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September 19, 2017

How to Drive Engagement in Wellness Programs

Artemis Health

How many of you have participated in a daily step challenge at work? We're betting it's a lot of you. In fact, 70 percent of employers are now offering some sort of wellness program. These can include biometric testing, exercise challenges, health risk assessments and smoking cessation plans. Employers offer these programs because studies have shown that happy employees are more productive, better at solving problems and are more effective collaborators. And happiness is tied directly to health.

Three common types of wellness programs are outcome-based, participation-based and engagement-based. Let’s explore each of these:

Outcome-based programs focus on final results.

In an outcome-based program, an employee/member can earn an incentive once they reach some type of goal or ideal. For example, employees might participate in a weight loss challenge and be rewarded with a gift card or discount on their health insurance premiums when they lose a certain amount of weight.

Participation-based programs focus on boosting participation numbers.

Employees can earn incentives by completing one or two requirements. These requirements can be something as simple as signing up and participating in their wellness program. This is a great way for employers to get people “in the door” and introduce them to their wellness benefits.

Engagement-based programs focus on employee engagement.

Employees can earn incentives by continually staying involved with their wellness program. Incentives are not just offered after the member completes their goal, but they are offered throughout the year as a way for them to develop good habits  and continually engage with their health. For example, say a member is diabetic, they can receive incentives not only by regulating their blood glucose to healthy levels, but also by doing monthly check-ups with their primary care physician and exercising.

Employers struggle to drive and maintain engagement in their wellness benefits. They can see great participation numbers, but when they look closely at their data, they realize that they are not saving in healthcare costs or see any health improvements in their population. Employees are participating, but they’re not necessarily engaging and producing outcomes. So what can employers do to see ROI from their wellness programs?

  1. Social support: Recent studies have shown that social networks can encourage people to participate in activities like exercise. Smart employers are introducing wellness programs as part of regular social activities at the office. They’re allowing employees to share successes, photos, and milestones, which creates a positive peer environment around wellness. Employees offer support and motivation to drive engagement among themselves.

  2. Get buy-in from the top: Managers, directors, VPs, and the C-suite need to participate as visible proponents of your wellness program. That way, employees feel like they can have time in their schedule to take a morning jog, hit the on-site gym, or schedule a walking meeting. Managers should set an example with their own participation—think team challenges, mentions in weekly team meetings, and allowing participation during work hours. By participating, managers can create an open environment for employees to engage with wider company wellness initiatives.

  3. Develop effective communication: Employers need to communicate their wellness objectives to their employees. This can be as simple as running wellness education classes during company meetings, or printing out FAQ sheets and posters to raise awareness. Don't rely solely on printed materials. Use email, company intranet, webinars, mailers, corporate instant messaging, and more to reach the broadest audience.

Employers who follow these tips will see broader wellness program engagement and help employees develop healthier habits. As poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The first wealth is health.”

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