9 Affordable Incentives for Your Employee Wellness Program

Posted by Becky Squiers on Thu, Jan, 15, 2015


In recent years, there has been a huge movement towards providing incentives for employee wellness programs. It’s estimated today that on average, employers provide perks worth $521 per employee that participates in their wellness program. While it’s also estimated that for each dollar, the companies are seeing a significant ROI, the fact remains that some companies simply can't afford to spend that much building a wellness incentive program.

Here at TotalWellness, we believe that incentivizing your program really can improve your engagement. Here are nine ideas for employee incentives that don’t have to break your bank!

  1. Build partnerships. Many perk-providers can be found right in your local environment. Reach out to businesses near you and try to develop partnerships to offer your wellness participants discounted gym memberships, tickets to movies and shows, or even healthy meals and snacks.
  2. Recognize success. This is an incredibly simple way to promote the importance of your wellness program. When your employees reach certain milestones, make progress, or sign up to participate, you can recognize them in company newsletters, on bulletin boards, or on social media.

  3. Offer merchandise. Every company has some sort of branded “swag” to use as promotional material. Set some of this merchandise aside as prizes for employee participation. If you don’t have any company merchandise to spare, consider ordering t-shirts, water bottles or coffee mugs specifically for your employee wellness program. You’d be surprised how affordable these things can be when you order in bulk.

  4. Increase vacation days. This incentive can be very effective because…vacation. Who doesn’t love to take an extra day off? While it might seem a bit counter-intuitive to cut your employees loose for an extra day every year, it’s actually been shown that taking a break from the workplace can improve productivity and reduce burnout. That means that this incentive isn’t only going to motivate your participants, it’s going to provide you with more productive employees as well!

  5. Celebrate! Wellness program celebrations can come in many shapes and sizes. You could bring in healthy snacks or have a lunchtime potluck. You could hire a Zumba instructor for the afternoon. You could screen a movie at work. Or, you could simply let everyone get together to mingle and relax for a while. These celebrations can be offered as incentives for reaching group goals, or could be offered exclusively to individuals who have reached their own personal goals.

  6. Draw for prizes. While this incentive probably requires spending a little money, buying one prize is much more affordable than buying prizes for every participant. If you want to increase engagement, consider splurging a little on something people will really want a chance to win.

  7. Exercise at work. This is another incentive that doubles as part of the wellness program process. If the budget allows, you can put together a workout space at the office that only wellness participants can use. A more affordable option could be to organize group walks, runs or yoga sessions that are available to participants.

  8. Reserve parking spaces. It’s no secret that in a busy office, the parking lot is a war zone. It will cost you next-to-nothing to reserve a few spots for employees that have made significant progress towards their wellness goals.

  9. Offer flextime. If the nature of your field allows, consider incentivizing with a flextime schedule. It might seem scary to let your employees set their own schedules, but it allows them the freedom to work during their own peak hours. If you’d like, you can set a block of time that is required to help them ease into the flexibility. For example, require employees to work from 9-3. If they’d like to come in early and leave right at 3, that’s fine. If they’d like to sleep in a bit, but stay in the office later in the evening, that’s okay too.

Incentives can be an excellent motivation booster for your employees! Building an incentive wellness program, however, can be overwhelming. As with all aspects of your wellness program, keep the needs of your employees in mind. There are three primary types of incentives. You be the judge of what works best for your program!

Participation-based incentives offer rewards for anyone who signs up to participate in your wellness program. This is obviously the most inclusive, and will encourage overall participation.

Progress-based incentives offer rewards to participants who make strides towards their wellness goals. This type of program is still fairly inclusive, but ensures active participation in your wellness program. It’s a great way to really focus on improving the health of each individual employee.

Outcome-based incentives offer rewards for employees who meet certain criteria. For example, you could offer incentives for people who reach a healthy BMI or Cholesterol level. This system is the least inclusive, and might exclude people who are making strides, but haven’t reached the goal level.  These incentives still provide value, though, because you’re ensuring that your employees know where they need to be to really maximize their health.

No matter what kind of incentives you choose, they can help provide excellent motivation to increase engagement in your employee wellness program. These nine affordable ideas can help you to offer incentives to your employees while staying well within your budget! If you're looking for some additonal ways to enage your employees - check out 59 Ways to Boost Employee Enagement from SnackNation and Do You Understand Employee Engagement? You Need To from Cornerstone University. 

What incentives do you offer to boost wellness program engagement?

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Topics: Wellness at Work


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