I am so sick of the chatter about what to incent or not in wellness programming. There are endless discussions about rewarding or penalizing for participation, outcomes, BMI readings, biometric improvement, HIPAA-compliant tactics, etc., ad nauseam.
To wellness managers who want to know the best way to use incentives, the answer is do not use them at all. You’re not running a guinea pig farm.
If you share this warped, Pavlov-ing concept of using incentives to manipulate behavior, you’re not helping anybody.
And if you happen to be a participant in a wellness program and think you need a financial lollipop to play, you need to wake up, too. The benefits of healthful living are so overwhelming that if it were a pill, it would be a $1 trillion per year global mega drug.
Look, if people will not change behavior so they can be more independent, have more energy, sleep better, have great sex, play with the grandkids for years, enjoy long walks on the beach, pursue a hobby, enjoy an active social life, travel, stay creative and curious, and feel alive, your 30 pieces of silver won’t make a difference.
What might make a difference?
- A culture that uses its own employees to run the wellness program with little or no supervision. Employees become event coordinators, photographers, journalists, artists, and writers.
- Utilization of free health resources and events within five miles of the workplace.
- A buddy program that creates friendships and inspires.
- Use of any prevention and screening features from an available health plan.
- A partnership program with other workplaces and organizations in your community. Invite them to join your organization in health and wellness.
- Access to the best free tools and resources on the Internet.
- A social media-centric communication platform.
- Family-inclusive activities.
- Inclusion of arts, music, hobbies, and education as wellness activities. Remember mind, body and spirit.
Incentives in wellness, and the business models that depend upon them, are causing more harm than good. If you can’t articulate the benefits of a healthful life, develop a vision of a better future, and influence a culture of wellness without using bribes, you’re not practicing wellness. You’re running some Frankenstein version of it.
Shawn is the President and Founder of Hope Health. For over 30 years, his work has focused on bringing clear, easy-to-read, and watch health messages to the public via workplaces. He bills himself as the “Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz” because, as he says, “I like to challenge the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Shawn is on a mission to tie workplaces into their surrounding communities to share resources and ideas in an effort to improve the health of all Americans.
You may reach Shawn at sconnors@HopeHealth.com or 800-334-4094.