How to encourage employees to use the workplace health and wellness benefits

Companies offering workplace health and wellness benefits sometimes face the situation where, despite their best efforts, employees don’t use their monthly or quarterly sports allowance.

Should the management and human resources even worry about people who don’t take advantage of the offered benefits? After all the fewer people who use the sports subsidize, the more company saves money, right? Wrong. Offering sports benefits is not just a nice thing to make the company a more desirable employer. Employees’ health can directly and indirectly influence the work efficiency.  Research shows that the hard return for each dollar invested into the company’s health and wellness plan can save company six dollars (Milani, R.V. and Lavie C.J 2009 ). Naturally that only applies when people actually use the offered benefits to improve their health and well-being.

Small steps can help to make sure that the sports allowance goes beyond the added paperwork and the company and employees get a real benefit from it.

A few things to consider when setting up an effective health and wellness benefit package are described in “Six pillars of an efficient workplace health and wellness plan”. However, despite the type of plan you use, there are likely to be some employees who could use a little encouragement to take an action.

This is a time when it’s easy to start questioning the work done so far or even worse, think doubting the necessity of a whole program. Don’t get discouraged, it takes time to build good habits. Patience and little consistency can make all the difference. There are ways to make sure the sports allowance goes beyond the added paperwork and the company and employee gets the actual benefit from it.

Simple and effective way to encourage employees to use their sports allowance is to keep reminding them to do so.

The fear of loss instead of potential win

It’s not reasonable for anybody to start following people around and nagging them about not using their benefits. Setting up an automatic email at a regular interval is simple enough. Though not many people read automatic emails applying a bit of a simple human psychology can make such communication more effective.

Psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky  developed a successful behavioural model using the concept of loss aversion, to explain how people assess uncertainty.  Let’s say you are offered a bet to toss a coin. If you win you get 5€ if you lose you pay 5€. For most people to even consider such a bet, the potential win should be at least 10€.

Loss aversion is people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains: it is better to not lose $5 than to find $5.

How does that help you to encourage and motivate people to make the best use of their assigned sports subsidies? Quite well actually. If your company offers a regular sports allowance, employees may not even feel it as something they lose when they don’t take action to use it.

Sport-ID’s experience with managing sports subsidies comply with the economic theory of loss aversion. Employees receive an email in the beginning of each month letting them know that their sports allowance has been deposited to their account. After the first few times most people don’t open that email anymore. They get the main info from the subject line. Still, such a reminder email gives people a feeling they have received a gift. However, they know they have a whole month to make use of the allowance and they do not take action immediately.

On the other hand, the second email sent closer to the end of the month reminds people “If you don’t use up your allowance it will expire.” This email gets opened by 45-50% receivers monthly despite it also being a regular email.

The call to action becomes more effective when combined with the “use it or lose it” announcement.

Remember to give an occasional critical look to the way your company health benefits are offered and used.  Benefits from the health and wellness programs are only gained when people actually make use of the options available to them.


Impact of Worksite Wellness Intervention on Cardiac Risk Factors and One-Year Health Care Costs. Milani, Richard V. et al. American Journal of Cardiology , Volume 104 , Issue 10 , 1389 – 1392

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