The Use of Health and Wellness Rewards Increases

New research from Mercer LLC shows a 3% increase in use of carrot style rewards in the context of health and wellness programs. These health and wellness rewards are largely tied to employees’ achieving a certain change or reaching a certain biometric range for preventable conditions like obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc. According to the research, 23% of large employers are using positive reinforcements as health and wellness rewards.

A Towers Watson study from September also indicates an increase in outcome-based health and wellness rewards, with 18% using them currently and 10% planning to add programs in 2015. While some health and wellness industry professionals believe the days of spot rewards are over, in favor of an organizational shift towards discounting insurance costs, this shift is only being observed by larger firms. While smaller businesses cannot absorb the financial impact of larger policy discounts, spot rewards offer an alternative with the potential to scale up or add larger rewards at a later date.

The increased use of health and wellness rewards at a variety of levels, from small spot rewards like gift cards to large discounts on health insurance, signals a larger trend. Health and wellness programs and health and wellness rewards are becoming a mainstream, integral part of the way benefits and healthcare are delivered from employers to employees. Health and wellness rewards has become a mechanism for employers to make healthcare more affordable for employees, while also ensuring their workforce is healthy and productive, and healthcare is also affordable at the organizational level.

For more information on health and wellness rewards and how they are being used, head over to BusinessInsurance.com.  

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Employee Health Keeps Costs Low

Employee Health & WellnessIt’s the time of year for diets, gym membership renewals and for some, delusions of grandeur about a healthier year. The key is to turn that burst of enthusiasm into long-term healthy habits that help employees fall into routines that are here to stay for the long haul.

Healthy employees miss less work, and are more productive, focused and hungrier to move up and improve. So how can we bring good habits to employees that foster healthier, and ultimately stronger, contributors? The answer is simple. Bring the health and wellness initiative into the workplace.

From zumba classes at lunch and yoga happy hours, to health-conscious gift card reward options like CVS/pharmacy and Whole Foods Market for reaching weight loss goals or maintaining those habits, employee health and wellness is a win-win for the entire company.

While employees get healthier, healthcare costs get reduced for both employees and employers. One example of this is at USI insurance. If employees and spouses agreed to annual biometrics screenings, healthcare costs could drop as much as 30%. While some employees can find these screenings invasive, 89% of USI employees enrolled in the program, finding the discount to be worth the tradeoff of the screenings. The impact that the discount has on employees and their family budgets is significant, and they can attribute that financial relief to their employer.

If that’s not enough motivation to keep those new year’s resolutions, then I don’t know what is. For more information on the impact employee health has on your business and it’s staff, check out this article in the Orange County Register.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

5 Tips for Reducing Absenteeism in the Workplace

IllnessAbsenteeism in the workplace due to poor health costs U.S. businesses an estimated $84 billion a year in lost productivity. While this number is down from just a few years ago, employers can continue to improve absenteeism in the workplace by promoting wellbeing.  Promoting wellbeing benefits both the employer and employee.  A healthy employee is likely to take fewer sick days and be more productive when they know that their wellbeing is important to their employer.

While some ideas for wellbeing can take some time to implement, here are five simple, inexpensive ways of improving employee wellbeing that you can start as soon as today:

  1. Help employees understand that which they do not.  Better-informed employees are happy employees.  Hold drop-in sessions for employees to ask questions about things such as their pension, how to read their pay stub, and what different employee benefits they are entitled to and might not be taking advantage of.
  2. Encourage employees to stand up more.  Standing up in the workplace for at least three hours a day has the same benefits as competing in 10 marathons each year!  One way to implement this could be installing chest-level tables in an area of the office for working and meetings.
  3. Get the maximum value for your offerings.  Many employee wellbeing products, such as Sick Pay Insurance, give customers access to additional services at no extra cost.  For example, employees can seek dedicated professionals who are trained to provide guidance on issues like absence management.  Also Employee Assistance Programs and free legal advice are available.  Make sure your employees are aware of these benefits so they can make the most of the free services offered to them.
  4. Promote a healthy workplace.  Wellbeing doesn’t have to cost a lot.  Cheap ideas can be as simple as providing free fruit in the workplace and a blender in the kitchen so your employees can make smoothies for breakfast or lunch.  If the cost of an on-site gym is too expensive, set up lunchtime or after work running or walking clubs.  Even something as simple as encouraging employees to take their lunch break together can have a positive impact on motivation and productivity.
  5. Utilize outside spaces.  If your workplace has an outside area, introduce and promote it!  Employees can benefit from the fresh air.  You could even start a company garden and encourage employees to take fresh produce home with them.

