Stop Forcing Employees to Participate in Your Wellness Program

Posted by Jamie Bell on Fri, Oct, 10, 2014

As a corporate wellness program provider, it probably seems slightly counterintuitive for us to suggest that you stop forcing employees to participate in your wellness program. In fact, the idea of "disincentivizing" employees is actually growing in popularity; an Aon Hewitt survey demonstrated that 53% of employers plan to begin implementing disincentives in the next 3-5 years. 5537457133_dd19bca843_o

A disincentive is a negative or undesirable consequence designed to influence the performance of an individual or group. In the case of worksite wellness programs, this is typically a financial penalty (like a higher insurance premium) for not participating in a biometric screening, health risk assessment or other wellness initiative. This type of policy is currently controversial, and has resulted in lawsuits in some cases. One suit, alleges that Flambeau Inc., canceled the insurance coverage of an employee and shifted the full cost of his premium to him after he failed to complete biometric testing and a questionnaire about health risks.

Many corporate wellness professionals use the analogy of a "carrot on a stick" when talking about incentives; once you take the carrot (discount) away, the behavior goes away with it.  

Why implement them, then? Many employers are so caught up in the numbers that they feel the need to force employees to participate. At first, incentives and disincentives do boost engagement numbers; however, it's a short-term solution to a much larger lifestyle problem. We believe that the real power lies in intrinsic motivation. It's a much longer road, but the impact you can have is so much more rewarding. 

If you aren't using incentives/disincentives, it can seem a lot more difficult to get employees to engage in your wellness program. The trick lies in making changes to your company culture. Create an environment and build a team that is investing in supporting wellness. Implement challenges that spur on your employees' intrinsic competitive spirit. Focus on positivity and celebrate healthy habits. Enact policies and build opportunities that strengthen your efforts. It may take more time, but we're sure that in the end your results will be much more impressive than any disincentive you could come up with. 

Do you use incentives/disincentives right now? Tell us about your experience below. 

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Topics: Wellness at Work


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