Healthcare Group Offers Guidelines for Health and Wellness Incentives
By Alex Palmer
July 20, 2012
A group of six major healthcare organizations recently produced a report offering guidance on how best to execute a wellness incentive program. Titled “Guidance for a Reasonably Designed Employer-Sponsored Wellness Program Using Outcomes-based Incentives,” the report recommends designing incentives that are flexible and part of a larger healthy workplace strategy.
The report, which was published in the July issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, covers aspects of employee-sponsored health incentive programs, from reward design, measurement, and evaluationa to methods for engaging employees. These groups consist of the Health Enhancement Research Organization, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association.
"As employers seek new ways to engage employees in programs that change health behaviors, their interest in outcomes-based incentives has grown considerably as has the need for a unified voice on the issue,” says Jerry Noyce, president and CEO of the Health Enhancement Research Organization, in a statement.
Included in the recommendations is that program goals be flexible, rather than set ideal targets that could be discouraging for many participants. Allowing rewards to be earned for a variety of behaviors, rather than offering all of the incentive for one area, or earned on an all-or-nothing basis, will make results more likely. Employees should be able “to integrate behavior-change approaches into their own value framework,” according to the report.
The study emphasizes the importance of cultivating a workplace culture that supports healthy behavior. These include offering healthy food options or a fitness center at the office, or organizing a network of employees to serve as wellness “champions.”
Other recommended practices include developing a strategic plan to guide the company’s wellness goals over the long run, and ensuring regular communication with participants.
The report recommends ensuring all health rewards are part of an overall plan for workplace improvement, in order to avoid conflicting or disconnected initiatives.
"Incentives can be an effective way to motivate some employees to participate in workplace wellness programs and to begin behavior changes," Larry Hausner, CEO of the American Diabetes Association, writes in the report. "If not implemented carefully, however, incentives can also operate as penalties.”
He gives the example of imposing financial or other burdens on employees that can in fact be counterproductive to motivating an employee base.
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The full report is available here