March 22, 2019

What’s next in wellbeing? Alternative incentive designs

In the past, employers utilized medical screenings, examinations and assessments as core parts of their wellbeing programs. However, as laws and regulations surrounding employer programs and incentives have changed, new data and best practices have emerged that demonstrate there is more value in expanding wellbeing programs beyond these screenings and incentives.


Over time, federal agencies like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have modified requirements for wellbeing programs to ensure that they’re not discriminatory and reflect the industry’s best practices. As your wellbeing program moves forward, consider incorporating supplemental options or alternative wellness activities that employees can complete to earn their wellbeing incentive. Such an approach would not “require” them to complete a health exam or provide medical information to earn the full reward. However, it’s important to be thoughtful in your approach to incentives, as rewards and penalties don’t always change employee behavior. It’s important to find meaningful ways to factor in intrinsic motivation in your wellbeing program.


With that said, spend time exploring other types of incentives and present opportunities to foster intrinsic motivation. For instance, encourage employees to set personal wellness goals and treat themselves to something they enjoy as a reward for accomplishing the objectives. Another option is to set up events for employees, either during or outside work hours, where they can encourage one another to pursue healthy goals. Examples include a wellness challenge, health education course or health coaching. Ultimately, building a healthy workplace culture should be the primary strategy to boost health engagement among employees. This offers an opportunity to emphasize the importance of culture, and the core intention of your program should be to assure employees your company supports their health and wellness. 

While incentives can help drive participation in specific activities, engagement and behavior change are more likely when fostered in a health-oriented culture. Physical and mental health support are two of the most important benefits an organization can offer. Provide a feel-good environment and ensure you are communicating the value of your workplace wellbeing program activities if you want to reap the ultimate benefits.

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