According to Jessica Pryce-Jones, the author of the book 'Happiness At Work,' you spend one-third (or more) of your life at work. If you put that into calculation, it estimates to a staggering 90,000+ hours!

Now imagine yourself living that 'one-third' of life in a miserable and stressed state? What happens next is detrimental, which you (knowingly or unknowingly) fail to pay heed to and affect the other two-thirds of your life more miserably.

They say, "misery loves company", and this phrase holds a big deal of truth here. Workplace stress not only bleeds into an employee's personal life but also affects the organization's bottom line.


The pressure to meet financial targets might tempt business leaders to focus only on their balance sheets and disregard what turns out to be a manageable and quantifiable lever that’s proven to impact the most crucial bottom line—Employee Wellbeing.

Sadly, a good well-being culture has always been a mere slogan or a generic health program, which is often delegated to the HR department to manage the company's healthcare costs tactically.

However, the reality is that wellbeing is neither a ‘program’ nor a ‘topic.’ It is a mindset, cultural orientation, or ethos within the workplace.

Employee wellbeing is non-negotiable. Period.

That’s why employee wellness programs have long existed, but they have evolved—owing to the significant change in the employees’ behaviors.

In fact, according to a survey mentioned in SHRM, about 47% of HR leaders say that although their organizations support workplace wellbeing programs, their employees fail to feel their impact. This disconnect directly affects both productivity and retention.

Another survey report from Forrester stated that employees who are stressed and think that their employers will not care about their wellbeing are twice as likely to explore other job opportunities.

Employee wellbeing goes beyond having ergonomic standing desks, a basket full of fresh fruits, vibrant motivational posters, furry companions, fancy parties, smoking cessation sessions, or periodic health screenings.

Today, it’s all about how companies go the extra mile in promoting a healthy, happy, and productive workplace by taking an engaging approach to wellness.

And the secret to driving this is through the right health and wellness incentives.

We have put together a detailed guide to help you decode this secret better. Let’s dive in.

What is a corporate wellness program

A corporate wellness program is a collection of benefits or initiatives that a company implements in the workplace to enhance the overall wellbeing of its employees. (Source: Indeed)

Corporate wellness programs enable companies to encourage healthy habits in the workplace. When employees are healthy at work, they are happier and more productive. Also, such programs help employers to save on healthcare costs.

The objective of a wellness program shares a mutual interest where a company helps employees stay healthy to further facilitate a happy work environment for better business outcomes in return. In addition, companies promote their employee wellness programs to increase job satisfaction and attract top talents.

What is a health and wellness incentive

A health and wellness incentive is a way to encourage and motivate employees to achieve desired outcomes of a corporate wellness program. (Source: National Library of Medicine)

Wellness incentives or wellness rewards, however you call them, refer to any type of prize (gift cards, movie tickets, premium discounts, wellness swag, paid time off, etc.) that a company offers to its employees to adopt healthy behaviors. For a wellness program to be engaging, incentives play a key role. It’s the ‘nudge’ to get employees to make healthy decisions.

Challenges corporates face with employee wellness programs

Employee health is extremely personal; getting your workforce to buy the idea of a wellness program and, further, sticking to it is critical. Implementing a culture of wellness is excellent, but obstacles are inevitable.

Here’s a list of common roadblocks that tend to cause low engagement levels in wellness programs and the respective solutions to prevent possible setbacks:

  • 👉 Problem #1: Your employees have no clue that a wellness program exists.
    Solution: Make sure to communicate about the program on the most active channels. It could be through emails, WhatsApp groups, push notifications, videos, colorful posters, or business communication platforms.
  • 👉 Problem #2: Your employees see no value in the wellness program.
    Solution: The success of a wellness program comes down to how well you market it. It doesn't matter what initiative you implement, and employees will only be interested if it benefits them directly. This needs experimentation or, even better, take surveys to find out what they would consider an 'ideal' wellness program in the workplace. Factor in their needs and personal wellbeing.
  • 👉 Problem #3: Your employees aren’t motivated to participate.
    Solution: Have you ever seen an employee feeling excited to join a program right after an HR launches it? No! Unless there's a motivational element attached to it, forget about your employees even opening that announcement email. This is where incentives/rewards play a crucial role. Since these are the core components that trigger participation and engagement, make sure that they are highlighted clearly. Also, give a clear message of how participants can earn the incentives and foster a healthy well-being culture.

Overcome the major hurdles of employee wellness programs within minutes. Drive participation and engagement by incorporating meaningful incentives for meaningful actions.

