Many companies in the United States are now getting seriously involved in programmes designed to encourage their employees to improve their physical condition, and evidence suggests that linking health-related actions to remuneration might well be the most effective driver for behavioural change.
Fully 83% of the nearly 800 large and mid-sized US companies surveyed in the latest report by Aon Hewitt, the global human resource solutions arm of Aon PLC, offer their employees incentives for participating in programmes that help them become more aware of the status of their health and well-being. Aon Hewitt reports that encouraging employees to take control of their own health has become a priority for a large number of firms. Indeed, of the 660-plus employers who said they offer incentives for these types of programmes, well over three quarters (79%) provide incentives in the form of a reward. This approach has not gone unnoticed by startups in the health sector, and several of those emerging from leading US incubators such as RockHealth and HealthBox have developed platforms targeted at such companies.
Healthier lifestyle bringing salary benefits
Many of those 530 or so companies that use a reward system encourage their employees through direct monetary incentives: 64% offer between $50 and $500 for participation and a fifth offer more than $500, with the aim of motivating even the most recalcitrant employees. However, these initiatives call for real employee-commitment, with 56% requiring employees to participate actively in health programmes in the long term, by working with a health coach for instance. These incentives are showing results. More than half the companies which have set up such programmes report an increase in employees’ health commitment and 44% of the employers have seen improvements in health risks among their staff.
More changes on the horizon
Many companies are planning to go further than simply encouraging their employees to take part in these programmes. Some 58% of those polled said they were planning to impose what Aon Hewitt calls ‘consequences’ on staff who do not take appropriate action to improve their health, while 34% expressed an interest in tying incentives to programme designs that require participants to focus on their health 365 days a year. Other solutions are also being looked at: just over one in five (22%) of the firms surveyed are interested in using game theory and gaming concepts to enhance existing programmes or come up with new ideas. This approach has already been taken up in several programmes, such as that offered by the PerkHealth startup, on which L'Atelier reported in March.