A new Associated Press article on Newsday.com contends that while corporate wellness offerings continue to grow - and briskly - employees often need extra motivation to participate. That means strong incentives like cold, hard cash or health insurance premium discounts, and not just a free water bottle or even gym access.
The piece is filled with great examples of workers who needed an extra push to participate in wellness plans. For example, Jason Lucas, a 29-year-old employee at Monarch Beverages in Indianapolis, desperately wanted to stop smoking a pack a day. He wasn't motivated enough, though, until his company offered to pay for the stop-smoking drug Chantix, which costs $150 a month and is not covered by insurance. "That was the horse that was walking by, and I jumped on him," he told the AP reporter. "That was just huge, huge for them to pay for it like that."
The article goes on to note that Monarch has about a dozen wellness programs, to the tune of $100,000 a year, although "human resources vice president Natalie Roberts swears they make back every penny. 'We've tried a million things,' Roberts said. 'We're not afraid to keep trying until we figure out what sticks.'"
One thing that definitely has stuck is their anti-smoking efforts: The number of smokers at the company dropped from 41 percent in 2004 to 21 percent this year, and Jason Lucas, for one, hasn't smoked in over a year.
What does this mean for companies planning for next year in the face of a recession? Companies that want to stay ahead of the health-care-costs curve will probably pony up anyway, Sue Willette, at human resources consulting firm Mercer. Instead of offering cash, they can offer bigger rewards in the form of premium reductions. It's a win-win incentive program!