Incentive Industry Spotlight: Wellness Incentive Programs

Wellness Programs are starting to gain more attention in the workplace as empirical evidence outlining their value becomes available. Companies worldwide are searching for ways to reduce the effects and associated costs that the current epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases are having on the workplace. A Forbes article states that “poor health costs the U.S. economy more than a half a trillion dollars a year” in absenteeism due to illness and the cost of payments for disability and workers’ compensation.

One way to combat these startling figures is to introduce a Wellness Program into the workplace. These programs are designed to reduce medical and insurance costs by encouraging employees to take precautionary actions to reduce risk factors associated with certain chronic diseases and unhealthy behaviors.

An article released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “employers benefit from workplace health programs through increased employee attendance, enhanced productivity and lower insurance costs”.

A Wellness Program should be viewed as a form of preventative maintenance. These programs, when designed with the employers’ population data in mind, can help save employers money on direct medical costs, workers’ compensation and disability costs as well as reducing replacement and recruitment costs associated with absenteeism due to injury or illness.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 2013 RAND Health Employer Survey gave the following list as common Wellness Program elements:

  • Screening activities such as blood pressure measurement
  • Preventative interventions such as lifestyle and disease management
  • Healthy Living promotions such as gym membership and healthy food options
  • Structural  and contextual changes to the workplace including perks for taking the stairs and changes to corporate policies and culture

A critical piece of a successful Wellness Programs is a high participation rate. RAND Health found that participation in voluntary screening and management initiatives may remain low for companies who have implemented these programs on their own.

Companies find that employees are either reluctant to participate or participation rates drop off after the initial implementation of these programs.

One way to solve both of these problems is to introduce a Wellness Incentive Platform to support the pieces of your Wellness Program. These incentive programs encourage and reward employees who take part in the initiatives and show that the company values healthy and happy employees.

Incentives should be tailored to the specific workplace so that the wellness incentive program is sustainable and has lasting effects. For the following companies, small investments into incentives for individuals harnessed striking results:

  • National Business Coalition on Health found that Caterpillar Inc. was able to garner a 90% participation rate by offering a reduction in health premiums of $75 a month for employees who completed a health-risk assessment.
  • Houston City set a $25 monthly payroll surcharge for employees who did not complete three health related tasks per month. They found that introducing this penalty resulted in 90% of employees completing three or more of these tasks.
  • Florida Blue was able to achieve an 18% increase in employees with two health-risk factors or less by offer rewards for $10 up to $500 for completing different health related activities.

Experts find that just a $100 investment in incentives per employee per month can increase the participation rate to 75% or higher.


By JNR Incorporated

Written by Stephanie Thomas


JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Photo: “Health Screening and Disparities Press Conference” by Maryland GovPics  is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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