How an Incentive-Based Wellness Program Can Improve Staff Health

Wellness Incentives September 11, 2018 By: Jenny Morales

Supporting a healthy workforce enhances our ability to work together successfully. Here are a few ideas on how to add a wellness program to your association.

My association has had a wellness program for more than 20 years, and it has made a positive impact on the organization. Wellness is also deeply embedded in our mission as a healthcare association. The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) seeks to empower healthcare practices and providers with meaningful change in the healthcare space.

Wellness is one area of healthcare that can lead to meaningful change. Typically, it’s defined as leading a healthy or well-balanced life, usually with time for routine exercise, healthy eating, and overall well-being.

In the last two years at MGMA, we added a wellness portal to track individual participation and give employees an opportunity to earn points for participation. As a result, more than half of employees are now involved in the wellness program.

One of our biggest successes is that we haven’t had to increase our health insurance premiums for four consecutive years despite a national trend of rising healthcare rates. Our employees have done a great job using their healthcare plan appropriately as we have emphasized wellness through incentives and education.

Our employees have done a great job using their healthcare plan appropriately as we have emphasized wellness through incentives and education.

But there’s still work to be done. A June MGMA Stat poll found that only 46 percent of company practice leaders, who are mainly healthcare professionals, say their organization has a wellness program. According to the Society for Human Resource Management:

“Currently, employee interest in workplace wellness programs is high. The top three reasons cited by U.S. workers are to improve their overall health, reduce their healthcare costs, and increase their chances of living a longer and healthier life. By offering access to such programs, employers can empower their employees to take control of their health and reduce their need for medical treatment and medications.”

MGMA strives to create an engaged and productive employee experience that is enhanced by our wellness program. In addition to support from our executive team as advocates and participants in the program, a Wellness Committee, composed of staff from different business divisions within the organization, devises the overarching program and point system annually.

Employees then track progress and activities on our wellness portal and participate in fun events, like a stair-step challenge or healthy-eating potluck, to receive points.

Rewards for point achievements change each year, keeping the incentives fresh and fun. Employees are not required to participate, but many individuals work to achieve personal goals.

This year, each program participant will receive a $10 gift card to a fast-casual chain that serves healthy, organic, and locally sourced food. And if a goal is reached, participants receive a Wellness Day Off or $50 gift card as a final reward.

In addition to these incentives, each quarter we offer challenges or activities focused on a topic related to well-being: nutrition, mindfulness, or physical activity. Activities that we’ve hosted so far include: a company-wide kickball game at lunch; a grill-off competition where employees grill vegetables, fruits, and lean meats; financial education sessions; group runs and walks; a dedicated bike-to-work day; and complimentary massages.

MGMA also participates in Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, hosting a wellness activity each week in May. In addition, we also encourage the use of standing desks and host an annual health fair and flu shot clinic. Finally, we partner with the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association to provide wellness tips and opportunities that fit within our program strategy.

Jenny Morales

Jenny Morales, SHRM-SCP, GBA, is senior manager of human resources at the Medical Group Management Association in Englewood, Colorado.