Incentivizing Wellness: Creative Ways to Encourage Employee Participation in Corporate Wellness Programs

Employees in a meeting

To create a successful corporate environment, companies need to promote and support healthy habits among their employees. Healthy employees are more productive, have fewer absences, and are less prone to burnout. Corporate health programs are an effective way to improve employee well-being with a range of offerings, including exercise programs, mental health support, and nutritional support. 

However, even the best corporate health programs depend on employee buy-in to be successful. Incentives usually do the trick — employers who offer incentives report a higher participation rate. This blog post offers practical tips and examples for incentivizing employee participation in corporate health programs to maximize effectiveness.


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The Power of Incentives: Why Motivating Employees Matters in Corporate Health Programs

The success of a corporate wellness program depends on the type of incentives the organization offers to employees. Choosing the right incentives makes all the difference between motivation and apathy. 

Incentivizing employees to participate in wellness programs takes work. A survey by Gallup found that 87% of employees surveyed had access to well-being programs, yet only 23% used them. Participating in wellness programs has many benefits for organizations and employees, but employees may need more support to participate. Let’s review some of the reasons why. 

The Challenge: Why Don’t Employees Participate in Their Organization’s Wellness Program?

While each employee has their reasons for declining to participate in a health and wellness program, the three most commonly reported are: 

  • They feel they lack the time: 41% of employees work over 45 hours a week. Employees may feel they don’t have enough time to commit to a program.
  • The program is too complicated: Even the best wellness program can fail if people find it too complicated. Programs, especially digital ones, must be easy to use, with a short learning curve and not too intrusive with reminders and notifications.
  • The program is not interesting enough: When designing a wellness program, make sure it aligns with employees’ interests. Choosing a tailored program can solve this issue. 

How Can Companies Encourage Their Employees to Participate?

Incentives seem to be more effective than penalties. In one case, a field study showed the link between three different types of incentives and wellness program participation, in which employees who completed program challenges to earn gift card rewards had the greatest success.


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While it’s true that large companies are more likely to provide incentives, there are many things smaller organizations can do to experience the advantages of incentives: 

  • Employees feel rewarded for their commitment to well-being: Incentives enhance employees’ sense of being valued and appreciated. According to a study by the Society for Human Resources Management, 70% of employees participating in wellness programs reported feeling more appreciated by their employers. 
  • Program participation rates increase: Offering rewards can be a source of motivation that increases participation rates in wellness programs. Tangible rewards can motivate employees to participate in fitness challenges, health screenings, or stress management programs. 
  • More talent is attracted to the organization, improving recruitment and acquisition: According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), for 57% of workers, it’s very important to work for an organization that cares for their emotional and psychological well-being. 

Designing an Effective Incentive Program: 5 Strategies for Encouraging Employee Engagement and Sustained Behavior Change

When it comes to choosing incentives for a wellness program, there is no cookie-cutter solution. A mix of financial and non-financial incentives, along with personalized rewards, could be the perfect recipe for your organization. Build a successful program using these tips.

1. Offer Incentives Without Focusing Only on the Money

While financial rewards are the most popular, an effective incentive program should incorporate a variety of rewards that cater to different employee preferences. Non-monetary incentives such as recognition, professional development opportunities, extra time off, or flexible working arrangements can often be more meaningful and motivating for some employees. 

These incentives can also have other benefits. For example, skill enhancement workshops can further employee development, while public recognition of achievements also boosts morale and employee engagement.

2. Prioritize Wellness as Part of the Corporate Culture

Organizations that integrate wellness into the corporate culture demonstrate a genuine commitment to employee well-being. Promoting wellness as part of the way the organization does things — and offering the resources to achieve it — fosters the feeling that the company cares about its employees. In turn, this perception develops into increased loyalty and engagement.

How a company can incorporate wellness principles: 

  • Offer nutritional and mental health counseling as part of the benefits package
  • Provide fitness classes at the office or online for remote workers
  • Implement flexible work arrangements to foster work-life balance 

3. Make It Inclusive and Fun

The wellness program and its incentives should be accessible to all employees, regardless of their physical capability, age, gender, or where they work. Inclusivity ensures that everyone feels valued and can participate and reap the benefits, including the rewards.

When creating team-building activities or wellness challenges, be sure to offer formats and activities in which everyone can participate. Fun elements, such as themed events or friendly competitions, can boost morale and create a positive work environment where employees look forward to participating in the incentive program.

4. Personalize the Incentives

Offer rewards and incentives that are relevant to different employees. HR teams can conduct surveys to gather insights on what motivates different employees. Customizable reward options allow employees to choose incentives that are most meaningful to them, which may be a choice of gifts, experiences, or financial rewards.

5. Gamify the Program

Gamification elements are the key to making participation more enjoyable. Everybody likes to win. If, for example, the company sets up a points system for specific goals or behaviors that can in turn be redeemed for rewards, this makes the program more interesting. Gamification allows for regular feedback and progress tracking, which can motivate employees to improve and stay engaged with the program over the long term.

The Bottom Line: Leveraging Technology to Create a Tailored Wellness Program

Technology is essential in crafting corporate wellness programs that effectively engage employees. Innovative platforms facilitate seamless tracking of health metrics, goal setting, and personalized recommendations. 

Leveraging the CoreHealth platform means offering employees a simple-to-use, all-in-one, multilingual wellness management platform designed to meet each employee’s wellness needs. The platform integrates with mobile devices and can be customized for each organization. CoreHealth delivers a suite of science-based, culturally neutral assessments to evaluate each employee’s physical, mental, and social well-being. 

Want to learn more about how to create the perfect wellness program? Contact us for details.

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