While having wellness initiatives in place can increase well-being, there are no firm guarantees if your staff remains unmotivated.  Along with implementing workplace wellness, here are some tips to keep your employees motivated in workplace wellness programs.

Jennifer DiPietro has been managing B2B gift card programs since 2010. A lover of social media, she has recently decided to get back into blogging as well as delve deeper into the world of marketing. Native to New England, she enjoys the beauty of the coast, but also loves the cold, snowy winters. She is obsessed with Boston sports and the Denver Broncos.

Health and Wellness with Balance and Positivity

photo_2468_20070711Health and wellness programs have an important place in both current HR practices and in the near future for 2015. In a recent survey by the NBGH and Fidelity Investments, 93% of  employers indicated an increase or maintained funding for wellness-based incentive programs. So it seems health and wellness programs are here to stay, despite some backlash from both employees and industry pundits. There are a few keys to a successful long-term health and wellness strategy, here are a couple of points we think are important to note.

  1. Balance: Employers need to balance the priorities of their health and wellness programs with their employees’ privacy. Requiring invasive testing or asking an enormous amount of personal questions to require entry into a health and wellness program is probably the wrong way to go. Find simple baseline metrics and provide suggestions for additional metrics that employees can track privately if they want to. Keeping the program light and upbeat will lower the barrier to entry and increase participation.
  2. Positivity: In the carrot vs. stick metaphor, always stick with the carrots. Incentives work better as motivators than disincentives. Charging $100 extra on health insurance premiums alienates employees, while offering gift cards to healthy retailers makes employees feel included and encouraged to keep up a healthy lifestyle.

For more information on how to keep your health and wellness program successful and long-running check out articles from NPR and Employee Benefits News.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Loyalty Rewards Trend Toward Health and Wellness

healthy_holiday_gift_ideasThis year Maritz Motivation is having their own “12 days of Christmas,” revealing the 12 most redeemed items from their loyalty catalog and trends in electronics buying. 42% of the recent survey respondents indicated that they will redeem loyalty points to fund holiday shopping. What these consumers are buying could indicate large buying trends for the holidays. The first 3 items have been revealed, but one of the overarching themes to seasonal electronics buying could play directly into the health and wellness programs geared toward the early part of next year.

Here are 3 seasonal trends:

  1. Wearable Technology: It seems futuristic in theory, but smart watches, fitness and activity trackers and clothing with wearable technology built in have become increasingly mainstream. This can be looked at as a great way to start 2014, geared up for fitness. It can also streamline employee health and wellness initiatives early in the year and keep people moving. Once they gauge their (in)activity the wearable tech can help them track their progress all year long.
  2. 3D Printers: It’s the new trend. Now still considered a novelty item, these printers have the potential to become more mainstream as they become more affordable and people will invest in them to keep up with the times and bring DIY to a whole new level.
  3. Smart Homes: As we become more connected on all of our mobile devices, people want to stay connected to their houses, no matter the distance. Domestic upgrades now include connecting homes to mobile devices and digitizing functions like the temperature, the lighting and security systems.

For more information on the recent survey or the 12 most redeemed items and the trends they are setting head over to Maritz Motivation Solutions.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Use Rewards In Employee Wellness Programs

Employee Wellness Program

There are a few key factors to a successful employee wellness program. The folks at the Lane Report have boiled it down to three. Are you driving your program with these components? If not, it may be time to adjust.

  1. Manage by Reward, Not Punishment: In the age old discussion of the carrot and the stick, this group votes (as many do) to manage through carrots. Promoting a program through rewards will make the program positive and seem more voluntary, while maintaining comparable engagement rates.
  2. Be an Effective Motivator: Your employee wellness program should motivate employees through clear goals and communication, and the best motivator, peer leadership. If you identify a few employees who are willing to be “ambassadors” for the program from management to employees they will create a peer-to-peer environment that can be the ultimate motivator.
  3. Keep Technology Simple: However you choose to track your program, whatever software you give your employees access to, keep it simple. There are a number of platforms and programs to use and we aren’t in the business of endorsing any of them. Whatever you do, keep it simple so your staff doesn’t get lost in the technology. Don’t limit the reach of your employee wellness program by overcomplicating it.
Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

5 Steps to a Successful Employee Wellness Program

An employee wellness program is a great way to boost employee health and increase the organization’s bottom line. Here are five key steps to make sure your employee wellness program is as successful as it can be through the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015.

