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The Key to Employee Wellness: How to Form Lasting Habits

Posted, by Rachel (Merkin) Welt on 06/13/2019

We can all agree that when it comes to employee wellness, we all want long-term results, not just quick-fixes. Sometimes, though, we can get trapped in the "now" mindset where we focus on getting ourselves and our employees physically, mentally and financially fit ASAP. The problem: ultimately, old habits die hard and employees may end up right back where they started, which means little to no ROI on the program for you.

So how can you set yourself up to have effective, longterm employee wellness?

The key is to focus a program on turning one-off actions into regular habits. According to Psychology Today, it takes 66 days to form a habit. Whether that habit is hitting a daily ten thousand steps, running a mile, or eating more fruits and vegetables, it takes more than two months to stick.

To support your employees forming new habits, it’s critical to understand their motivation for participating in the first place, and then finding ways to motivate them along the way. If you want long-term success and ROI in healthcare costs and employee productivity, here are a few tips for creating a program that focuses on forming healthier habits:

  • Do your research. Make sure you know what your employee’s goals are for their participation in the program. Is it movement? Is it weight loss? Is it lowering biometrics like cholesterol or blood sugar? Every organization finds different results so it’s imperative to find out what the participation motivation is for your company and their demographics.
  • Test frequently. If your program structure or incentives aren’t motivating employees, the wellness program is guaranteed to be ineffective. Test different formats, offer different program activations on different days of the week or times of day, and gather data on what’s working. Employees have to be engaged for habits to form.
  • Embrace feedback. Make sure your employee population likes the program. While it may be tough to get in shape, or learn to eat healthy, employees should be able to see the value to their overall wellbeing. Getting feedback ensures your program is on the right track, and if it’s not, you can change it in process rather than waiting weeks or months and having to overhaul the program.
  • Use incentives strategically. As GiftCard Partners CEO, Deb Merkin recently said in Sales and Marketing Magazine, “non-cash rewards used in wellness programs are more memorable than cash.” Make your incentives count by ensuring that they have some trophy value to employees. The longevity and memory of the reward helps drive motivation to the next program milestone, and the more milestones, the more success your program recognizes.

As you build your employee incentive program, build out the tactics, but ensure they support the bigger picture. Remember: habits that will last will take at least 2 months to learn and stick to. In the end though, long-term ROI is more valuable than fleeting participation.


Want to learn more about gift card incentives? Take a closer look at what they can offer your program.


Topics: Employee Incentives & Rewards, Wellness Incentives

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