There's been significant discussion about incentives and rewards in the corporate world, to inspire wellness (and especially weight loss) in the work place. Employers want workers to quit smoking, lose weight, have better diabetes control, and exercise more. Instead of simply offering opportunities of access like gym memberships, health coaches, on site exercise classes and payments as better health or weight loss is being attained, employers now want to pay "once you've achieved significant milestones or goals." It's being called paying for demonstrated action that shows results. Employers certainly acknowledge that unhealthy lifestyle is the biggest barrier to providing affordable healthcare. Certainly one study out of Duke University found that lost worker productivity associated with obesity costs employers in the US close to 73.1 billion dollars annually. And there's no sign that the figure will change dramatically in coming years.
Currently statistics seem to show that if a wellness program is launched, only about 10-15% of the workforce take advantage in a meaningful way. Still the current push is to offer small companies grants if they begin wellness programs for workers, that target smoking cessation, nutritional counseling, physical fitness opportunities and stress reduction or management. The move is also changing to offering incentives if you join and complete a program, rather than just filling out a questionnaire and merely implying that you will embrace recommendations. There is concern that if the only rewards given are for concrete weight loss or evidence of meeting a significant health goal, workers will be turned off by the pressure - which would defeat the intention and concept of wellness, which often requires baby steps to significant achievements. And some health experts feel that you do need to take lifestyle change slow, reward and reinforce along the way and take quite a bit of time to appreciate major milestones. Certainly shifting rewards to outcomes from participation will change the process and possibly the enthusiasm of participants. If you only get the reward for kicking smoking completely and sustaining it for a period of time, workers may opt out entirely. The goal may seem too difficult even with support (and rewards at end point) being offered. The same defeatist attitude may surround weight loss if you're only rewarded for weight loss that shows significant blood profile changes that indicate improved health.
Most experts and corporate leaders feel the incentive programs for better health are an evolving process. There may not be a "one size fits all" approach to inspiring better health among workers.
Published On: December 29, 2010