  1. Develop a Plan: Write a strategic plan with specific tactics and goals. This will help your employees understand the program and it will keep your whole team on track to achieve specific goals.
  2. Get Executive Buy-In: Getting executives on board and participating in your program will create a culture of leadership by example. If executives and managers get involved, their teams will be more motivated to do the same.
  3.  Establish Wellness Champions: Think of wellness champions like team captains. They can be any level of seniority but they should be involved in planning activities that are incorporated in the wellness program. It can give junior employees leadership roles and a chance to lead their colleagues while building camaraderie across teams.
  4. Gather Data: Get feedback and take biometric renderings. This will show if the workforce is engaged in the wellness program, so you can then find out what adjustments need to be made to maximize success and to make sure your staff is actually getting healthier.
  5. Evaluate: Ongoing measurement and evaluation will be critical to making adjustments and improvements in your program. Remember that evaluation should be ongoing, not a one time event.

For more information on how to maximize the impact and success of your employee wellness program, check out this article from HR.BLR.com.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Employee Health and Wellness Without Overstepping

Carrots and sticks are a relatively old tactic in employee health and wellness programs. They are tried and true because they work. Carrots tend to prove to work better than sticks, but whether you choose to reward improved behavior and program engagement or provide (usually financial) disincentives for a lack of participation, these detractors and rewards work well to boost participation and results from employee healthy and wellness programs.

However, in analyzing effective tactics for employee health and wellness programs, we often overlook the most basic component of an employee health and wellness program. To be frank, it can feel intrusive for employees to have employers involved in their healthcare. Especially when dealing with sensitive topics like high cholesterol and weight loss, it can be intrusive for some employees to have employers involved, even if they are providing health care and insurance.

In a recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 62% of employees felt it was inappropriate for employers to require workers to pay more for their health insurance premiums if they don’t participate in wellness programs.

Additionally 74% said companies shouldn’t charge higher premiums if employees don’t achieve predetermined health goals. These two statistics bring employers back to basics and really require organizations to evaluate how they approach employee health and wellness programs. Will carrots or sticks work best for your company? Should employee health and wellness be a (strong) suggestion or a requirement for affordable coverage? Read more from the Wall Street Journal.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

3 Tips to Improve Your Employee Wellness Program

Employee wellness programs are a great way to create a culture of fitness while controlling healthcare costs. Employee wellness programs make employees healthier, more productive, and generally happier. It can be as simple as endorphins. For employers, wellness programs help build organizational culture, peer-to-peer relationships and a grateful, healthy staff.

Here are three areas to focus on to help build your employee wellness program into your organization.

  1. According to Information Week, 5-10% of your workforce is spending 70-80% of your healthcare budget. Focus on that 10%. Targeting their demographic and lifestyle with your wellness program will allow you to tailor the program to a smaller section of your workforce to have the largest financial impact.
  2. Create a third party liaison to provide advice, guidance, and boundaries to the program. Whether it’s a healthcare professional who can monitor employee progress while indicating employer implications, or someone on staff who can also remain impartial to both points of view.  Every program needs boundaries and someone who can advocate for both employers and employees.
  3. When engaging participants in your employee wellness programs, set employee expectations appropriately. Communication is key and ensuring employees know what the goals of the program are and what key milestones they will be expected to reach is key to any program’s success.

Employee wellness programs can be a powerful tool when they are at peak effectiveness. Ensure your employee wellness program is on track today.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Wellness Programs Should Save Employees Money

Working on and measuring savingsThe headline speaks for itself here. Employee wellness programs should save employees money, while also instilling healthy habits. A recent New York Times article suggests that, for most employers, wellness programs save money but only by penalizing employees for unhealthy behavior or bad biometric readings. This is entirely possible. Especially since the Affordable Care Act doesn’t have a structure in place allowing employers to levy financial penalties against employees who are outside of a healthy range.

However, if you’re going to spend the time and resources to implement a health and wellness program wouldn’t you rather invest in employee success rather than save a buck in their failure? Using a structured, well communicated program and small spot rewards is a recipe for mutual success between employee and employer. Using small denomination gift cards to healthy retailers like Whole Foods Market, CVS/pharmacy or Nutrisystem encourage employee participation and provide employer support of employees lifestyle efforts.

Focus on mutual successes with your employee rewards program because if employers win and employees lose the retention and engagement benefits of a truly successful employee wellness program will be lost. An initial investment can pay dividends in the longer term.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.