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Should employers reward employees for healthy behaviour?

We know that the overall wellbeing of employees has a major impact on so many areas of the People Experience at work and this may also impact Productivity, Motivation, Satisfaction and much more so should employers get involved? And more…should they reward healthy habits?

We know that the overall wellbeing of employees has a major impact on so many areas of the People Experience at work and this may also impact productivity, motivation, satisfaction and of course profitability, so should employers get involved? And more…should they reward healthy behaviour?

Actually, we have a wellbeing scheme!

Employers have implemented all sorts of fab benefits schemes to support their employees in having good health, from Gym Discounts, Dental, Healthcare Trusts, Financial Education and free fruit in the office but does this simply provide a benefit for employees that for example are voracious fruit eaters who now get to eat for free or does it change behaviours so that employees can be healthier?

Why might an employer would want to reward healthy behaviour?

A recent study by the University of California found that organisations that had a wellness program saw an increase in productivity of 5% – roughly equivalent to 1 additional productive day per employee per month!

Companies will invest in employee engagement but research by Fairhurst and Connor in 2010 showed that whilst highly engaged employees are generally productive when that productivity is not coupled with wellbeing, there is a real risk of burnout, check out the 4 box grid below to see what this looks like:

Fairhurst and Connor Wellbeing and Productivity - Is Engagement always Healthy?

So, it would certainly appear that there are some real business reasons for an organisation to want their staff to be healthy.

A more human reason?

But is there a more human driver for a company supporting employee wellbeing?

If we only ever focus on the outputs for the Company then our driver is not a human one. We cannot claim that we care about people if it's only if when there is a measurable benefit for the business.

Would we ask "what's in it for me?" for every people decision we make at work?

Best of both worlds?

Rob, our Director of People Science points out that if you are building a business case for senior managers in today’s world you may want to think about this from both angles:

'Humans deserve better' and productivity are two very different motivations. When it comes to motivations, two is better than one

So, should we reward healthy habits?

Providing wellbeing solutions as part of your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is great but incentivising behaviours need to be carefully thought out as you might, in fact, be undermining people's motivation to adopt healthy behaviours if you do.

Behaviour change is about means, motive and opportunity

Recent research into health behaviour, often the vanguard for behaviour change research, suggests that focusing on means (or Capability), opportunity and motivation are key to changing health behaviours. In other words, are people able to make the change, are barriers minimised and are they motivated.

Focus on intrinsic motivation

When it comes to motivation, research also suggests that when we incentivise behaviours that people want to adopt, we might actually reduce their 'intrinsic motivation', particularly if we first reward them and later remove that reward. But then, that never happens in the workplace, right?

So it's probably better to educate your people about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and to enable and support their behaviour rather than rewarding it.

Of course, wellbeing also means something different to everyone, and perhaps this is another argument for enabling healthy habits as part of your culture rather than rewarding them.

Wellbeing is a key part of your EVP and you should ask yourself, “Do we provide an environment where people can prioritise their own mental or physical health?”

Measuring the Wellbeing Experience

Whether you are looking to implement a reward scheme that incentivises healthier behaviours to improve your [People Experience}(/index), your productivity or because you want to simply help your people live a bit better if you cannot measure the baseline and the improvements you will struggle to know what works, why it works and what the improvement was.

Speak to your people! Ask them what is important to them, understand how they feel about their own wellbeing and let them help you design incentives/wellbeing schemes that are targeted to improve the areas that matter to them and will deliver results for you.

The People Experience Hub's Wellbeing Surveys allow you to see how your people currently feel and our Pulse Survey solution allows you to track this as you go so you can see the results (or lack of results!)

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