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Too Fit to Quit: Wellness Incentive Programs That Strengthen Your Core

September 13, 2017

Learn how wellness incentive programs can benefit your bottom line and your employee relations

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Corporate wellness programs. Employee wellness. Health incentives. They're all lovely catchphrases, and they certainly have benefits. So much so that companies put wellness programs on a benefits pedestal to attract top talent.

But what is wellness? Incentive programs so often focus on the physical health of employees. They incentivize steps or weight loss or strength training as a competition. Individuals or teams compete to win prizes, a pizza party, or a company-sponsored dinner.

There's certainly nothing wrong with wellness incentive programs that promote physical health. But there's more to wellness than many companies may appreciate. Mental health, financial health, and sleep health are only a few other wellness options to bring health not just to employees, but to companies, as well.

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Why Wellness Incentive Programs Are Good for Business


Business is business. You may care about your employees, but you still need to pay bills. On the surface, it may seem that wellness programs are just an expense. After all, health club memberships, wearable fitness trackers, and time off are all expenses.

There is, however, an immense ROI. You just have to dig a bit deeper to find it. Katherine Baicker, professor of health economics at the School of Public Health at Harvard University; David Cutler, professor of economics at Harvard University; and Zirui Song, doctoral candidate at Harvard Medical School, published a meta-analysis of the ROI on wellness programs. They found that "medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent ... and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73."

In addition to direct savings, wellness incentive programs help retain talent. By some estimates, employee turnover can cost a company tens of thousands of dollars per employee. Between separation expenses, hiring costs, onboarding costs, lost productivity, and potential morale impacts, it's clear that keeping good employees can save money. A wellness program is one of many ways to retain those employees.

Don't think that matters to your team? A USA Today article points out that while 86% of Millennials are happy in their current jobs, "nearly half are actively looking for a new job, or at least open to new opportunities." That's a large segment of your workforce that could leave without the right incentives to stay.

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Wellness Incentive Programs You Haven't Thought About


For a company to stand out, to attract and retain top talent, and to create a work environment that entices people to perform their best, a basic wellness program just doesn't cut it. That's the base line expectation. You have to make your program better than the same wellness incentive programs at every other modern business.

How can you do that? Begin with a core program, and build it to include financial and emotional wellness. Why do employees want these programs? According to a survey by Pricewaterhouse Cooper, 48% of employees are "distracted by their finances at work," and 35% believe financial stress leads to health issues. 55% are having trouble paying back credit card debt. And 45% of Millennials and 42% of Gen Xers say student loans are negatively impacting their "ability to meet other financial goals."

Clearly, a financial wellness program isn't just a benefit for employees, but it could have positive effects on productivity and attendance. How do you choose a financial wellness program? Most programs include financial education, retirement planning, and even college savings strategies.

If your employee demographic skews toward the under-40 crowd, your program most likely needs some very specific, actionable debt-reduction strategies. One possibility would be to offer subscriptions to services like Learnvest, which is an online financial planning tool that also includes a customized financial plan and email support from a certified financial planner.

Emotional wellness is another component of a wellness program that incentivizes good employees to stay with your company. This one is a little tricky since emotional wellness and mental health mean different things to different people. Most people would probably agree, however, that stress reduction is good for everyone.

How can you incorporate that into your work culture? Fitness and healthy eating are two ways to reduce stress. Make sure your employees have the time to take a fitness break at work. Fill the break room with fruits, water, tea, and other healthy snacks and drinks.

Take the time to truly focus on the wellbeing of your employees. Are managers and coworkers treating each other respectfully? Are some teams loaded with work while others don't have enough to do? Is your office well-lit? Are there plants, windows, and fresh air? Do you have (and follow) a zero-tolerance policy for workplace bullying and sexual harassment?

These "little things" add up quickly. And they make a difference. In fact, according workplacebullying.org, 19% of adult Americans are victims of workplace bullying. Unfortunately, 71% of those adults "were never believed." There's certainly no incentive there for your best and brightest employees to stick around.


Of course, it goes without saying that the right employee benefits are at the base of a high-quality wellness program. Get in touch with Heitmann Insurance Services today to find out how we can help your business offer what your employees want.