Why Incentives are Better than Scare Tactics in Employee Well-Being Programs

recognitionThere’s a lot of buzz about the carrot versus the stick approach when it comes to how to use incentives with employee well-being programs (i.e. rewarding employees for participation versus penalizing those who don’t). While it’s true that both approaches (and even a blend of the two) could very well have a place in your incentives strategy, you first and foremost need to consider what’ll work best in your workplace. What are you trying to accomplish? What’s your culture like and does your selected incentives approach align with it?

These are all critical questions to think through, and the answers will be different from organization to organization. Before you select your approach, be sure to bear in mind how your employees will perceive it. For example, an employer could implement a well-meant program tactic, but not communicate its benefits understandably. As a result, employees could misunderstand the intention and effort, and potentially view the efforts as scare tactics vs. incentives. While some companies choose to charge less-healthy employees more for health insurance in an attempt to motivate them to improve their health, when not well communicated, employees could view this effort as the organization is being too nosy, or worse, discriminatory. If your employees perceive your efforts as punishment for not participating in your well-being program, that could potentially negatively impact your organization’s relationship with them and your well-intended well-being program won’t yield the results you’re ultimately looking to drive. And beyond that, there are things like employee satisfaction, productivity, and loyalty at stake. Consider how all those things might be impacted in your organization if your employees felt you didn’t care about them?

One thing to keep in mind when deciding how to position incentives in your well-being program: employee well-being should be a priority first and foremost because it’s good for your workforce, and what’s good for your workforce will be good for your business. Taking care of your employees and showing them their well-being matters to your organization makes them healthier, happier, and less stressed—all of the things that allow them to put their best foot forward on the job and be more productive at work.

wowOne of the best ways to drive participation in your employee well-being program is by taking a culture-first mentality, and rewarding meaningful healthy behavior change with incentives. Here are a few tips on how to use incentives to get your employees excited about participating in your well-being program and making those healthy behavior changes you’d like to see:

  • Make them meaningful: If you want to drive real, long-lasting behavior change, use incentives that have real value to your employees. Offering extra time off, technology upgrades, cash rewards or even a nice meal out really sweetens the deal and helps drive employees’ engagement in your program.
  • Show the love: Incentives don’t all need to be monetary. Old-fashioned encouragement and shout outs give employees a great boost, too. Boosting a person’s morale can be as easy as recognizing a wellness achievement in a team email, at a meeting, on posters changed monthly on the company’s busiest floor, or on a VIP board in the kitchen for employees who are hitting their healthy goals.
  • Remember the tortoise and the hare: You don’t want to blow your incentives budget on just getting people enrolled in your program only to have them drop off. Offering steady incentives throughout your program is key to keeping participation up. By rewarding employees for all their steps and progress along the way helps keep the momentum going.

When you create a workplace where employees feel they’re cared about, valued and rewarded for their efforts, you’re more likely to create a workforce full of energetic, focused and driven employees who are more productive and thriving both at work and in life.

Want to know more about how incentives can help employees get and stay engaged in your well-being program? Check out this paper “Changing Behavior for Good: Wellness Incentives’ Role in Driving Change.”

Re-set the Clock: Help Employees Get Back in the Sleep Game

DaylightIt’s that glorious time of year when the clocks wind back, and we all can revel in an extra hour to kick back, relax, and pretend like we’re sleeping in. Let’s take it a step further and look at all the ways to make “falling back” feel like a great leap forward for your employees at work too.

Traditionally, one recommendation during daylight savings time is to check smoke alarm batteries. Clearly, this is critical, but we’ll add another to the list: checking your employees’ batteries. Daylight savings time is a great time to re-invigorate employees by helping them improve their sleep patterns and quality. Labeled an “epidemic” by the CDC, sleeplessness is linked with poorer cognitive function and can have the same effect on employees as showing up to the job intoxicated!

What contributes to poor sleep? Worry and stress, mental activity, and physical discomfort all drive poor sleep quality, according to a study from the Virgin Pulse Institute that looked across the reported sleep patterns of 1,139 employees from three U.S. companies. However, employees who get enough sleep can have a very positive impact on ROI. In fact, these companies can earn upwards of $2,000 in gained productivity per employee, each year! (Talk about getting paid to sleep!)

Help encourage your employees to get the sleep they need to be their best, most productive selves by educating them on all the benefits of getting seven to eight hours a night. Getting enough sleep allows employees to wake up refreshed with enough mental energy to tackle the work day and also drives improved focus. Bring your efforts a step beyond education by offering robust well-being programs that support all aspects of employees’ health – including their sleep.

Sleep support is especially important for workers at risk for sleep deprivation – shift workers, frequent overtime workers, and others – who have a set schedule with long hours and limited flexibility. By initiating small but meaningful cultural changes, you’ll improve everything from employees’ productivity and satisfaction, to your workplace safety records, and more.

To learn about encouraging your employees to get their zzz’s and be their best selves both on the job and at home, read the full whitepaper, “More Sleep = Better Performance: The Hidden Advantages of a Well-rested Workforce.”

What’s Workforce Composition Got to Do With Employee Well-being {+Podcast}

shutterstock_53563891It’s true. Traditional wellness programs, like health risk assessments and biometrics, are a way to start investing in your employees. But on their own, you’ll be hard-pressed to see significant results that improve your employees’ well-being or boost their engagement.

Why? Well, ultimately, traditional programs take too narrow of an approach. Too often, they focus solely on sick employees vs. engaging all employees, no matter where they are on their journey to good health. They often focus on up-front rewards, like $100 for completing an assessment, instead of incentivizing employees’ health behaviors over time. And they do little to drive true engagement or sustained healthy behavior change. They simply aren’t set up from the start to drive long-term success.

The good news? Employee health and well-being programs today are more robust than traditional wellness programs have ever been. These new types of programs have emerged to help engage more employees and better meet their wellbeing needs. This new approach encompasses a holistic definition of health, focusing on increasing employees’ engagement, boosting their productivity, and retaining them long-term. Best of all, it offers something for all your employees, and it can meet your people wherever they are in their journey to great health. And increasingly, with the success of these types of programs, leading employers are taking a more holistic approach.

One thing that’s a huge factor when it comes to creating a successful employee well-being strategy: your workforce composition. Each workforce is made up of a unique population, so well-being programs have to be able to engage a broad range of people—from disparate or dispersed workforces, in different regions, to those with various work schedules and job demands. Focus groups at RAND even revealed how challenging it can be for many employees to access wellness activities because of particulars like set work schedules. These types of accessibility challenges vary between job descriptions and tell us that what works for one workforce may not work for another.

In a recent podcast, industry experts Fran Melmed, founder of context communication and Jennifer Turgiss, DrPH, MS, vice president, Health Solutions for Virgin Pulse and Director of the Virgin Pulse Institute, dive into the challenges of connecting a dispersed, diverse employee population. They were joined by Susan Piglia, AVP Corporate Wellness for Ochsner Health System, who shared how her organization engages its large, dispersed workforce in its employee well-being program.

“We [Ochsner Health System] don’t just want to promote these healthy habits, we want to live them,” said Piglia.

Listen to the podcast, “Workforce Composition: Why it Matters in Well-being Programs,” to learn best practices for engaging your entire workforce, organically evolving and improving your approach over time, and increasing access to your programs to create engaged, energetic and productive employees.

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Virgin Pulse clients and members discuss how we change lives for good!

Virgin Pulse clients and members discuss how we change lives for good!