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How to increase participation in wellness programs

First things first. Have a wellness program that empowers your employees, makes them feel valued, be proactive, and make consistent progress. The way to achieve all of these is through a ‘well-marketed’ and ‘well-timed’ wellness program. Creating workplace wellness programs requires time, patience, effort, and money. More than that, it requires experimentation to figure out what works for your employees.

Secondly, just because you have a killer wellness program in place, it doesn’t mean that it will work independently.  Just like a machine needs fuel to perform with excellent efficiency, even wellness programs need that 'fuel' to be effective and successful. And that 'fuel' here is incentives.

Don’t believe us? Then let’s see what the research says about incentivizing your wellness programs.

‘Incentives’ are the key drivers to increase participation and engagement in wellness programs.

📙 Research #1:According to a study published in JOEM (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine), combining incentives with a better workplace health culture helps a business accomplish favorable outcomes for your wellness programs. The research concluded that incentives and organizational characteristics play a crucial role in increasing participation and driving better health results.

📙 Research #2: According to a recent survey report by Business Group on Health, 68% of large-scale businesses offer wellness incentives as a core component of their corporate health programs to drive participation and engagement.
After the impact of COVID-19, employers launched multiple wellbeing initiatives to address their employees' emotional and physical health challenges. Unsurprisingly, employers haven't shown any signs of slowing down their employee wellbeing efforts until now. The same report also reveals that five years down the line, the future of workplace wellness will be bright, with about three-fourth of the employers expanding their offerings to make their workplace happier and more positive.

7 Benefits of implementing wellness incentives for employees

Just like tax breaks and grants encourage organizations to adopt employee wellness programs, rewards and incentives motivate employee participation. With that said, here are a few more advantages of incorporating them:

  • 🏋️ Increases participation in wellness programs: If your employee wellness program is suffering a lack of participation—probably, because your employees are not interested—then try incorporating incentives and see the magic happen for yourself. Sometimes, all we need is extrinsic rewards to get the job done! So when launching your corporate wellness programs, highlight the rewards your employees will get for accomplishing specific wellness goals. This is one of the key drivers to getting your workforce to participate.
  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Builds camaraderie among employees: Implementing incentives on a health initiative has the power to evoke the emotion of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), allowing employees to experience activities (that aren't related to work) with their peers. This could be from participating in an outdoor adventure, eating healthy together for a week, or going to the gym. The interaction between coworkers facilitates a stronger bond, which also helps them to work better together.
  • 🤝 Encourages healthy competition among peers: Humans, by nature, are competitive creatures. Even people who are comfortable staying on their sidelines are prone to be motivated when an element of 'rewards' is associated with a program. Rewards inspire individuals to put in more effort to achieve specific goals. For example, rewarding employees with a $100 gift card for walking 5000 steps a day motivates others to do the same and fuel healthy competition.
  • 🏢 Boosts healthy behaviors in the company culture: Rather than forcing the employees to be healthy, meaningful incentives help boost healthy behaviors in the workplace. It also encourages people to share and apply different tips in their day-to-day lives to promote healthy living.
  • 😃 Reduces employee absenteeism rate: The more you care for your employees' health with some proactive initiatives, the less likely they will fall sick. While investing in corporate wellness programs is the ideal way, incentives act as a catalyst in driving engagement and helping you achieve the ultimate goal of a low absenteeism rate. Believe it or not, good health impacts an employee's morale positively. Research also suggests that for every dollar that a company spends on employee wellness, it saves $5.82 on absenteeism costs.
  • 💖 Boosts engagement levels: Health and wellness incentives for employees also result in higher engagement levels. It creates a keen 'interest' and triggers a 'don't-give-up' attitude to achieve specific health goals. It makes wellness activities more fun and creates opportunities to develop a culture of collaboration and enthusiasm. Once that happens, it results in a better engagement at the workplace.
  • 👨‍💼 Great way to attract new talents: Did you know that by 2027, the corporate wellness market is anticipated to be worth a whopping $97.4 billion? If that wasn’t enough, hear this. It is also growing at a compounding yearly rate of 6.8%. Considering this trend, your health and wellness programs will undoubtedly become one of the key differentiators to attract top talents than your competitors.

Types of health and wellness incentives

Choosing a wellness incentive for your health program can be perplexing at times. No one wants their time, efforts, and money to go in vain. Hence, it is essential to understand the different types of wellness incentives and how each can bring more value.

