As with any type of behavior change, getting people to actively participate in a well-being program requires time and effort. That’s where a good incentive strategy comes in. In this week’s blog, we share some well-being incentive ideas for employees that can motivate people to engage in your well-being program long-term.
Why should you include incentives in your well-being program?
We believe incentives are an essential part of any successful well-being effort because they:
- Provide the motivation to participate and complete activities. Sometimes we need a little “nudge” to start or stop a new behavior, especially regarding our health. Incentives provide this push until intrinsic motivation starts to take over.
- Promote engagement with your program. Studies show that employers who offer incentives report a 22% higher average participation rate in well-being programs than employers who don’t offer incentives.1
- Increase well-being program awareness. If you communicate widely about your incentives, you’ll be increasing awareness of all your well-being program offerings by default.
- Demonstrate your commitment to your people. Organizations who offer incentives show that they care enough about employee health to put their money where their mouth is.
How do you incentivize well-being programs?
This really depends on the organization. Any good incentive design should reflect your company’s culture and core values, and be aligned with what motivates your employees. For example, if you already use financial incentives to motivate people outside the well-being program, that might be a good place to start.
Here are some popular incentives our clients have used:
- Cash awards
- Contributions to a Health Savings Account or Healthcare Flexible Spending Account
- Discounts on gym fees or online fitness classes
- Gift cards or pre-paid Visa cards
- Reduction in health insurance premiums
- At-home exercise equipment
- Donations to a favorite charity
- Paid time off
- Shout-out on a company-wide recognition platform
- T-shirts, mousepads, water bottles, or other company-branded swag
What are the best activities or behaviors to incentivize?
Devising an incentive strategy depends on where you are in your organization’s well-being program journey. For example, if your program is newer, your strategy will focus more on the basics. Here’s what we recommend:
- New well-being program: We typically recommend incenting upon completing a health assessment and biometric screenings. In addition to getting participants engaged, this also gives the organization a good baseline of data to suggest program elements employees may benefit from, such as additional financial wellness support or ways to keep people socially connected.
- Established well-being program: After the initial engagement, we typically recommend updating the incentive strategy to reward behavior change activities, like a wellness challenge, coaching session, or resilience training.
It’s also a best practice to provide incentives throughout the year versus just at the beginning of the program year. Our data shows that the more touchpoints a participant has with a well-being program over time, the greater the reduction in health risks.
What about using outcomes-based incentives?
An outcomes-based program provides an incentive for achieving a specific metric, like losing a percentage of weight or decreasing blood pressure. Lately, we’ve seen a decline in employers who use this strategy. In fact, a joint study by the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity found that while most employers plan to continue or expand well-being incentives over the next 3 to 5 years, employer interest and use of health-contingent incentives continue to drop.
This is because incentives should motivate and inspire people to keep coming back to work on their well-being. It’s much more motivating to commit to a task—like participating in a company-wide wellness challenge—than it is to focus on a specific metric they need to hit in order to receive a reward.
If you’ve had an incentive strategy for a while, what can you do to keep it fresh?
It’s natural for participants to become bored with incentive offerings and see engagement decline—so take time to update and evolve your program periodically. Here’s what we recommend:
- Incentivize non-physical behaviors. Traditionally, most employers have rewarded physical wellness, like completing a health assessment, biometric screening, exercise program, or steps challenge. But as the pandemic has underscored, we also need to tend to other aspects of our lives, like:
- Emotional wellness. Try rewarding participation in resilience training, stress management, sleep quality programs, or meditation courses.
- Social connections. Reward people for setting up coffee chats, participating in community service, or organizing virtual happy hours that foster these all-important workplace social connections.
- Financial wellness. If you have financial wellness offerings, consider rewarding employees who take advantage of things like debt counseling, student loan consolidation, or financial education courses.
- Include family members. Getting the whole family—including spouses and children at home—engaged in healthy lifestyle behaviors increases individual success with a well-being program.
- Shift to a points-based system. If you’ve had the same incentive program structure for a while, you might consider switching to a points-based system. These allow participants to accumulate points for completing various activities and “spend” them on prizes of their choosing. Clients who are currently using a points-based system for their rewards strategy have reported that this has been a popular change for their employees.
- Ask employees what they want! Send out a quick pulse survey or tap into your Employee Resource Groups to get insight into what employees really value. For example, maybe they don’t care so much about receiving company swag, but they would be more interested in donating their rewards to a charity of their choice.
One last piece of advice—communicate.
If participants don’t know about the incentives you offer, they won’t serve as a very good motivator. Frequent communication is essential, and perhaps even more so now that many employees aren’t working onsite. Now’s the time to get creative with communication—think short videos, leadership promotion in virtual town halls, reminders in company-wide chat channels, or even a striking print piece or small gift mailed to their homes to generate excitement.
Some final thoughts.
In some ways, the pandemic has created opportunities for people to take positive steps toward better health. But for others, the endless days of remote work and reduced social interaction created new physical and emotional concerns. Incentives can motivate both groups. As we head into another challenging year, it’s a great time to start a wellness incentive program or retool the one you have to meet the moment.
And just one more thing—it’s important to keep in mind that rewards by themselves do not result in behavior change. It takes a comprehensive design, an interesting and engaging program, and an easy-to-use platform that gets people to participate in the first place and keeps them coming back. For help devising your incentive strategy—including what elements you should provide rewards for, what the reward should be, and how much each task should be worth—we’d love to help. Visit our website or contact us at email@example.com.