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Smart Benefits: Use Competitions to Up Wellness Participation

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

 

Tap into the natural competitive drive to inspire employees to get healthier.

If you’re looking to drive participation in your wellness program, contests may be key. 

The popularity of mobile game apps like “Angry Birds”  and “Words with Friends” prove adults and kids alike are motivated by competition with themselves or others, rewards for making progress, and challenges to get to the next level. These draws keep participants coming back for more – essential to wellness program success.

To get more employees engaged in wellness, many employers are banking on a competitive spirit to keep employees focused on reaching their health goals. Following are five winning ways to help your employees get their game on.

Web Portals That Engage

An interactive portal – compatible for both computers and mobile devices – should serve as the hub of your wellness program and include educational opportunities, interactive games and challenges, social networking and support, and incentive tracking and rewards.  To gauge employees’ interest in future portal content, track utilization and adapt it accordingly with the most relevant information.

Create Team Challenges

Whether participating in weight loss challenges or portal-based wellness trivia contests, individuals are encouraged by a team spirit. Design group programs based on your employee population and their interests. But remember that teams should be able to set goals both collectively and individually. Be sure to provide virtual support and resources, and allow competitors to track their progress, rewards and recognition on the web portal. 

Send Words of Inspiration

Want employees to take action, but you’re not sure how to reach them? Try sending regular messages through social media to drive employees to the portal. In the message, ask them to visit the portal, remind them of their health goal, or tell them their team is depending on them.

Offer Virtual Social Support

Teams need a place to rally, yet today’s busy work and life schedules make it increasingly difficult to meet in person.  Be sure your portal includes groups, chat rooms and message boards where you and your employees can share success stories and recognize effort.

Meaningful Incentives

Incentives are proven ways to boost participation in wellness, but the type of incentive is critical. Rewards can be incremental, such as those based on achieving each new level in virtual games on the portal. Or they can be larger incentives that tie wellness participation to healthcare benefits, such as premium differentials for healthcare for those who participate in the program. The motivation depends on your employees; survey them about what would encourage greater participation to help boost rates above the average 40-60% for for-profit companies.

Wellness programs support healthier, happier and more productive employees. So the greater the participation, the greater the results. Since more and more workers “game” in their spare time, it makes sense to bring a little competition into the workplace to drive engagement. From high scores to cleared levels, the push to be better may be just what’s needed to make wellness “play” at your organization. 

Amy Gallagher has over 19 years of healthcare industry experience.  As Vice President at Cornerstone Group, she advises large employers on long-term cost-containment strategies, consumer-driven solutions and results-driven wellness programs. Amy speaks regularly on a variety of healthcare-related topics, is a member of local organizations like the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, HRM-RI, SHRM, WELCOA, and the Rhode Island Business Healthcare Advisory Council, and participates in the Lieutenant Governor’s Health Benefits Exchange work group of the Health Care Reform Commission.

 

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