Wellness incentive type
Explanation
1. Financial incentives
Greater Perceived Value

These are tangible incentives where the cost varies based on an item’s quantity and quality.

Allocate the budget either on the number of employees participating in the wellness program or the number of yearly winners. Financial incentives can be categorized into three levels:

~ Low-cost incentives (less than $100):

Sports bags, fancy water bottles, travel mugs, protein powders, yoga mats, self-care kits, headphones, etc.

~ Medium-cost incentives ($100 to $300):

Small health equipment, health magazine subscriptions, gym memberships, running shoes, wearables, etc.

~ High-cost incentives (above $300):
Luxury dining, expensive gadgets, holiday trips, paid day-off, outdoor adventures, etc.
2. Non-financial incentives
These are non-tangible incentives. If planned and executed right, they have no cost.

Example:

~ 2 days of paid leave for achieving 10,000 steps a day consistently for a month.

~ Enjoy flexible work hours for exercising 1 hour every day for a week.
3. Participation-based incentives
These are wellness incentives you can give your employees for participating in a health program or an event.

It could be from attending a 45-minute smoking cessation session to enrolling on a 26-mile marathon.

The reward could be digital gift cards, digital award certificates, or a point-based system. This type of health incentive is popular and highly effective, as it encourages employees to collaborate as a team.
4. Progress-based incentives
These are wellness incentives that not only demand employee participation but also be proactive.

The program could be from accepting the weight loss challenge by shedding some pounds within 3-6 months to showing up to the gym consistently for 2 months.

Whether the outcome is achieved or not, employees are still rewarded for the progress they make every week/month.
5. Outcome-based incentives
As the name implies, these are incentives that employees get for achieving any health-related outcome.

It could be weight loss, sustaining normal blood pressure levels for 30 days by practicing yoga, maintaining a healthy BMI, not smoking for a month, etc.

The winners can be rewarded with medium to high-cost incentives for achieving the preset health goals with consistency and patience.

Wellness incentives don’t have to be just digital gift cards. Gift your employees an experience that they can remember for a lifetime.

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Wellness incentive ideas for your corporate health programs

Motivating your employees to engage in a employee wellbeing program can be super challenging but not impossible if you apply the right tactic. And what better can it be than incentives? They are the essential motivators in getting your employees to be 100% involved and encourage them to be healthy.

Here are some wellness incentive ideas to choose from, based on your budget and health objectives:

1. Low-cost incentives (less than $100)

  • Sports bottles
  • Pedometers
  • Gardening tools
  • Workout caps
  • Fitness bands
  • Gym clothes
  • Detox tea box
  • Gym bag
  • Travel mugs
  • Protein powder
  • Earphones
  • Cooking lessons
  • Yoga mat
  • Grocery cards
  • Self-care spa kit
  • Tickets to athletic events (e.g. marathon)
  • Subscription to exercise videos and books
  • Small kitchen appliances to make shakes & smoothies
  • Small exercise equipment (e.g. tennis racquet, etc.)

2. Medium-cost incentives ($100 to $300)

  • Running shoes
  • Health food store certificates
  • Camping equipment
  • Wearable devices
  • Digital gift cards
  • Gym memberships
  • Sports sunglasses/goggles
  • Spa gift certificate
  • Hiking gear (e.g. boots, backpacks)
  • Helmets & protective gear
  • Kitchen cookware (e.g. pots/pans to encourage healthy eating)

3. High-cost incentives (Above $300)

  • Scuba gear
  • Day off at a luxury spa
  • Travel gift vouchers
  • Home exercise equipment
  • Water ski equipment
  • BBQ Grills
  • Stay at a luxury hotel
  • Fine dining experience
  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Holiday trip (e.g. weekend getaway, whitewater rafting)

Don't take the guesswork out of gifting. Curate and send personalized wellness incentives for every employee on your list. Give your people something that resonates with their interests.

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Employee wellness is all the rage. No doubt. You'll see more companies jumping on the bandwagon these days. A few examples of how fitness apps and businesses promote health, productivity, and happiness by leveraging wellness rewards or incentives to drive engagement.

1. Wellness app: Sweatcoin

Sweatcoin Wellness App

Sweatcoin is a perfect example of how wellness rewards, when implemented in the right way, can drive engagement. The app pays you crypto rewards to walk. While their basic mobile app is free, it has a walking step limit per day. It uses the phone’s accelerometer and GPS to convert your steps into ‘sweatcoins.’ For every 1000 steps, the app gives you 0.95 sweatcoins, which can be easily exchanged for services, goods, and gift cards such as vacations, iPhones, and charitable donations.

