0 Comments | Jun 05, 2010

Vacation Wellness as a Wellness Program Incentive?

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An existential mind-bender? A quantum riddle? Can an employee wellness program really be an incentive for another health and wellness program?

When the incentive is Vacation Wellness™, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’

Let’s set aside, for a moment, the substantial debate on the true efficacy of incentives as agents of meaningful employee health and wellness behavioral change. It is a significant debate (peek at the Employee Wellness Network, as well as LinkedIN discussions here and here), and opinions vary widely on the degree to which employee wellness programs ought to rely on incentives to elicit desired employee health behavior.

On one hand, non-incentivized traditional employee health and wellness programs achieve historically poor employee participation rates – in the single digits for smoking cessation, obesity management, and chronic disease symptom alleviation (see our white paper for more in-depth analysis) – so employee wellness benefit program managers feel compelled to improve participation rates through all means available.

On the other hand, incentives for employee wellness program participation have very mixed results, with relatively low average meaningful participation rate increases. Buck Consultants report that despite incentives, only 16% of executives consider their current employee wellness initiatives to be “effective” or “very effective.”

IncentOne recently published a research review that examined the relationship between incentive dollar amount and meaningful employee participation via regression analysis of numerous employee wellness program studies published over the years. While the regression line sloped gently up and right (ie, spending more on incentives generally generated more participation), the statistical correlation was horrible – only 37%. For those lucky enough not to have suffered through multiple engineering degrees, that means the various incentivized employee wellness program results that IncentOne studied were all over the map. In other words, many programs without incentives performed better than other programs with incentives.

SO, as an employee wellness benefit program manager, you have an important question to answer: should we incorporate incentives into our particular employee health and wellness program? The wellness community doesn’t have a definitive answer for you just yet, so you’ll have to use your best judgment. More than anything else, a successful employee wellness program depends on your leadership and management, and on your specific employee wellness offering itself.

However, if you do choose to incentivize employee participation in your traditional wellness program (and by “traditional wellness,” I’m referring to programs that incorporate HRAs, diet and exercise support, smoking cessation, etc), it only makes sense to use an incentive that furthers your employee wellness objectives.

Here’s why Vacation Wellness works extremely well to help advance your employee wellness program goals:

  • It’s an effective wellness program in its own right. A large employer with 1,800 employees reduced their healthcare claim expenses by over $2M annually (over 25%) using a Vacation Wellness solution.
  • It enjoys very high organic participation rates – in excess of 89% – because you don’t have to twist your employees’ arms to get them to take premium destination vacations at 30% to 70% discounts. See example employee vacations here.
  • Because of its popularity with employees, Vacation Wellness is a highly effective employee retention technique. By reducing employee turnover rates by just 20%, the average 100-employee professional services firm can save over $875K per year. Learn more about employee retention by reading our employee turnover white paper.
  • Vacation Wellness targets stress and depression directly. Together, stress and depression add 146% to your annual healthcare expenditure – by far the costliest employee health problem (yes, significantly costlier than heart attacks. But read on…).
  • Vacation Wellness reduces heart attack risk. Regular vacationers are 32% (male) and 53% (female) less likely to suffer heart attacks (learn more here).
  • Vacations are the third most-requested employee benefit, behind professional education opportunities and flexible work hours.

So in this unique circumstance, it is possible to use a high-value employee wellness benefit as an incentive for your other, less popular employee health and wellness programs.

“Great idea. How much does it cost?” You read our minds. We’ve put together an instant price quote engine that helps you compare costs to potential savings and returns on your Vacation Wellness investment. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised!