Third of workers believe firms should pay them to stay healthy
A third of UK workers believe their bosses should pay them for keeping healthy, research has revealed.
The recent study of almost 3,000 workers, undertaken by risk management consultants Willis Towers Watson (WTW), revealed 34% of employees would only participate in a company health initiative if there was a financial incentive to do so – up from 26% in 2013.
So-called ‘wellness payments’ from firms currently allow employees to spend cash on keeping healthy – such as health screenings, physiotherapy treatment, gym and sports club membership, or even spa days.
The findings show current engagement in wellbeing initiatives is failing though, as 70% of workers said such schemes do not meet their needs.
Not resonating with employees
Mike Blake, wellbeing lead for Willis Towers Watson, said: “The figures suggest that despite employers increasing their focus on health and wellbeing, existing schemes are not resonating with employees and, as a result, many feel they need extra motivation to participate, in the shape of financial incentives.
“Having a healthy workforce does, of course, greatly benefit employers, as it leads to lower levels of sickness absence, productivity loss and employee turnover, but employees reap the rewards of living healthier lives too.
“Taking care of health and worker wellbeing should be a shared priority of both employee and employer, not seen as additional workload that workers should be compensated for. Companies who struggle to engage with their employees would be wise to review their current health and wellbeing initiatives, so that they are truly valued by employees and meet their needs and personal health goals.
The research also found 33% of firms in the next 3 years will have a direct financial incentives strategy for encouraging healthy behaviours – such as smoking cessation, weight management or increasing exercise levels. This is from 12% currently.
Although this is a significant rise on the current 12% offering financial incentives, Blake advises companies to be cautious about such an approach.
“It is understandable that companies – particularly those who are frustrated at a lack of engagement – are tempted to offer financial incentives to their employees. But this can be a knee jerk response to problems that may require deeper answers.
“Often a more sustainable solution is to ask more searching questions about the programmes and initiatives that are already in place, for example: are they joined up; do they connect to employees’ wants and needs; and are they well communicated?”
Losing behavioural influence
Blake suggested wearable technology subsidies, promoting mediation apps and health ‘league tables’ as options.
He concluded: “Very often companies experience an initial upsurge in engagement when they introduce new initiatives or wellness programmes, but the experience shows that this can be short-lived as people get used to them over time and they lose their behavioural influence.
“Employers need to plan for this by attracting employees’ attention and keeping them motivated. Communication is key in achieving this. Regular, effective messaging can help reinforce the personal benefits of participation and lower the risk of complacency or disengagement.”
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