It’s not a groundbreaking concept that healthy employees save companies money. From increased engagement and productivity to fewer trips to the doctor, healthy employees keep costs low. Which is why as of 2020, 53% of small companies and 81% of large companies have some kind of wellness program set up.
And while it’s true, wellness programs can save companies money through fostering healthy habits. The catch is that wellness programs only work if employees actually participate in them.
So, to help boost participation, many companies offer different types of wellness incentives.
What is a Wellness Incentive?
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’ll be entered to win a gift card. In this case, the gift card is the wellness incentive.
Types of Wellness Incentives
Understanding which types of incentives exist can help you choose which is best for your needs. Starting with cost and 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 a wellness incentive program, consider if you’d like to encourage participation, progress, or results.
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.
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 of 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.
Lastly, we have 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.
Wellness Incentive Ideas to Improve Your Wellness Program
Ready to start incentivizing your team? We have six cost and no-cost wellness incentive ideas you can start using for your next wellness challenge.
1. Benefits Discount/Perks
Benefits-based wellness incentive programs typically offer employees a discount on their insurance premium, a contribution to an HSA or HRA, or a lower co-pay or deductible as an incentive.
Benefit discounts can be a more costly incentive, but it will likely drive big participation. These can be as simple as having a free flu shot site on campus in the Fall. Or as big as offering discounts on insurance premiums after completing a task, like an annual health screening.
2. Offer Extra PTO
Research suggests that employees who use their paid time off are happier with their jobs than employees who don’t. Additionally, research from Indeed found that 36% of all workers say more PTO could help reduce their burnout. So, offering extra PTO could be a significant wellness incentive.
Just remember, a wellness program won’t cure a toxic culture and time off isn't the solution to stress and burnout. Organization psychologist Adam Grant says, "If work is exhausting people to the point that they’re using their time off to recover, you might have a burnout culture. A healthy organization doesn’t leave people drained in the first place."
3. Partner with a Gym
When it comes to encouraging physical fitness, having access to a gym can be crucial. Unfortunately, memberships can be expensive, and many people cancel due to cost. So why not offer a membership discount through the office?
Oftentimes, gyms will offer a corporate rate for companies to increase membership. This can then be offered to your employees as an incentive to join. This ends up being a win/win for both employees and companies. Employees get a discount and companies may reduce health care costs as employees begin their fitness journey.
4. Gift Cards
Gift cards are a classic reward. That’s because they don’t rely on the company to choose a gift for the recipient. The winner gets to choose exactly what they want, when they want it.
While gift cards do require some cost to be a worthwhile incentive, they’re also simple to attain, easy to distribute, and liked by just about everyone.
5. Partner with Apps
Don’t forget about your employees’ mental wellness. Science has linked mindfulness and meditation with reduced stress and anxiety, making it an ideal corporate wellness initiative.
There are all kinds of opportunities to incentivize non-physical wellness too. For example, consider partnering with a meditation app to offer discounted subscriptions to your employees. This can be a great way to introduce curious employees to a form of mental wellness they may have otherwise passed over.
6. Offer Points
Many companies have opted to integrate their wellness program with their social recognition platform. This is a convenient way to use aspects of each program with the other.
For example, you could offer points for participation in certain wellness initiatives. The employee receives the points and can choose to redeem them for an item or experience in the company's online storefront. This option is a great way to take the convenience and personalization of giving gift cards, but without an upfront cost. Furthermore, adding in a social recognition component can help drive participation as well.