Employee wellness programs should be, in theory, based on intrinsic motivation. After all, they’re aimed at helping employees change their habits, improve their health, and feel better. But employees might need a bit of a push to get to that point.


Financial incentives, like lowered health insurance premiums or funding a health savings account, can get employees motivated enough to start wellness plans that result in changed behavior – and lower health costs. “Money talks when it comes to encouraging participation in workplace wellness and chronic disease management programs,” writes Shelby Livingston for Business Insurance.


Cigna Corp. found employees are more likely to participate in things like biometric screenings or meet health-related goals when they’re financially motivated to do so, writes Matt Dunning for Business Insurance. Larger employers are more likely to reward employees who use wellness programs, Dunning writes, citing research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Seventy-six percent of employers offering outcomes-based rewards and/or penalties in 2015 cap the dollar value of those incentives between $150 and $2,000 per employee per year,” he writes.


The theory is, financing a wellness program will keep costs down, and “this logic has proved correct,” writes Ashley Bray for Banking Exchange. But using that investment as a pure financial incentive isn’t the only way to encourage employees to participate or improve their health. Other hallmarks of effective wellness programs take into account activities and initiatives that will spark employee buy-in.


“Smartphones, wearable devices and online portals are some of the biggest influences shaping wellness programs today, and many banks have instituted a points system that rewards participants for reaching certain goals or point totals for things like steps, food, sleep habits, and more,” Bray writes. “Employees are able to track their progress and points online or through a device like a Fitbit or smartphone.”


Other employers offer in-house social networking or encourage employees to get their spouses involved, in order to build a community within the wellness program and keep employees on track. The goal: help them incorporate health into their lifestyles while improving their productivity and engagement, writes Sharon Florentine for CIO.com. “Many progressive organizations already are offering more innovative and unique approaches to wellness programs that are a better fit for their employees’ lifestyles and interests,” she writes, “like an on-site yoga studio, cafeterias offering organic food, even manicures and massages as part of their employer brand.”