Benefits Of Employee Health And Wellness Incentive Programs

A look into the different benefits that can arise from health and wellness programs

In this era of enhanced health awareness, a great majority of employers see the link between the well-being of their employees and the company’s bottom line. The trend toward implementing health and wellness incentive programs that benefit employees and businesses alike is well established, and companies now are even figuring out ways to tailor their programs and scale back in inefficient areas, making them even more cost effective.

To understand how the investment pays off, take a look at the issue from a negative angle. Two core health issues — obesity and tobacco use — affect millions of Americans, and it would be foolish to think none of those individuals work for your business. Chances are, many do.

Problems related to these chronic health concerns result in frequent sick days, causing not only the loss of an employee’s productivity, but also a reduction for those who must pick up the slack for the absentee.

The trend toward implementing health and wellness incentive programs is well established

Of course, there are other preventable or manageable health issues that cause rampant absenteeism and a subsequent loss of revenue. That’s why an integrated health and wellness incentive program can make a huge difference for your company.

Cost Savings, Yes, but Also Much More

The importance of at least trying to contain health care costs that seem likely to continue rising cannot be overstated. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, health insurance benefits cost a private industry employer, on average, $2.44 per hour, which represents 7.6 percent of an employee’s total compensation (as of March 2016). For union workers, the average was $5.76 per hour and 12.6 percent of total compensation.

The good news is that 77 percent of organizations surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management reported that their wellness program was “somewhat” or “very” effective in reducing health care costs. In addition to cost savings, other benefits for employers with wellness and fitness programs include:

  • Fewer sick days taken by employees
  • Less turnover
  • Improved recruiting power
  • Better morale and productivity
  • Improved reputation for employee-friendly corporate culture
  • Potential tax breaks and grants

Programs and Incentives to Participate in

 Workplace wellness programs vary widely. Some businesses focus on providing basic preventive health information, while others emphasize fitness education and participation. Some businesses provide on-site healthy lifestyle coaching and strongly promote no-smoking policies on and off the job. There are ergonomic standup desks, healthy snack options and attempts to manage stress.

Many employees respond enthusiastically to such programs and are willing to improve their lifestyles. Others need a bit more incentive.

One effective approach is establishing a company wellness committee, made of enthusiastic and health-conscious employees. Choose committee leaders “from within the organization who are respected by their peers and can motivate others,” says Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sam Ho at UnitedHealthcare. Then spread the word about the importance of wellness through emails, fliers and staff meetings.

“Messages from executives will demonstrate leadership support and may improve participation,” Ho adds.

Participation in wellness programs generally increases when businesses offer incentives such as:

  • Insurance premium discounts
  • Cash bonuses
  • Savings on health products and services
  • Personalized health profiles
  • In-depth health risk assessments
  • Flu vaccines
  • Reimbursement for gym membership
  • Wellness-related gift cards that recognize and reward participation

Increasingly, businesses are providing employees with wearable devices to help motivate them. Whether it’s measuring sleep patterns or counting the number of steps taken for a daily walking program, these wearable fitness markers keep participants motivated because they can easily track the level of personal activity daily.

Participation in wellness programs generally increases when businesses offer incentives

Another popular motivational technique is creating friendly group challenges, where employees compete to achieve wellness goals (number of steps walked in a day, number of pounds lost in a month, hours spent in the gym, etc.). These challenges inspire greater camaraderie and teamwork among employees, while furthering the company’s overall health objectives.

Considering both the short- and long-term benefits of a health and wellness incentive program, companies shouldn’t regard employee wellness simply as an added business expense. When businesses can positively influence employees to adopt healthier lifestyles, they reduce their health care costs, cultivate significantly improved attendance rates, and often see higher levels of employee engagement. If that’s not a great ROI, what is?

Author bio: Julie Feece is Vice President North America – Marketing for RPG Card Services, a sales and marketing organization specializing in offering gift card program services to nationally recognized retailers for their B2B and B2C programs. She has held leadership roles in the incentive gift card industry for over 17 years and has been with RPG for 10 years. 

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