2. Wellness app: Winwalk

Winwalk wellness app

Winwalk is another excellent example that leverages rewards to drive engagement for their fitness app. Unlike wellness apps that pay their users for every 1000/2000 steps, Winwalk pays its users to walk for 100 steps. It enables you to earn coins, which can be redeemed for e-gift cards from well-known brands like eBay, Amazon, Starbucks, Nike, and even cryptocurrency. The idea of this app is simple—the more you walk, jump, run, sweat, and cut down on calories, the healthier you become, and the better the rewards!

3. Wellness app: AIA Vitality

AIA Vitality is a science-backed, personalized wellness program that’s designed to get people to make healthier lifestyle choices by providing support, tools, and health incentives. The app encourages positive behaviors and enables users to earn AIA Vitality Points by eating well, taking more steps, and completing routine health checks.

These points can be then redeemed for attractive rewards such as dining, shopping, travel, and discounts. So, the more Vitality points a user earns, the higher the Vitality status, and the more rewards to unlock.

4. Wellness program: Google

Google Wellness Program

Google’s wellness programs have always been the talk of the town. From free bikes roaming around their massive campuses to fancy massage parlors, relaxing nap rooms, color-coded cafeteria to lego stations, ping-pong tables, on-site laundry, and whatnot. You name an amenity or an employee perk, and they have it.

Google has set the standards of office and employee experience so high that even the biggest and world-renowned companies have a hard time matching them. When they say that their employees are their biggest assets, they mean it! And that’s why they have every damn thing to help Googlers achieve a perfect work-life balance.

5. Wellness program: Fitbit

fitbit wellness program

Fitbit Wellness is yet another popular health initiative that got the world talking. They have not only improved the fitness levels of their employees but also saved them huge business costs. Their initiative has successfully brought down sick leaves and reduced illnesses that negatively impacted productivity.

Interestingly, their wellness initiative leverages their own 'wrist tracker technology' to inspire competition in the office. The most active employees are rewarded with wellness incentives, motivating even the sedentary staff to step up their game.

It might be infeasible for most businesses to outfit each employee with an expensive $150 wristband; however, the key takeaway is that Fitbit believes in encouraging people to move more. This shows that through fun contests and incentivizing with small rewards, a company can cut down on lost productivity and lost wages.

6. Wellness program: Asana


The employee experience at Asana is just incredible. They are one of the few companies to brag about the 'Fortune's Best Place to Work' title five years in a row. And the reasons are valid. Employees are actually paid to sleep in their workplace.

They have wide and relaxing "nap rooms" so that employees can rest, de-stress, and recharge. The company also provides unlimited PTO (Paid Time Off) to ensure that their employees achieve a good work-life balance. Besides that, they offer yoga programs, free gym memberships, and much more.

How to create a wellness incentive program that works like a charm

For an employee wellness program to work like a well-oiled machine, it should incorporate incentives. No doubt. They are the ultimate drivers that help motivate your employees in making a long-term behavioral change.  

But often, wellness incentive programs are so overwhelming that managing, budgeting, processing, and tracking the incentives become a huge task in itself. The challenge is to manage an effective wellness program but, at the same time, it doesn't consume excess time, effort, and resources.  

The world’s best wellness programs are the ones that were able to strike a perfect balance between improving their employees’ health and the delivery of the right incentives.

To help you crack this and make incentives work like a charm for your wellness programs, here are a few things to keep in mind:


1. Choose the right wellness rewards

  • Take any wellness program, and its underlying objective will be to adopt and practice healthy behaviors. And to encourage that, you need to back it up with the right incentives.
  • Give small incentives like digital gift cards to employees who successfully complete various aspects of your wellness program.
  • Believe it or not, small gifts have the power to make the wellness program more fun, creating an opportunity to deliver substantial motivation at a minimal cost.
  • You can even try a benefits-based incentive plan such as discounts on insurance premiums, holiday trips, lower co-pay, paid time off, or HSA/HRA contributions as a strategy.
  • Although benefits-based incentives are more expensive than rewarding winners with small gifts, they significantly impact employee engagement levels.

2. Decide what health activities or behaviors to incentivize

  • For better wellness incentive management, it’s vital to discuss with your wellness committee (or the team managing it) to narrow down the list of health activities or health behaviors that you would like your employees to achieve.
  • Once you determine that, the next step is to start small, as this gives everyone a chance to earn it. With time, make more improvements in their health.
  • With experimentation, you will soon know what is working for your employees and what isn’t. This will further help you understand what behaviors to incentivize in the coming years.
  • Implement outcomes-based incentives to see the results faster. When done right, these incentives can even help build employee morale and trust.

