Does Money Matter in Wellness Programs?

Money may not be able to buy happiness–but can it encourage health? That’s what benefits professionals are hoping, according to new research.

Financial incentives are increasingly being incorporated into corporate wellness strategies, the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments found in a recent survey of benefits leaders at 162 large and mid-sized companies. Eighty-six percent of survey respondents use monetary motivation in their wellness programs, up from 74 percent last year. The value of the financial incentives companies are using to entice participation is also on the rise. The average incentive is $784 per employee annually, up from $742 last year–and an increase of 50 percent from five years ago.

That pace won’t be slowing down, according to the survey, which found that 29 percent of participants plan to continue to increase financial incentives in the next few years.

“The fact that companies continue to dedicate an increasing amount of resources to their corporate well-being programs indicates they are having a positive impact on overall workforce performance,” says Robert Kennedy, senior vice president of Fidelity Benefits Consulting.

Other recent research has questioned the efficacy of wellness programs, finding that traditional efforts such as health assessments and weight-control initiatives had limited success for both employees and employers. The NBGH and Fidelity survey suggested that employers are moving away from the exclusive focus on individual health outcomes that had been common in traditional wellness programs.

Currently, 92 percent of respondents’ well-being programs include an emotional- or mental-health component, while 90 percent address financial security. Seventy-seven percent aim to help employees cope with job stress and 72 percent to connect them to the local community. Programmatic elements that appear primed for growth are spirituality and social connectedness, which 31 and 25 percent, respectfully, of survey respondents said they are considering introducing.

“More employers are viewing holistic well-being as an integral part of their overall workforce strategy,” says Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of NBGH. “The goal is to create a competitive advantage by deploying the healthiest, most productive, engaged and competitive workforce possible to boost business performance and empower great people and communities.”

The impact of employee-wellness programs on worker health and a company’s bottom line is a topic that is sure to be front and center as companies continue to strive for innovative ways to attract and retain top talent in this tight job market.

Avatar photo
Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at