Trend Alert: Workplace Wellness Incentives that Actually Work

How to make employees care about being healthyPromoting wellness at work is a wonderful idea, but it takes more than a few “Don’t forget your veggies!” posters in the cafeteria to be effective. That’s why, instead of simply encouraging employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator, nearly 90 percent of companies are using real money to incentivize workers to get in better shape.

Research shows a well-designed onsite wellness program, like a personalized weight-loss program for employees or a rewards program based on progress, is very effective in keeping employees engaged and interested in improving their health. The trick is finding one that works best for your culture and employees. We’ve compiled a few of the most common types of corporate wellness programs to help you with that decision.

Participation-based incentives: In order to earn rewards, employees complete a health assessment and are then required to complete certain actions to improve their health, like joining WeightWatchers or getting a cancer screening.

  • Why it works: It’s a motivator. Employees take ownership in knowing they are making the right health decisions and love that they get rewarded for it.
  • Typical Value: Most rewards hover around $200 to $350.

Outcomes-based incentives: According to a survey by Fidelity and the National Business Group on Health, 41 percent of employers use outcome-based incentive programs where they tie rewards with health metrics. In other words, if an employee hits certain goals like reaching a healthy weight or quitting smoking, they get a discount on their health insurance.

  • Why it works: This type of program is effective in making employees objectively improve their health. In fact, a recent study by Mayo Clinic found participants lost nine pounds on average when they received a $20 monthly reward for meeting goals.
  • Typical Value: Employees receive between $100 annually for reaching a healthy weight to $200 for quitting smoking.

Progress-based incentives: Employers reward employees based on steps taken to hit a certain health milestone. The milestones are usually tied to a statistic, like cholesterol, blood pressure or weight.

  • Why it works: The financial benefit drives employees to take necessary steps for better statistics.
  • Typical Value: Employers offer roughly $100 for reaching a health milestone.

Incentives can be a great addition to an overall employee health strategy, but many experts agree it shouldn’t make up the entire program. Building awareness with educational speakers, providing office-wide health opportunities (i.e. a local 5k to register for) and adding healthy snacks in the office are additional examples of ways to motivate employees to live healthier. You can also implement insurance plans driven by incentives, such as Healthy Blue AchieveSM or Healthy Blue LivingSM.

If you’re interested in learning how to implement a workplace wellness program at your mid-to-small-sized business, visit



Photo credit: Sarah Gilbert

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