Although the benefits of an employer-sponsored wellness program are plentiful, employee participation can sometimes be lacking. Instead of taking advantage of healthy initiatives, some employees ignore the program altogether.
To remedy this, MVP Health Care's Clinical Account Management team helps clients develop incentivized wellness programs like Wellness My Way. The new strategy has been developed to generate more involvement from employees in the programs. One of the key incentives that is definitely piquing interest is earning paid time off for meeting certain wellness goals.
Dawn Larlee, senior clinical account manager at MVP Health Care, likened the approach of adding incentives to wellness programs to using the proverbial carrot rather than a stick. The incentives entice employees to reach for wellness goals in order to earn the rewards. Additionally, Larlee says a key of the program is that it’s inclusive, meaning some employees will not automatically be excluded from earning rewards despite some health obstacles such as smoking, having high blood pressure or being overweight.
“This type of strategy is engineered to get participation from employees and as a way to add value for employee health,” Larlee says. “Paid time off is something that really spoke highly to our clients.”
One of those clients is N&S Supply of Fishkill, New York. Christine Bahret, human resources manager at N&S, says the company wants to see 100 percent participation from its employees in the wellness program, and the use of incentives are sparking more engagement from employees. Before adapting the program recommended by MVP, Bahret says they had seen steady participation in the company wellness plan that had been in place for about 10 years, but wanted to find ways to increase involvement.
“The idea of time off really appealed to our employees,” Bahret says. “Even a smoker can earn time off, which is really important for getting employees to participate.”
Reaching certain goals earns time off. Some of those goals include going to the doctor for an annual physical examination, losing weight and quitting smoking.
Participating employees can have their cholesterol levels checked, blood pressure checked, along with other biometric readings. While those tests are routine, Bahret says they have already paid off as some employees are discovering health risks they haven’t been aware of. In fact, following a biometric screening one employee was told to immediately go and see his primary physician due to an anomaly discovered. It turned out that employee had had a heart attack and never knew.
“This is why we do things like this,” she says. “This could have save that person’s life.”
Not only can employees earn time off, Bahret says they can actually use that time off to pad their health savings accounts. The value of a day can be sold back to the company to pad the HSA. She says it’s something that’s proven popular as it can relieve the burden of a high deductible.
For N&S the incentives are working. Bahret says the most recent data shows the company has about a 65 percent participation rate by employees. They want to see 100 percent.
Leanne Funk, a member of the N&S wellness team, says the team wants to keep things interesting for employees so they will continue to participate. For next year the wellness team is looking to increase that participation by developing programming for millennial employees who are not traditionally concerned with wellness plans.
“Just because you’re young doesn’t mean something can’t happen,” Funk says.
Anna Couture of Bourne’s Energy in Vermont says her company also consulted with MVP to update its wellness program. She says the company hopes to use the incentive programs to see a healthier and more engaged workforce.
“Health insurance and health costs are always a concern,” Couture says. “It’s not a main driver, but we want people to be healthier. If we can uncover one serious or potential issue or illness, it will be worth it.”
Couture says the company is developing its wellness program to ensure employees are proactive in taking care of their health. By meeting goals similar to those adopted by N&S, employees can earn rewards including paid time off. Before implementing the program, Couture says Bourne sent out a survey to gauge interest from employees in such a program. The dangled time off was a clear winner.
As Bourne progresses with its wellness programming Couture says they want to expand the focus beyond nutrition and weight to include multiple dimensions of wellness. Some future initiatives will provide incentives for mental health and financial wellness.
In the past, Couture says the company has seen about a 10 percent participation level from employees in wellness programs. With the new incentives they hope to see an immediate jump to about 25 percent this year, then expand upon those numbers.
From Larlee’s perspective the programs at both Bourne and N&S are working because of support from management.
“It’s kudos to the companies for being brave enough to step out of the comfort zone and look at wellness a different way and letting it be an employee driven option,” Larlee says.