The Carrot or the Stick?

In response to the rising costs of providing health care benefits, employers have looked for ways to share costs with their employees. As a result, employees now realize the importance of being healthy. Companies recognize the need to promote employee health and have begun to implement workplace wellness programs. The goal is for employees to adopt healthier lifestyles and thereby, reduce health care costs.

The key to a successful wellness program is to engage as many participants as possible. As programs emerge, the question becomes, which approach is most effective at inspiring behavior change; the carrot or stick?

Economic incentives can increase participation and prompt healthy behavior change. In order for incentives to work, they need to be designed and administered effectively. They need to be significant enough to promote habit change and designed to be fair, convenient and realistic.

Voluntary, incentive-based programs produce positive results. The support from management along with an opportunity for employees to participate in the decision-making process benefits the employer and the employee.

Mandatory participation is not recommended. Studies show that mandatory participation may result in resentment and retaliation, primarily in the form of increased absence and reduced productivity. Penalties or disincentives for a lack of participation can also lead to charges of discrimination and violation of personal health information.

The employer can provide the tools and resources to educate and identify health risk factors. The motivation to change those unhealthy lifestyles habits is derived from encouragement, support and incentive for wellness participation.

To learn more, contact The Lawson Group.

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