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Getting Better: Employee Wellness Program Incentives Everyone Will Love

Published: 8/16/2021 Author: PromoLeaf

One of the most important initiatives you can establish for your company is an employee wellness program. The health of your employees impacts how happy and productive they are, and can have a huge impact on your bottom line. It’s also a great way to keep employees feeling appreciated and engaged, which reduces turnover and increases overall employee satisfaction.

But what incentives should you offer? What are the things employees appreciate that actually make a difference? Here are some employee wellness incentives everyone on your team will love.

Reasons to Implement an Employee Wellness Program

Your employees work hard, and often unless they are motivated, they might find it difficult to start or maintain a regular routine that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Change is hard, and rewards help give people a reason to try something new.

There are other reasons as well:

  • An employee wellness program shows employees you care about them beyond their performance at work.
  • Healthy employees perform better, have higher productivity, and are generally happier in their work.
  • The right work/life balance helps employees stay engaged, and keeps them from burning out.
  • Using wellness incentives and even competition builds camaraderie and a sense of being part of a team.
  • A wellness program helps define and reinforce your company culture.

An employee wellness program is one of the best investments you can make in your team and in your company.

Developing Wellness Program Incentives

Developing wellness program incentives is a bit like developing your company culture, which should be one of the cornerstones of any program you implement. There are several things to consider.

First, you need to look at the two aspects of your wellness program: incentives and qualifications. Secondly, you need to look at methods to make the contest fair, and put everyone on equal footing. For example, pitting other employees against the gal in HR who runs triathlons may give her an unfair advantage. Third, you need to look at methods of tracking: how can you be sure that an employee is not “cheating” just to win.

Incentives need to be designed to motivate employees, but should not be so ridiculously elaborate that they inspire cheating. You want to keep the fun in the competition. For example, offering a new Peloton bike might be a bit extreme. If you don’t already pay for gym membership, that might be a good motivator, but one that is a little more expensive than most.

This is why it is important to establish a budget for your program to ensure you don’t overspend, and also to keep employee expectations realistic. If you did give away that Peloton bike, what would employees expect next year?

But you also need to make sure your incentives line up with the wellness program itself. A  subscription to the pie of the month club might not be in line with the idea behind your wellness program.

Part of this is the qualification to “win” wellness incentives.

  • Participation Incentive: The employee participates in the program, rather than reaching certain goals. This helps keep the competition fair, and doesn’t make winning an automatic event. Participants get “a chance to win” and names can be drawn at random, just like a lottery system.
  • Progress based incentives: This can be for things like steps counted or weight loss. Be careful this option is inclusive, and doesn’t result in shaming of those who have made less progress than other participants.Outcome based incentives: Many would argue these are the least inclusive type of incentives, but depending on the program (like number of steps or activity for a month) they can still work very well for incentive programs.
  • Outcome based incentives: Many would argue these are the least inclusive type of incentives, but depending on the program (like number of steps or activity for a month) they can still work very well for incentive programs.

No matter what the type, the activities need to be verifiable. You can do this through tracking gym check-ins, participation in group classes, sharing data from FitBit, Apple Watch, or other fitness devices, or even through “challenge apps” the participant can download onto their phone.

Also, keep in mind that wellness challenges go beyond getting more exercise. They can include quitting smoking, reduced BMI, a no-sugar challenge, and more. Be creative, and listen to your employees and what they want in a wellness program.

Wellness Program Incentive Ideas

So what are some ideas for wellness program incentives? Well, there are a lot of them, and it really depends on your budget, how they align with your company culture, and even the size of your company and the number of wellness program participants.

Here are some ideas, from low cost to elaborate:

Free Wellness Incentives

  • Flexible Schedules
  • Scheduled Wellness Breaks
  • Group Walks or other Wellness Events

These incentives don't actually cost you anything as a company, but can be quite valuable to participants, allowing them time to exercise and promoting teamwork.

Hydration Resources

This is a popular one and can include things like:

This is especially appropriate if your wellness program includes hydration as a part of participant goals.

Exercise Swag

When you think of exercise swag, you often think of things like pedometers and yoga mats, but there are other items to think about as well.

There are probably a lot of other items you can think of as well. You can always ask your wellness program participants what they want, and what would provide an incentive for them.

It’s also about more than just tangible incentives. You can offer your wellness program participants other incentives as well, like:

  • Paid entry to events like 5K, 10K and other athletic events
  • Punch cards for community centers or other fitness locations
  • Paid lessons, from martial arts to dance
  • Cooking lessons
  • Punch cards for healthy smoothies or juice bars
  • Personal training

Get creative with your incentives, and your wellness program will be even more successful.

Outdoor Gear

One of the easiest ways to stay healthy is to get outside into nature, from hiking to trail running and cycling. A good wellness incentive can be the gear your participants will need once they are out and about. While hydration is a good start, there are more items you can add to your list:

You also may want to organize some outdoor group activities, from bicycle rides to run/walk events, and even a camping adventure. Try treating your team to a hike at a local favorite spot or at a more distant location where they might not go on their own.

Experiences can be as valuable or more valuable as an incentive in a wellness program, and often your employees will appreciate it as much as a physical item.

Going All In

If you have the budget for it, and if your company culture is such that things will not get overly competitive or even hostile in a high-stakes competition, you can go all in and offer some more expensive prizes.

The way these programs generally work best is if all of those who participate or reach a certain completion level are offered a chance to win a prize, and the winner is drawn at random. Outcome and progress based incentives at this level can often cause either hard feelings or a feeling of entitlement in some employees, so use caution in the way your program is structured. However, there are some great prizes that won’t break the bank, but may incentivize more participation.

  • Outdoor gear like bikes, skis or other high end items
  • A paid day off
  • Stand up desk
  • Home exercise/home gym equipment
  • Camping gear
  • Golf clubs or golf equipment
  • Club or gym memberships
  • An all expenses paid getaway
  • A BBQ grill or other cooking items (Pressure cooker, air fryer, etc).

The level of your prizes can vary depending on the season, the length of the challenge, and how generous you want to be with your budget.

General Guidelines for Running an Employee Wellness Program

The most important thing with any wellness program, which often turns into a friendly competition, is that the rules and guidelines are clear from the start, there is a contact who is in charge, and that communication is frequent and clear.

  • Put someone, usually a part of your HR team, in charge of any program or challenge
  • Post updates often, and only use “scores” when appropriate for the challenge
  • Establish teams within the challenge to foster accountability and teamwork
  • Discourage shaming and trash talking
  • Be transparent with how prizes are chosen and when
  • Offer layered incentives based on the level of participation, and keep things fun
  • Outline the rules early and follow them (for instance, if someone enters the challenge and then leaves the company, are they out of the challenge?)
  • Be sure to focus on overall wellness, and offer appropriate and inclusive challenges all of your employees can participate in

Setting up an employee wellness program with the right incentives can be the difference between a program that brings your team together and is enjoyable and one that can become divisive.

Employee wellness is about more than just keeping employees healthy. It can help you reduce healthcare costs, improve productivity and employee retention, and even boost employee morale. Check out our health & wellness giveaways for even more ideas to get your wellness incentive program started today!

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