SOURCE: Longfellow Benefits

Longfellow Benefits

October 11, 2012 10:17 ET

Effective Wellness Incentives Strategies Revealed by Longfellow Benefits' Kristie Howard in Benefits Magazine

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwire - Oct 11, 2012) - Getting employees to adopt healthy lifestyles can save a bundle in health insurance costs and improve productivity. But what can employers do about employees who resist?

An article by Kristie Zoeller Howard, vice president of Longfellow Benefits, offers strategies for employers searching to find new ways to boost low participation in their wellness programs. It's the cover story for Benefits Magazine, October.

Incentives, done right, can be effective.

"Wellness incentives should motivate employees who would not otherwise to participate in wellness programs or to adopt healthier behaviors," Howard writes. "The good news is that research has shown that you can improve success by offering incentives, and in fact, many programs would not succeed without them."

Howard advises:

  • Use carrots, not sticks, where possible. About 50% of wellness programs today incorporate some form of financial incentives, including cash, gift cards, HRA and HSA contributions, reduced deductibles/coinsurance, and reduced medical premiums.
  • Decide how much is enough. Be sure that your level of monetary incentives is sustainable.
  • Use incentives to inspire short-term action. Rewards can backfire so that employees are less likely to continue a desired behavior that had been supported by your incentive program. By incorporating other behavior-change and motivational strategies into your wellness program, you'll help employees learn to identify their own internal motivation and enjoyment of their new healthy lifestyle. 
  • Take caution with outcomes-based incentives. Because of the lack of scientific evidence, and the potential backlash from employees, companies considering this strategy should be cautious. Additionally, HIPAA and ADA have certain restrictions on outcomes-based incentives.
  • Use incentives, but don't stop there. Ultimately, you want employees to take part in your program and adopt healthier behaviors because they are intrinsically motivated to do so.

For the full text, see

Howard is a Certified Worksite Wellness Program Consultant (CWWPC) and Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS).

Serving organizations in New England and nationally, Longfellow Benefits provides consulting services on employee benefits and executive benefits. Longfellow Benefits has been named to Boston Business Journal's Best Places to Work seven years in a row. For more information, visit or call 617-351-6000.

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