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New Survey Findings: Incentives As A Motivator To Participate In Wellness Programs Continues To Grow

The majority of wellness managers say their programs offer incentives to employees or members for participation. Some 76.6 percent of wellness professionals reported their program includes some form of formal incentives, found the results of the survey conducted by the Institute for Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion.

The increases in the use of incentives to motivate employees to participate in workplace wellness programs has been dramatic.

The figure is up from 69 percent in 2006 and represents an increase of 40 percent over 2003 figures, found the Workplace Wellness Program Management Survey.

The number of wellness programs offering either cash incentives or "other" type rewards reached 72.1 percent, found the 2009 survey results.

However, the "other" type of rewards includes real cash. For instance, one respondent, who is a consultant with a wellness services company, said the "other" provided for a premium differential on the organization’s health plan of $390 per year. In some circles that break in the cost of health insurance would wind up in the ‘cash’ column.

While the number of programs offering cash bonus incentives is 23.4 percent this year, down from 32.3 percent in 2006, the result may be somewhat misleading.

In fact, health insurance premium reductions are being offered by a number of wellness programs, according to the survey results. Another approach reported was a waiver for the health insurance deductible for completing wellness programs.

A major wellness program is using cash as an incentive based on completion of the initial enrollment, a completed 12-week evaluation and a 12-month evaluation and completion of the program, said Nancy A. Haller, manager of the Oklahoma State Wellness Program.

Another program offers a dollar amount reward incentive as well as a health insurance premium incentive. A corporate program offers $100 completing the HRA, and another $100 for if the employee gets an annual physical. However, the money must be used on wellness related items, the manager told us.

The director of prevention and community health for a hospital wellness program reported that dollars go into a Flexible Spending Account and the program also provides for a differential for the health benefits premium.

A wellness education specialist at another hospital said the incentive reward is added to the program participant’s paycheck for meeting established criteria.

Another company offers $25 off per month for the health insurance employee contribution for participating, and up to two days paid time off annually for the organization’s Active Lifestyle program. It works "because our employees are ‘salaried,’" explained the company’s health and wellness coordinator.

"We provide all types of incentives like ... cash, gift cards and raffle entries, as well as benefit change for participation which meets HIPAA guidelines; modification of co-pays, coinsurance and out-of-pocket expenses," reported a wellness manager with a health insurance company.

Various types of incentive rewards that have a ‘cash’ component being used by respondents in the "other" category include:

  • Rewards points with a dollar value redeemable for catalog merchandise;
  • Pharmacy reduction incentives;
  • Reimbursement programs for participation in weight loss programs and fitness center membership fees;
  • MasterCard debit cards;
  • Waiver of the initiation fee to the hospital-owned wellness center;
  • Paid time off;
  • Gas and food cards;
  • Tuition remissions available for faculty and staff enrolling in a physical education class; and
  • A re-loadable prepaid Visa card.

Almost 75 percent of the professionals reporting said they provide the incentive rewards to all participants including the healthy and fit.

Percentage of Organizations with a Formal Program of Incentives
or Rewards for Participation in a Workplace Wellness Program



Percent Change









Source: Institute for Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion. Copyright 2009, Wellness Management Information Center.

Wellness Programs That Offer Cash Incentives or Other Type Of Rewards



Percent Change









Source: Institute for Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion. Copyright 2009, Wellness Management Information Center.

Reflection on the Benefits of Incentives in Wellness and Health Promotion Programs:

"I think by using incentives everyone wins. It sometimes takes more than just self-motivation to be successful in the program. We find that when an individual has a goal or something driving them to succeed, they are far more likely to continue in a program then drop out."

Manager, Associate Wellness and Fitness

The Workplace Wellness Management Survey was conducted online among wellness professionals and subscribers to Wellness Program Management Adviser, The Wellness Junction Professional Update and members of the Wellness Managers Professional Discussion Group, and was compiled and analyzed by the Institute for Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion, the research and survey arm of the Wellness Management Information Center, publisher of Wellness Program Management Advisor.

Copyright 2009, Wellness Management Information Center.

Editor’s Note: In future issues of Wellness Program Management Advisor we will report on the focus of the incentives programs, the ways in which wellness managers and their senior management monitor success and other findings from the survey.

© 2010 Health Resources Publishing