Well-being Plans are on the Rise and Include Financial Incentives - American Society of Employers - Heather Nezich

Well-being Plans are on the Rise and Include Financial Incentives

A recent EPTW poll revealed that 64.2% of our readers’ organizations offer a formal wellness or well-being program.  Large employers are expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on wellness plans in 2019 to help create a healthier and more productive workforce, according to recent research from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and Fidelity Investments. The annual Health and Well-Being Survey found that 40% of these budgets will be applied to providing employees and their spouses/domestic partners with financial incentives to encourage participation.

The survey noted that the average per-employee incentive decreased slightly to $762 for 2019, down from $784 in 2018, but is still nearly three times the average employee incentive of $260 reported in 2009. In addition, the percentage of employers offering incentives to spouses and domestic partners increased to 58% in 2019, up from 54% in 2018, while the average incentive for spouses/domestic partners increased to $601, up from $596 in 2018.

Overall, employers are expected to continue to focus on financial incentives as a key benefit within well-being platforms in the future, as 33% of employers indicated they plan to continue to increase the amount of financial incentives for employees over the next three to five years.

The survey also found the following:

  • Employers are interested in providing programs focused on well-being beyond physical health, including emotional/mental health (92%), financial health (88%), community involvement (69%), social connectedness (54%), and job satisfaction (43%).
  • More than half (56%) of employers surveyed offer well-being programs to their global employees, an increase from 44% in 2018, and another 14% are considering extending their well-being program to workers in multiple geographies by next year. 
  • Two of the top objectives of well-being programs in the U.S. are to manage health care costs (82%) and improve employee productivity/reduce absenteeism (59%).

“As more employers recognize the relationship between employee well-being and productivity, well-being programs have taken on an increasingly meaningful role in employers’ business strategies. However, as the benefits landscape continues to evolve, employers need to ensure they are designing their programs to meet the changing needs of their workforce,” said Robert Kennedy, senior vice president, Fidelity Workplace Consulting. “Implementing programs that take a total well-being approach, designing programs for a global workforce and aligning well-being programs with the company’s health care strategy are just a few of the steps employers can take to ensure their well-being program continues to deliver maximum benefit to their organization.”

A separate Willis Towers Watson survey recently found that 45% of employees said they would only participate in a wellness program if they were offered an incentive for participation.  The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that 33% of large employers offered workers between $150 and $500 for a health promotion program, while another 23% of employers provided workers between $500 and $1000 for health promotion activities.

Cash-strapped small businesses can leverage financial incentives in other forms, such as gym memberships, to alleviate wellness and fitness costs for employees.

The C. Everett Koop Health Project evaluates wellness programs and awards the very best well-being programs in the United States with the Koop Award.  Some of the incentives used by past award winners include:

  1. Up to 12% discount of employee health insurance premium contribution
  2. 5% premium discount for sustained yearlong participation in the wellness program
  3. $500 gift card raffled bi-weekly to encourage engagement
  4. $50 to $100 for enrollment or completing well-being requirements
  5. $100 for completed HRA, biometric screening, personal health report with action plan & optional health coaching
  6. Raffle off a full day of paid time off for completing a health assessment
  7. Bonuses and merit pay increases tied to program participation
  8. Contributions up to $1,000 into a health reimbursement account
  9. Up to $800 per couple into additional Health Reimbursement Arrangement funds
  10. Discounts or reimbursement of up to $400 annually for offsite fitness club memberships
  11. Tobacco free discount on medical plan premiums (20% off medical premiums for non-users or users who participate in a certified smoking cessation program)
  12. $100 for completing qualifying smoking cessation program
  13. Up to 6 months Weight Watchers per year if active participation
  14. Flex benefit credits
  15. Drawings for iPads, gift cards, travel vouchers, fitness equipment, T-shirts
  16. Celebration and recognition events



Sources: businessgrouponhealth.org, healthpayerintelligenc.com, wellsteps.com

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