3. Assign values for accomplishing specific health tasks

  • A good wellness incentive program must always follow this rule—keep things simple. It might be tempting to create intricate point-based systems to track the progress of your incentives but resist the urge.
  • Jot down the various health tasks you want your workforce to do to earn a reward. Next, rank this list in this order: the most important ones on the top followed by the least important ones.
  • Next, use a point-based system. For example, send 1000 points if an employee achieves the target of walking 5000 steps a day consistently for a month. Similarly, assign values (or the number of points) for every health task in your created list.
  • Assign maximum points to the most critical activities and minimum points to those less critical. Doing this requires proper planning and must be done to give your employees enough opportunities to qualify for wellness incentives.

4. Enable employees to pick their own incentives

  • Create flexibility in the system to enable your employees to get maximum incentives with different combinations of health activities.
  • Give them a choice. Let them pick from a list of reward options because not all fingers are the same. When it comes to gifts and rewards, everyone has their preferences. Put simply, what 'John' likes as an incentive might not be the same as what 'Jennifer' prefers. So, giving them the flexibility to select their incentives drives happiness too.

5. Make sure to track the engagement levels

  • Once you have launched the wellness program with the right incentives, it’s time to track the engagement levels to measure its effectiveness.
  • Keep track of employees participating in the wellness program, how proactive they are, how well they are achieving their health goals, and how they redeem their incentives. This data report will serve as a foundation for measuring the crucial metrics and help come up with innovative ideas in the future.

How to choose a reward platform for your wellness programs

Here are a few important things to keep in mind when choosing a rewards & incentives provider:

  • 🎁 Catalog choices: Check how comprehensive the gift catalog of the incentive solution provider is. What are the gift or reward choices like? Do they cover all major and well-known online stores like Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, etc.? How many categories are their reward options split into?
  • 🏝 Experiential rewards: There’s something about experiential rewards. They go beyond the typical transactions and help establish more robust connections between employers and employees to enhance the overall employee experience. Check if the reward & incentive software you choose includes a diverse selection of experiential gifting. Maybe you want to reward your top performer of the wellness initiative with a 2-day holiday trip?
  • 🌎 Global coverage: Check if the rewards platform offers digital gift cards from the international markets. Which countries does it support? What brands do they cover globally? Does it support multi-currency and multi-language? Can the denominations be set in the currency you prefer? Does it have an auto currency conversion feature?
  • 🔌 Integrations: Make sure that the rewards platform you choose offers flexible integration options, as this simplifies implementing a rewards system in your existing workflows. APIs and integrations reduce the cost and the complexity of integrating a reward management system (especially if you're using an HRMS).
  • 💰 Payout infrastructure: Check if the provider has a robust payout system to enable you to go global effortlessly. See if they can send payouts directly to a beneficiary's local bank account in any currency, e-wallets, UPI ID, or virtual cards like Mastercard/Visa.
  • 📩 Omnichannel distribution: Reward delivery must be instant and comprise multiple options. Ensure that the provider/platform you choose offers different ways to send wellness program incentives. It could be in the form of Codes/Links via major channels like SMS/Email/Whatsapp/QR-code with a button’s click.
  • 📊 Reporting and analytics: While implementing wellness incentive programs for employees is a great way to drive engagement in your health initiatives, you need data to understand if they are working or not. So check if the rewards platform you choose gives you access to spend analytics and transaction insights.
  • 🔒 Security and compliance: Be it GDPR compliance, encryption of sensitive data, or highly secure HTTPS & HSTS connections like EV SSL certificate, make sure that your rewards platform checks every box of it.

From a global-rich catalog to integrations to payouts to instant redemption, Xoxoday's platform has every little feature you're looking for in a rewards & incentives provider.

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Final Words

Meaningful wellness incentives can influence and motivate employees to go the extra mile. It has excellent control over their personal cost of benefits and enables them to share and flatter about their company's perks. They are the tipping point for your workforce to engage with your wellness program, allowing them to take the necessary steps on the journey to better health and wellbeing.

Healthy People = Better Business.

Employee wellness matters and is non-negotiable.
Drive engagement in your wellness programs
with attractive rewards and motivate them to be fit.

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Neha Surana

Neha Surana

I help businesses in spreading delight to their customers at Xoxoday. When I’m not working as a content manager, I love doodling, painting, and cooking.