these benefits are only achieved if employees actually participate in your wellness offering. So, incentivizing them to join is a win for employees and companies alike.


RELATED: A Step-By-Step Guide to Developing Employee Wellness Programs


Types of Incentives for Employee Wellness Programs

Before coming up with incentive ideas, it can be helpful to determine which types of incentives you’d like to offer and for what.

Begin by determining if you have a budget in place and if you’d like to offer cost-based incentives versus no cost-incentives.


Cost and No-Cost Incentives

Cost incentives are usually items that can be given to employees from their employer to make participating in a wellness program easier or more enjoyable. These can range from water bottles to gym memberships, to wearable devices.

No-cost incentives don’t require any additional costs or budget and can be highly customizable. For example, a company could offer extra breaks throughout the day or more work-from-home days.

Furthermore, knowing when to offer incentives can also be helpful. Before establishing an incentives for employee wellness programs, consider the criteria for winning the incentive.

    • Participation-Based Incentives

      Participation-based incentives are used to increase participation in a program or initiative. The goal for participation incentives is purely to get people involved. This can be perfect for companies who are starting a new wellness program.

      This is because employees don’t yet know the value of your wellness program. Asking employees to voluntarily commit to a program can be a big ask. Participation incentives, therefore, are almost like a risk-free guarantee for employees to try out your program.

      Because this option will likely generate many participants, you might find a random selection for choosing an incentive winner is your best option. Employees then enter for the chance to win rather than a guaranteed prize.


  • Progress-Based Incentives
    Once you have employee buy-in for your wellness program, participation incentives help ensure they continue with it. We all know how self-improvement goals can go. You start with the best intentions, but when things get tough, suddenly the goal doesn’t seem quite so worth it.

    This is where progress-based incentives can help employees see wellness challenges through to the end. Progress incentives can also encourage people to push themselves to reach new personal records.

    Consider offering 50 points on your recognition platform for every 50,000 steps taken in a step challenge. Or award gift cards when people reach a consecutive streak in a wellness practice, like reaching 7 straight days of packing a lunch or exercising.


  • Results-Based Incentives

    Lastly, there are results-based incentives. These can be a fun way to foster healthy competition and encourage enthusiastic participation. These incentives are things like prizes for the most steps taken in a step challenge, or most consecutive days of meditation.

    Keep in mind, results-based incentives can also be awarded to people who are most improved. This can be a great way to foster inclusivity and avoid rewarding only the members of your team who are already physically fit.


REALTED: How to Engage Employees with a Corporate Wellness program


10 Incentives for Employee Wellness Programs

Get started incentivizing your team with our 10 cost and no-cost ideas.

  1. Discounts. Offer a discount on insurance premiums for completing a health assessment, joining a wellness program, or completing a year enrolled in a wellness program.
  2. Giveaways. Do a periodic giveaway for wellness program participants. The giveaway can range from small gym equipment, like water bottles or yoga mats. Or they can be bigger items, like a free gym membership or apple watch.
  3. Give App Discounts. Consider partnering with wellness apps, like Headspace or Calm, to offer your employees a discounted membership.
  4. Extra PTO. Give out an extra PTO day for people who either join your wellness program or win a particular challenge. The criteria are up to you!
  5. Field Trips. Take your wellness participants off-campus. Maybe it’s an afternoon hike, a yoga class in the park, or a healthy cooking class, everyone loves getting away from the office for an hour or two.
  6. Gift Experiences. Field trips are great for group bonding, but if you'd like to give a more personal option, consider gifting experiences. Gifting things like tickets to a concert or kayaking lessons, allows people to step out of their comfort zone and do something they'll always remember. Experiences are also available within Terryberry's reward platform.
  7. Catering. A simple catered lunch is always a treat. Or put a twist on classic catering and instead offer a smoothie or yogurt bar with fresh fruit and granola.
  8. Give Points. If you have a recognition platform, award wellness participants points for completing an assessment, joining a challenge, or winning a challenge.
  9. Holistic Gifts. Award challenge winners with free services like massage, chiropractic, or acupuncture sessions.
  10. Gift Cards. Gift cards to popular stores, like Amazon, Target, or Home Depot, are always a hit. They're simple to buy and distribute as well.

Getting Started

Interested in learning more about how your company can benefit from a recognition and wellness program? Schedule a demo of Terryberry's new 360 Recognition platform today.