Feature Article - March/April 2018

Wellness for Life

Motivate Employees to Adopt a Permanent Healthy Lifestyle

By Rick Dandes

Incentives & Rewards to Boost Wellness Program Engagement

To generate engagement and interest in wellness programs, McEndree insists, "a smart reward and incentive strategy is key. Our research found that 47 percent of employees want wellness rewards, but only 32 percent of employers offer them. The research also found that the number of employees who would participate in wellness programs nearly quadruples when rewards are offered."

Wellness programs are more effective if management has specific goals, Blabolil explained, adding to McKendree's point. "First," he said, "understand what your employees value as it relates to a healthy lifestyle. Then, find ways to integrate those values into your specific company culture. Once you do that, establish clear and achievable goals to motivate and inspire engagement from employees.

"Understand the hot topics and trends and incorporate them into your culture in a way that makes sense for your specific organization," Blabolil continued. "Make employees feel like you support the cause and make it convenient and easy for them to participate. Also, motivation is everything. Find out who or what motivates them. Bring in experienced, trained professionals to coach and guide employees, offer webinars and educational videos to help individuals stay on track and make relevant products available to them that can propel their efforts."

Providing product rewards that are relevant to health and wellness will offer mass appeal and help to bolster the company's message of supporting a healthier lifestyle. Offering products from brand-name manufacturers that fitness lovers recognize can strengthen your rewards catalog and drive motivation. For yoga lovers, offer products from Gaiam. For runners or gym-goers, offer gear from Under Armour or Nike. For the more committed in-home cardio buff, treadmills and elliptical machines from companies like Bowflex can be a real motivator.

Technology is a huge motivator. Fitness trackers continue to be a must-have item at retail. Offering wearable fitness trackers is a fun way to engage and encourage staff. Allow them to earn points for the progress they make and offer incentives (like winning a set of free weights or piece of exercise equipment) to reach certain goals. This will increase engagement and help employees get closer to their fitness goals.

Lastly, leverage social media platforms. This will help to increase participation among employees by allowing colleagues to challenge each other to participate in wellness initiatives. The peer-to-peer dynamic stimulates team-building and can further drive engagement.

Above all else, McKendree said, "employees value choice more than any specific reward, and customizable choices such as gift cards and prepaid cards are top employee favorites."

She added, "There are numerous reward card products that target and support a healthy lifestyle—perfect fits for wellness programs. These include gift cards for retailers like Spafinder that promote self-care, or filtered cards that enable you to tailor cards to your specific program and are good for active lifestyle brands such as Nike, Lululemon, REI, as well as gyms, or vitamin and wellness retailers. With the right assortment of cards, businesses can create an abundance of choices to fit the right incentive with the right recipient."

It's also important to note, McEndree said, that employers who deliver rewards quickly and often can improve the chances that their employees more frequently engage with the organization's wellness program.

For people who are already fit and well, added Ozer, there is a strong appeal to have Apple watches and other devices that measure activities and fitness level as well as fitness gear. "However, to encourage people to begin participating," he said, T-shirts and water bottles can begin the process of reward and recognition. The goal should be to use tangible wellness-related merchandise items as extrinsic rewards to inspire participation and achievement to the extent that the intrinsic motivation of improved wellness results, like weight loss, feeling better or reducing stress will take over and sustain motivation on an ongoing basis.

Wellness is a personal matter, but it is also about the collective nature of wellness. It is contagious, Blabolil said. "It needs to be culture-based and welcomed as an entitlement. Employers and employees should see the link that wellness is a part of the quality of life and the quality of relationships. We are able to grow our skills and make a greater impact on what we do with a foundation of well-being."