Paving the way to a healthy workplace with corporate wellness incentives

Tess C. Taylor, PHR, The HR Writer

As Obamacare officially launched across America this year, new requirements forced employers to look for ways to boost their compensation and benefit programs without raising healthcare premium costs. The new law permits employers to use as much as 30 percent of each worker’s health care premium on wellness incentive programs (up from 20 percent last year). The challenge to find cost-effective ways to maintain the well-being and productivity of workers is on.

Why Wellness Incentives Matter

In many workplaces, stress has become the norm, and addictions and obesity have skyrocketed – causing the cost of even basic healthcare programs to rise over the last few years. With medical costs nearing astronomical highs and an overburdened healthcare system lacking enough support, the need to control healthcare costs by preventing diseases and reducing poor lifestyle choices has become critical. This is why corporate wellness programs, backed up by generous incentives, can be a solution for any organization.

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Trends and Benefits of Corporate Wellness Programs

It’s not surprising that as early as the 1980s, companies began exploring ways to improve productivity at work at the same time as reducing absenteeism. This is the foundation of what transformed simple personnel departments into full human resource teams, focused on the revenue generating power of employees. Human capital management has become a central effort of many companies today, with programs designed to prevent rather than react to employee problems.

Wellness at work has been linked to many benefits for companies. Multiple studies have shown that when employees are feeling great they are happier, require less time off, and their overall healthcare insurance premiums are much less costly. The pursuit of work life balance is supported by many employers, who now understand people are not just robots for a company. Preventing illness, leading a healthier lifestyle and taking care of employee well-being literally equate to dollars and cents for a company. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But…

Offering a corporate wellness program does not mean that everyone will participate. It’s long been known that financial incentives can encourage participation. For example, a smoking cessation study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania concluded that participants who received compensation for meeting specific goals were more likely to quit smoking for long-term vs. those who received no compensation. Although one would think that the idea of being healthy and fit is a good enough incentive, some employees need that little extra push to make it happen.

Wellness Incentives Increase Participation

Earlier this year, Aon Hewitt, an HR solutions firm, released the results of a survey of 800 large and mid-size employers representing 7 million US employees. They found that 83 percent of these companies offer some form of incentives for participating in wellness programs. Additionally, nearly 80 percent use rewards based incentives, while only 5 percent used punishment. Of those companies that offer monetary incentives (64 percent) this can range from $50 to as much as $500 for reaching important health goals. Clearly, companies understand the connection between participating and reward.

Incentives to Support Company Wellness

There are various incentives that any company can provide to employees who actively participate in corporate-sponsored wellness programs.

  • Free healthy lunches for employees who participate in a weekly walk around the campus.
  • Onsite fitness center and wellness services that employees can use on their breaks and off-time.
  • Discounts for local gyms, dietary support programs, fitness retailers, and health food stores.
  • Access to free and confidential addictions counseling and financial support for rehabilitation treatment.
  • Corporate events and entertainment that centers on mental and physical well-being.
  • Gift cards and cash incentives for meeting certain health and fitness goals.
  • Wellness committees and clubs to promote peer support and respect for those making a positive change in their lives.
  • Paid time off and flexible scheduling to attend wellness programs and restore work life balance.

The incentives above are just a handful of ways you can support the wellness of your employees, while reducing healthcare costs and employee illness. Just one employee who makes the effort to lose weight, stop smoking, or live a less stressful life can have a positive impact on your workplace. Get behind your corporate wellness initiative and provide effective incentives for those who participate.

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