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March 13, 2024
March 1, 2024

How to Create Employee Wellness Incentives

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One of the most impactful initiatives any company can roll out is an employee wellness program. In today’s world, employees value a workplace that supports their mental and physical well-being more than ever because stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. However, only 20% of people agree that their organizations care about their well-being.

To retain the best talent and get the most out of your people, you have to show that you care about them. And wellness incentives for employees are the perfect way to do that.

In this post, we’ll go over some ideas for creating an effective employee wellness incentive that will get long-term participation and build long-term salubrious habits, and we’ll also provide some examples of wellness incentive ideas to help you get inspired. But first…

What Is Employee Wellness?

Wellness is the act of practicing healthy habits to build confidence and overall well-being. This leads to thriving rather than just surviving. Wellness can be broken down into six key areas:

  1. Mental wellness
  2. Emotional wellness
  3. Physical wellness
  4. Financial wellness
  5. Intellectual wellness
  6. Social wellness

Each of these is important to a healthy, well-rounded employee, and, luckily, organizations can create incentive programs to encourage each of these areas.

Illustration of coworkers conversing in a health work environment

Why Employee Wellness Matters

Why do business leaders even have to worry about their employee well-being? Isn’t that something employees care about on their own time? In short, yes, employees are the only ones who can really control their own wellness. However, since people spend a good portion of their days at work, businesses can do a lot to empower employee health.

As for why it’s important, employees who don’t feel emotionally, physically, and mentally healthy can have a big impact on your business:

Each facet of wellness can impact retention, productivity, absenteeism, and more. And the scary thing is, 54% of employees are afraid to talk to their managers about their mental health because of fear of repercussions. (And this most likely translates to other aspects of wellness, too.)

A wellness program with fun incentives is the perfect way to eliminate this stigma and encourage openness and honesty when it comes to well-being. So let’s dive in.

illustration of women exercising

5 Steps for Implementing Effective Wellness Programs

Coming up with a fun name for the program and some incentive prizes isn’t enough to get long-term participation and excitement. You need to plan and strategize effectively to give your program the foundation it needs to succeed.

1. Survey Your Employees

First, you need to gather information about your employees to see what people are interested in and what their goals are:

  • Survey them to learn where they want to improve, what goals they have, what types of activities they’re interested in, etc.
  • Conduct a health risk assessment to determine a baseline of the health of your workforce. See the CDC’s guide for health assessments to ensure you follow legal guidelines.

2. Communicate With Management

Getting the support of management is crucial for things like program funding, organizational support, and approving processes. Which is why you should be open and communicative with them from the start.

The most important thing to do is create a business case that shows the impact of wellness on business outcomes. To help with that, check out this PDF going over the business case for employee wellness.

Based on the information you learned about employee wellness, health goals, and gaps to fill, make short- and long-term goals for your program. List out benefits you can expect from a powerful wellness program with management support behind it. This type of information is foundational for getting leadership buy-in.

3. Gather a Wellness Committee

Get internal support and increase reach and excitement with an employee-driven committee to help spread the word and spread the wellness culture. Committee members should be passionate about wellness, and they should have the time needed to really push the program forward.

Make sure the committee is representative of diverse teams and groups so that everyone’s interests are looked after. 

This type of committee will take the burden of administering every aspect of your wellness program off of HR’s shoulders.

4. Design the Specifics of Your Wellness Programs

With your support system, goals, and budgets in place, you’re ready to design the actual program. Keeping in mind your employees’ needs and interests, decide where your wellness incentives will focus. Ideas include:

  • Weight loss programs
  • Stress reduction programs
  • Nutrition education programs
  • Financial wellness programs
  • Exercise regime programs

It’s up to you to decide if you want to run multiple sub-programs under your wellness incentive or start with one and build more as necessary. Think of effective ways to use your budget, provide resources, and communicate the program with everyone. Also think of ways to keep management involved to really keep the program top of mind.

5. Decide on Incentives and Rewards

Now comes the fun part. Despite everyone’s best intentions, wellness goals are often forgotten after a time. Think about your New Year’s resolutions—if you’re anything like us, many of them have already been dropped by the wayside.

So how can you help your employees stay excited and motivated to participate in your program and improve their wellness? With incentives, of course!

Incentives provide the double benefit of driving engagement with your program and keeping people motivated long-term because even if employees’ intrinsic motivation falters, their external motivation of gaining rewards can keep them participating.

Some incentive reward ideas include:

  • Give employees their choice of rewards from a wellness-centric catalog. Rewards such as exercise equipment or clothing, kitchen equipment, mindfulness app subscriptions, etc., can be great rewards that feed into overall wellness. And giving employees more choice allows them to get rewards that are meaningful to them.
  • Offer cascading cash rewards. Set up a tier system that rewards participation. For those who participate in one aspect of your wellness program, offer a small reward. For those who participate in two or more, offer progressively larger rewards.
  • Offer work-life balance rewards. The ultimate way to maintain wellness is with time away from work to relax and unwind. Offer PTO, coupons to a spa, or even hotel stays at a dream destination for those who really jump into the wellness program
illustration of employees enjoying coffee

4 Sample Wellness Program Ideas

Below are four examples of wellness programs that target different aspects of wellness. The key is that these are just examples to help get your juices flowing—remember, you should find wellness initiatives and rewards that speak to your employees.

Progressive-Based Physical Wellness Incentive

Physical wellness incentives can focus on all kinds of things—walking more each day, losing a certain amount of weight, going to the gym a few times a week, eating more fruits and vegetables each day, or anything like that. (Remember, look at your survey and health risk assessment to find out what people need and want!)

After you’ve built the actual program out, build incentives that reward maintained participation, such as:

  • An extra day of PTO after a month
  • Two days of PTO after six months
  • A full week of vacation after a year

A progressing incentive like this can really help people stay motivated.

Participation-Based Mental Wellness Incentive

Set up a program that offers mental health resources and support, such as Employee Assistance Programs, mindfulness classes, stress reduction courses, etc. Then, reward employees each time they participate with things like a free meal or some mental health resources they can take home.

You can also incentivize their personal mental health goals by reimbursing therapy costs, offering spa gift cards, or something similar.

Performance-Based Financial Wellness Incentives

Now this may sound weird, but performance-based incentives are a great way to push wellness behaviors. How can they apply to financial wellness? Think about employees’ goals. Do they want to build an emergency savings account? Do they want to start investing? Do they want to buy a new car?

Help employees create actionable steps to achieve these goals, and then reward them as they hit certain milestones (such as saving a certain amount, paying off a debt, etc.). Hitting financial goals is exciting enough, but adding a work-sponsored reward on top of that will really cement the healthy behaviors.

Two-in-One Social Wellness Incentives

Do your employees want to learn a new skill, make new friends, or otherwise enhance their social well-being? You can build an incentive that helps them achieve their goals and rewards them at the same time.

Set up activities that employees can participate in during work hours, such as a board game break, a hobby class, or a break outside. This way, people can work on a skill or talk to new people while also being rewarded with time away from work. It’s a win-win!

Incentivize Wellness Today

It’s no secret: employees perform better when they’re happy, stress-free, and physically fit. Absenteeism and sickness go down while productivity and retention go up. With these strategies, you can build a wellness program that incentivizes employee participation and rewards them for putting in the effort.

Do you want to build your own custom wellness incentives, complete with powerful reporting, automated administration, and millions of reward options? Awardco’s got you covered—learn more about our incentives today!

illustration of woman talking to therapist