Popularity of workplace wellness programs is on the rise. Companies are encouraging healthy behaviors both in and out of the office to protect employees and customers from illness, and also as a way to reduce health care cost over time.
Your wellness program is important, so designing it takes careful consideration. Here are two important questions every manager needs to ask themselves when they're designing their wellness program.
Do You Have Mandatory or Voluntary Participation?
Reducing healthcare costs and employee sick leave is something we all want–but making sure your employees know whether they have a choice in participating is important for following local, state, and federal employment laws as well as maintaining a good relationship with your employees.
If your program is mandatory, laws in certain states require employers to pay for cost of services for participating. For example, if you require all employees to get a flu shot every year, you may have to pay travel cost to the physician or pharmacy, and then the cost of the shot itself. These programs require close attention to applicable hourly wage and anti-discrimination laws. Failure to adhere to employment laws like this can leave you in years of litigation.
Make sure your employees know what kind of participation is expected out of them. Just because you know your program is voluntary doesn’t mean it's clear to your employees. The last thing you want is to design a program that's coercive–forcing people to make the choice you want–because it communicates a lack of trust and care for workplace wellness. The easiest way to prevent coercive culture is by examining the kinds of engagement you use.
Are you penalizing behavior or incentivizing?
Penalizing employee behavior sends the message of coercion, even if your program is entirely voluntary. When someone has the choice either to follow your rules or be punished for doing the wrong behavior, they can feel dissatisfied and like they didn’t make a choice at all. A common penalty is paying a fee for not participating in a program or for having an unhealthy behavior, such as smoking. Penalizing behaviors may do the opposite of what you want your wellness program to do by decreasing morale and participation.
On the other hand, incentives encourage and reward employees for behavior you want to promote. They also frame change as a healthy and fun accomplishment and allow participation to to be a choice. There’s a variety of incentives you can use, so finding what works best for your program and which ones motivate your employees effectively is easier now than ever. For example, incentives can be non-cash, such as gift cards or planning memorable experiences for employees. In fact, use of non-cash incentives in wellness programs has grown dramatically in recent years, with 84% of all U.S. businesses in 2016 using some kind of non-cash rewards in the workplace.
How you design your wellness program will determine how happy, healthy, and engaged your employees are. Take the time to understand how your employees see the program, what your goals are and how you plan to reach those goals, and you’ll gain insight on your program’s performance.
Are you thinking about using incentives in your wellness program? Find out how we can help.